Monday 19 February 2018

Is this the wake-up call Trap needed?

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

WHAT now for the great survivor? Giovanni Trapattoni lives to fight another day and it will be fascinating to see how the Italian approaches the road ahead.

A messy week has concluded with the 73-year-old aware the FAI were on the verge of terminating his contract and looking for a new manager. Reports from Italy indicated Trapattoni feared the worst on Wednesday afternoon and would speak with Abbotstown officials regarding matters that have arisen in the course of the 'back him or sack him' debate.

They include concerns about his failure to watch players in England on a regular basis, in addition to communication issues arising from his limited grasp of the language.

FAI board member Milo Corcoran spoke on the record to TV3, adding that the criticising of players in public -- such as calling Shane Long an idiot after their spat in Serbia -- had to stop.

It was reported by the same station that the Ireland boss had 'no problem' with the recommendations.

Trapattoni, who maintains a firm belief in his own ability, has consistently bristled at suggestions he will have to change his ways.


On Tuesday night, he made it clear he takes a dim view of most football administrators when it comes to their opinions on the game, referencing ex-Juventus striker Giampiero Boniperti as the only knowledgeable president that he can remember.

It helped that Boniperti moved upstairs following a successful career as a goal poacher. "He wouldn't judge depending on win or lose. He would take a decision and stick to his decision," said Trapattoni.

Still, with the manager's future likely to hover over every match leading up to the key March double-header with Austria and Sweden, it would be a surprise if he didn't make some moves to address some of the talking points.

In the best case scenario, the wake-up call could refocus an erratic 2012.

Supporters have a key role to play in what happens from here. The attendance for next month's friendly with Greece will give a clear indication of the mood towards the FAI's decision to stick rather than twist. So, too, will the mood afterwards.

Therefore, the manager's squad selection and the manner in which he approaches the game, will be extremely interesting. In the August friendly with Serbia and, particularly, the September drubbing of Oman, there was experimentation, and a promised continuation for the Greece encounter will be necessary.

Suspension and injuries have allowed James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman to belatedly get the nod in competitive games, and the decision to select Marc Wilson on Tuesday was Trapattoni's best call of the week -- it's taken him far too long to do it.

The evolution must go on. What the humiliation at the hands of Germany illustrated is the chronic lack of options in the central defensive department and, while Darren O'Dea has performed well for Ireland against more robust, limited opposition, he was exposed by the speed of German thought.

Ciaran Clark deserves to start the game, given his improved standing at Aston Villa and his ability as a bit more of an all-round package. Trapattoni observed in September that the English-born defender is not really a natural central defender, a statement that would surprise a player who grew up in the position.

His late call into the squad for the week just gone is another positive, but it would help if it was followed up by some game-time. Reading's Alex Pearce, who featured in the Oman encounter, is another worth looking at.

Further up the park, a left-wing audition for James McClean and the deployment of Robbie Brady on the other flank would be most welcome. The experiment with Simon Cox as a winger hasn't worked, although he did OK in the Faroes.


Replacing Damien Duff after his retirement presented a huge issue and the management's main strategy for coping with it was using strikers in that role, while sending bizarre love letters through the press in the direction of the Fulham star in the misguided hope he might return.

Robbie Keane was a driving force in the players support for Trapattoni, but strong management will be required to deal with the impact of age catching up on the skipper. LA Galaxy don't want him playing friendlies, which should give Shane Long an overdue chance. Jon Walters deserves his place after being the only player to produce decent displays in both the German and Faroes matches, yet there has to be room for the pace that Long offers. Keane is the obvious victim.

Sure, the manager is right to pointout he can only pick 11 players when the name of the latest cause celebre is tossed in his direction. "I think people want me to pick 15," he grinned, last week. In the friendly matches, however, he is able to give at least 45 minutes to that many options.

In addition to mixing things up for the Greece and the Poland games, the FAI will be monitoring Trapattoni's movements between now and March. Sitting at home in Milan most weekends is an unacceptable approach to the job, regardless of how many DVDs he watches.

A trip to Norwich to watch Anthony Pilkington is the perfect way to start his new approach, given that he can bring depth to the left wing debate. Wes Hoolahan would have been suited to the system employed against the Germans and if Trapattoni is to deploy that system in either friendly, then the Dubliner deserves to figure.

It is true he doesn't figure in every Norwich game and the manager has pointed out instances where he's turned up for games only to find the Irishman on the bench. He'll just have to go again. For €1.3m a year, there should be an element of sacrifice.

When injuries decimated the midfield department ahead of the drubbing at the hands of the Germans, Chelsea reserve Conor Clifford got the nod ahead of the likes of Burnley's Chris McCann and Derby's Jeff Hendrick, both of whom are regulars for their clubs. It would be easier for Trapattoni to explain his decisions with reference to recent visits to watch these players in action. A visit to Everton to sit down with Darron Gibson should also be on the agenda.

His reputation is built on stubbornness, but after this near miss he will be expected to compromise. If he doesn't, then the people will vote with their feet, and make the next storm impassable.

A watching brief

Suggested itinerary between now and squad announcement for Greece game on November 14

(Squad announcement likely November 7)

October 20: Norwich v Arsenal

Potential options: Wes Hoolahan, Anthony Pilkington, Marc Tierney

October 21: Sunderland v Newcastle

Potential options: Kieren Westwood, James McClean, David Meyler, John O'Shea

October 27: Aston Villa v Norwich

Potential options: Ciaran Clark, Richard Dunne, Samir Carruthers, Wes Hoolahan, Anthony Pilkington, Marc Tierney

October 28: Everton v Liverpool

Potential options: Darron Gibson, Seamus Coleman

November 2: Brighton v Leeds

Potential options: Gary Dicker, Aidan White, Paul Green, Paddy Kenny

November 3: Burnley v Wolves

Potential options: Chris McCann, Keith Treacy, Kevin Long, Kevin Foley, Kevin Doyle, Stephen Ward, Anthony Forde, Matt Doherty

November 4: QPR v Reading

Potential options: Alex Pearce, Noel Hunt, Ian Harte

November 6: Derby v Barnsley

Potential options: Jeff Hendrick, Mark O'Brien, Richard Keogh, Conor Sammon, Stephen Dawson

Irish Independent

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