Thursday 21 November 2019

Persevering with a plan doomed to end in humiliation

Italian is as ineffective now as Staunton was in San Marino, writes Richard Sadlier

Remember how it felt watching Ireland celebrate an injury-time winner against San Marino in 2007? Remember the shambolic display on the field and the insulting rhetoric from the manager afterwards?

A one-time ruler of European football is now insisting things aren't as bad as they were under Steve Staunton, but Giovanni Trapattoni might be wrong about that. He is as ineffective as an international manager now as Staunton was then. We have come full circle.

As things stand, the possibility of this Ireland team qualifying for the 2014 World Cup no longer exists. The fresh approach needed was nowhere to be seen against Kazakhstan, nor on any day previously for that matter. The required changes were not made and those that deserved to play were overlooked. From the team selection to the substitutions to the tactical approach, it was all so hard to fathom. In fact, if I wanted to engineer my own sacking in the hope of a pay-off I would have acted in the very same way.

In that context some of his decisions would have made sense, but we know that's not the agenda with Trapattoni. His contempt for the abilities of this Ireland squad and the views of the Irish public mean he will defiantly remain unless he is sacked. But what we witnessed in Astana on Friday night was embarrassing.

Any defence of Trapattoni relies on his past achievements, but that experience is abandoning him now. James McClean's tweet grabbed everyone's attention but look for a moment at how he has been treated. During the Euros, Trapattoni told the world's media that McClean was too young to be involved and that he had not been brought to take part. He did not clarify his comments with the player and then sent him on as a sub against Spain.

Last week, Marco Tardelli made a public appeal for Damien Duff to come out of retirement for the Germany game next month, further undermining what McClean can bring to that game. And on Friday, three different strikers were employed ahead of him in his position. This is not just a difference in opinion on how much a player should be involved, but it shows how incapable he is of handling players today.

McClean is not the first to make his feelings public, and may pay dearly for his tweet, but there are others who feel the same.

There is a view that there is no point sacking Trapattoni because this Ireland squad is too weak to qualify from this group, so it doesn't matter who the manager is and it would lead to unnecessary expense. If John Delaney is of the same view, then it is actually imperative he act now. If Delaney believes qualification is beyond Ireland regardless of who is in charge, the FAI must replace the manager. Then, the campaign can at least be salvaged by a man willing to introduce the younger players to the team in preparation for the Euro qualifiers in two years. Trapattoni's plan is to play the same players in the same way. The inclusion of James McCarthy was cause for hope, but putting him in a midfield that watched the ball go over its head for most of the game was pointless. When the majority of attacks are launched from the boot of your goalkeeper, it really doesn't matter how creative your midfielders can be. In any case, Keith Andrews will be back in the team next month and McCarthy will return to the bench.

Trapattoni has a results-focused approach to football, so by his measure the campaign is off to a flyer. If the game is won, the game is a success. If the result is positive, the means by which it was achieved are vindicated. If only the conversation was as blinkered he'd be fine, but Friday's horror show cannot be viewed as a successful night in any way. The positives were so few they are not worth mentioning.

But we have reached a point where team selections and tactics are no longer the issue. We have long passed the stage where it really matters how badly Trap deals with his players. While Darron Gibson's withdrawal from the squad and McClean's online comments give an indication of the support Trap enjoys among the players, the conversation has moved on from there. The focus now is solely on the financial realities within the FAI and the ability of the CEO to act. Only two relevant questions remain: what would it cost to replace him, and does John Delaney have the strength and the vision to do so?

From the moment the Euros ended, many players said they wished to forget about the experience and look forward. It was disappointing for everyone but the hope was that lessons had been learned and changes would be made. But Trapattoni is persevering with a plan that is doomed to fail, and those who support him in his role are doing likewise.

Over to you, John.

rsadlier@independent.ie

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