Thursday 14 December 2017

Players becoming alienated by Trap's daft comments

Richard Sadlier

Richard Sadlier

There are many ways for an international manager to make an impression on his players. Some go to great lengths to make them all feel welcome and appreciated, while others adopt a more aloof approach and maintain a professional distance at all times.

When Giovanni Trapattoni greeted one of his Premier League-based squad players on the training pitch for the first time, his words certainly made an impact. For once, there would be no difficulty in interpreting his meaning as no language barrier existed here. He simply said, "who are you?" Understandably, the player was left to wonder why he had bothered to turn up in Dublin at all.

Last week, of course, James McCarthy didn't travel to Dublin. Due to an injury he picked up the previous weekend and the fact that he has not played 90 minutes in over three months, the decision was taken that he would remain in Wigan for treatment. Trapattoni chose to say much more though, and, in doing so, appears to have alienated yet another talented player from future squads.

It wasn't the first time he has chosen to challenge a player in public. His comments that Robbie Keane may be dropped if he remained as a Spurs substitute last month led to Keane saying he'd leave the Irish set-up if he felt he was unwanted. Given there are others who remain in his starting line-up despite their lack of first-team action, the move to publicly undermine his captain in this way made little sense.

The continued presence of Darron Gibson at Old Trafford was again questioned last week by the Italian. Clearly, he had taken no notice of the player's angry response when he was last challenged to move for the benefit of his career six months ago.

Despite a lengthy effort by the FAI to ensure Ciaran Clark could play for Ireland, Trapattoni first spoke to the player last Sunday. And it was only a conversation in the players' lounge at Villa Park between Richard Dunne and Clark's parents which revealed his eligibility at all. The Stephen Ireland situation was mis-managed from the start, and his continued omission of Andy Reid from any squad due to a row in a hotel reveals a glaring inability to deal appropriately with modern footballers.

The FAI are all too aware of his star attraction when they wheel him around the country for promotional work, but the man himself seems reluctant to channel those strengths in the direction of any of his players.

Which brings us back to McCarthy. Trapattoni's admission that he hadn't yet spoken to the player was both stunning and unforgivable. He then introduced the communications equivalent of 'the dog ate my homework' by claiming he didn't have his phone number.

Most puzzling of all was the continued comparison with Stephen Ireland. Whether I was a player with 100 caps or just the one, Ireland is probably the one player with whom I never want to be compared. Surely Trapattoni now realises the impact this has had.

The most damaging of all came 15 months ago when he wondered aloud if Steven Reid could ever make a full recovery from his injury at the time. It led to an angry reaction from Reid's then manager at Blackburn Rovers, accusing him of talking disgraceful "drivel and nonsense".

This came during a period when Reid was hoping to win a new contract at Blackburn or secure one elsewhere. Trapattoni did not get this view from any member of the Blackburn Rovers medical staff or the player himself. It was a personal belief and nothing more. Apart from being completely untrue, it was an exceptionally stupid comment to make in public. Reid has since made himself unavailable for selection.

The point here is not just to say whether his methods are right or wrong (though they're clearly not working), but to emphasise that every player in the dressing room is impacted by every daft remark he makes. The decision to follow up an FAI fax with a brief text to a player with 108 caps to notify him of his exclusion from last week's squad was brutal. The whole squad would have learned something from that.

Those who defend him point to the fact that his English isn't great and claim a lot of his remarks are misinterpreted as a result. However, I think the fact that his English isn't great after being in the job this long damages further any claim he may have for an extension to his existing contract. An extensive vocabulary is not necessary in the dressing room or on the training pitch where instructions can be given in any number of ways. For example, it is easy to tell a player where to stand defending corner kicks, but a little trickier to negotiate your way through the events of last week when meaningful conversations with players are required.

Maybe some believe he is right to think he shouldn't have to chase players or pander to their fragile egos, and that maybe he's right to object to having to deal with their agents. It's also possible he feels he was being true to himself to speak openly about the limits of those he works with. But if he genuinely believes this is the way to get the best response from his players, then it's a certainty he shouldn't be managing professional footballers for much longer.

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