Sunday 17 November 2019

Tardelli the court jester as confusion returns

Assistant boss muddies the waters again with suggestion of Duff return

John O'Shea and James McCarthy keep a close eye on Robbie Keane during the Irish training session at Gannon Park in Malahide yesterday
John O'Shea and James McCarthy keep a close eye on Robbie Keane during the Irish training session at Gannon Park in Malahide yesterday
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

"NO confusion today," says Marco Tardelli, with a broad smile, as he strides in the direction of the cameras in sunny Malahide.

It was a reference to coverage of management's reaction to the weekend news that Darron Gibson was stepping away from the international game due to his Euro 2012 anger.

Sunday's media session with Giovanni Trapattoni was taken in a different course by Tardelli's interruptions, so it all ended up being a bit muddled.

Indeed, the collateral damage was evident yesterday, as reports circulated that Trapattoni had indicated James McClean was in line for his first competitive start when he had, in fact, been referring to James McCarthy at the time. Clarity was lost in the haze.

Tardelli does have a good sense of humour, so perhaps he was attempting to bring some light to proceedings by following up his calls for no confusion with an unprompted suggestion that management will make efforts to bring Damien Duff back into the fold for next month's visit of Germany.


The context is important here. FAI press briefings are split into two. First, Tardelli goes to the broadcast section to provide the update that forms the basis of the evening TV and radio bulletins.

Then, he moves onto the daily newspapers to provide fresh thoughts for the next day.

In the midst of the broadcast section, Tardelli was asked a fairly straightforward question about the number of fresh faces in the squad and the general winds of change surrounding this week's trip to Kazakhstan.

His response?

"No, I think in the next match, many senior players will be back. Richard Dunne should be back, and I hope also Duff, why not?"

And so, Duff, who thought the last of the fuss surrounding his international retirement was over when he clearly explained he was finished in a lengthy Sunday newspaper interview, found himself catapulted into the headlines again.

Met with an incredulous response from his audience, Tardelli continued to speak hopefully about the prospect.

"I feel that it's possible he will be back," he said.

"Well, that's obviously great news..." started one TV reporter, in response.

"Well, I don't know whether it's good or not. I said, I hope," he replied, as the broadcast session concluded.

In the newspaper section, he was less vague, responding, "No, no" when it was directly put to him if a scenario where Duff came back was realistic.

While he did mention that Dunne could maybe have a word, and also added that Duff is a neighbour in London so he might see him out and about, it was a little bit late for a more grounded response to the topic that he brought into debate.

Already, his earlier words were hitting the airwaves, as a confused public were told that Duff was possibly back in the equation.

It's easy for seasoned observers of this regime to point out the idiosyncrasies of the respective characters. Trapattoni and Tardelli have their own traits, and the latter is generally a bit of a joker when it comes to answering queries. So perhaps he didn't realise the implications of what he was saying into the microphones.

But as the assistant manager of the Irish team, when he says it's possible for a player to return, then his words will always carry weight.

"I think I spoke with Richard (Dunne) and I told him to speak to Duff," he said. "Giovanni spoke to him many times and I respect him. I hope, because, for me, Duff is a very good player.

"Maybe it is possible. Why not? All players can do this -- Gibson, Duff."


Oh yes, Gibson. Perhaps, this exercise was an attempt to steer discussion away from the absent Everton man, but one wonders what Trapattoni made of Tardelli's comments. He'll be asked about Duff today, so we'll find out then.

After all, it could be construed as an admission that replacing the Dubliner is going to be an extremely difficult task.

When Tardelli moved on from the Duff diversion, his responses to other queries were actually quite telling. A query about McClean's prospects of stepping into Duff's shoes was met with a guarded response.

"Maybe, but now he is very young," Tardelli replied.

"Maybe in the future, it's possible as he is a very good player. Damien Duff was also very strong tactically and I think McClean must understand some things again, but it's possible as he is very strong physically."

It tied in with the manager's inference that he is leaning towards the deployment of a forward player in a wide berth in Astana on Friday. Simon Cox, Shane Long and Jonathan Walters are candidates for relocation.

If the Italian duo don't believe there is a winger to fill the void left by Duff, then perhaps they do hold the distant hope that he will have a complete change of heart.

Such an admission would be fairly worrying at a time when the priority should be building the confidence of those who are set to be key figures over the next two years.

Duff has been very complimentary about Trapattoni in discussing his decision to sign off after 100 caps. He acknowledged that management couldn't have done any more, a contrast from the perception of how Trapattoni had gone about his business during the summer.

While the timing of Shay Given's walkaway clearly took the 73-year-old by surprise, there seemed to be more control with regard to the end of Duff's tenure. It seemed as though we had reached the bottom line but, instead, the story has been given extra legs.

Once again, confusion reigns.

Irish Independent

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