Thursday 14 December 2017

The favourites who flopped... and the talents Trap wasted

David Kelly

David Kelly

If only it were just sadness that attached itself to the current state of Irish soccer. Instead, it is much, much worse. The melancholy is now fused together with a curious mix of anger and dark humour.

This past week has displayed all the worst excesses of an utterly disengaged management team that, with a few noble exceptions, had avoided any serious criticism despite a steady striptease of the fallen emperor's clothing.

Truly, the fact that anyone possessed of a pulse could find it possible to disrupt the Zen-like calm of Stephen Kelly indicates that this Italian management team have sundered any remaining emotional connection to a dwindling squad.

The squad themselves are not wholly exempt from criticism; at least those who remain, where mediocrity jostles alongside narcissism to create a toxic element that nowadays seems to render wearing a green jersey, increasingly more often than not, a national dis-service.

Trapattoni claims to love this country; sadly, it seems he loves himself even more. Football in this country deserves more than that.

It is the easiest thing for a manager to understand what Irish football cannot possibly offer. What Ireland needs is somebody who appreciates what it can.

Of course, that may not be a whole lot to shout about but at least it would be meaningful.

And it would stop the laughter.

FIVE PLAYERS WHO LET TRAPATTONI DOWN

Robbie Keane

The Trapattoni era must be viewed first and foremost through his relationship with his most influential player, the captain.

The narcissistic pair have become so inextricably linked that it seems neither man can no longer see clearly enough to effectively examine the other's shortcomings.

Both are guilty of relying on past glories to prop up a slip from former greatness. The captain has been pinpointed as Trap's Totti; in the Euros he was instead a tottering nonentity.

Aiden McGeady

McGeady has developed into one of the quickest players in international football ... to blow his own trumpet after delivering 45 minutes of a barely commendable display against mediocre friendly opposition.

If McGeady delivered the goods on the field with the same consistency that he emits his pompous pronouncements off it, Ireland's play may not have been so fractured during the past four years.

John O'Shea

Asked to step into the vast gulf bequeathed by a raft of retirements, the position of seniority seems to rest uneasily on O'Shea's shoulders.

Never someone to whom an accusation of disloyalty or dishonour could be applied, the only charge that can be laid at the defender's feet is an air of resigned disappointment that he has not yet fulfilled the vast investment of faith so many placed in his extraordinary natural ability.

And so it was that last Friday's abject display did not so much arrive with a strident sense of shock at how someone once so highly rated could stoop so low, but rather a reconciliation that his performance followed a path of underwhelming displays throughout the Trapattoni era.

Damien Duff

Nothing signified the sad decline of one of Ireland's brightest talents than the steadily diminishing influence the Ballyboden bomber had during this Trapattoni era.

Duff rarely looked like adding to a tally of just eight goals in those 100 caps during the miserable Euro 2012 and he offered little in the way of assists during the preceding qualification campaign.

At 33, Duff had lost his lustre. How much he had left to give remained one of the eternal mysteries of the last four years.

Shay Given

Like Duff, Given's many highlights in green for so many years were eclipsed by his stark decline in his final days as a proud representative of his country.

The vast difference between his contributions during Ireland's World Cup campaign of 2002 and his Euro 2012 performances were a sporting tragedy for so many shocked witnesses to behold.

At least he honestly confronted his flaws, unlike some of his team-mates. His brilliant saves against the Spanish, and so many decisive moments during a wonderful career, sadly retreated into the memory bank, replaced by the litany of errors that ushered him so prematurely into retirement.

FIVE PLAYERS WHO TRAPATTONI LET DOWN

Shane Long

The manner in which Long so desultorily decamped from the distraught Irish dressing-room to a lonely seat on the team bus last Friday night indicated the destruction wrought on so many fine characters by a tyrannical and uncommunicative regime.

Long (left) has been the most consistent and highly-rated Irish striker in English football for some time and he has rarely produced a performance below his own standards in an Ireland shirt.

The price for his honesty has been exclusion from an ignorant regime which reflects on their own narcissism more than this proud son of Tipperary's selflessness when presenting loyally for national service.

Steven Reid

Albeit racked by injury problems that existed before Trapattoni's arrival, Reid should have done enough in his early games for the manager to indicate his worth when his fitness issues were ultimately resolved to his and his club managers' satisfaction.

Speculating that the player might be forced into premature retirement was an unnecessarily heartless opinion that was needlessly conveyed in public but was utterly predictable.

Kevin Foley

Foley is another player whose desire to represent his country was reprehensibly answered with an ill-judged metaphorical slap in the face from an unfeeling manager.

Originally selected for Euro 2012 with needless haste, Trapattoni's indecision resulted in the player ultimately being excluded from the squad on a trumped-up charge relating to his apparent lack of fitness.

The decision may have been justified had there been a logic to it, but it cleaved to an image of a manager who was unable to communicate properly with a clutch of players.

Told that he didn't have to prove his fitness, Foley admirably played a warm-up match before declining to play for his country under its current stewardship.

Simon Cox

Cox is an honest, hard-working professional who has seen a once encouraging investment in his confidence become slowly eroded by a manager who has clearly lost his way.

Played out of position on the wing by the manager during the Euro 2012 tournament, how Trapattoni could persist with such an ill-conceived ruse last Friday did nothing to boost the self-belief of a player who needs every encouragement to build on his limited ability.

Darron Gibson

Again a dubious inclusion as its footballing merits remain open to question while his exalted opinions of that ability have offered a raft of accusers plenty of ammunition.

Gibson was originally miffed at the manager's repeated declarations that he should leave Manchester United in order to pursue more consistent displays in a Premier League first team.

When he belatedly did succumb to the advice -- or was forced to by Alex Ferguson's willingness to off-load him -- Trapattoni failed to follow through on his expressed beliefs by affording him the opportunity to confirm his commitment to a country to whom he had switched allegiance.

Gibson was utterly distraught at the sight of Paul Green being preferred to him in Poland during the summer -- he's yet another player who deemed himself surplus to the restricted requirements of the manager.

Sadly, there are more than just five players who have been treated so shabbily by their manager.

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