Sport Soccer

Sunday 18 February 2018

Tough for Duff

McGeady gets seal of approval ahead of battle on Russian front

Giovanni Trapattoni makes a point in typical animated fashion during his press conference yesterday. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile
Giovanni Trapattoni makes a point in typical animated fashion during his press conference yesterday. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

D Kelly

Giovanni Trapattoni has lived too many days to start worrying about the future. He knows it will come soon enough.

Buoyed by a 100pc haul in Group B of Ireland's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, at the end of which success will be decreed by quantity of points and not quality of football, the Italian is wary of casting his eye forward too much.

"I can't think of what I will eat in one month, or two months!" he insisted during an early summit at Dublin Airport yesterday morning. "I can only think of what I can eat today!"

The morning after the night before, Trapattoni's appetite has been well sated by events of the last few days. The six points was paramount, but he will have been relieved that the deleterious effects of a lack of game time on key players proved less harmful than suspected.


The impetus of Paul Green as another Duracell Bunny type in midfield was a boon.

The potential for Aiden McGeady to finally and firmly imprint his personality on this Irish team in a sustained manner remains a tantalising, if characteristically uncertain prospect.

Trapattoni stressed that he remains unnerved at the prospect of some of his key players -- chiefly Robbie Keane and Shay Given -- compiling splinters in their backsides until Russia's visit to Dublin next month.

Keane and Given, however dispensable at club level, are the exact opposite in green. For others, as Darron Gibson may soon discover, Trapattoni may be less keen to indulge inactivity at club level.

Yet the Italian made it abundantly clear too that the impact of Green and McGeady this past week may preclude the lazy assumption that Keith Andrews and Damien Duff will merely waltz back into the starting XI on their return.

Duff not an automatic starter for the national team? It may seem a heretical concept, but such is Trapattoni's satisfaction with the extended range of alternatives in key positions, the Ballyboden bomber could have his wings clipped.

"Two days ago, I said thank God we now have the options," said the manager.

"But two years ago, what options did we have? Of course, I hope that he comes back. But it's important when players are missing, that we play with the same mentality.

"I told him that we will wait for him. But I am prepared to have the difficult choice because I will always have these other players in reserve who can come on.

"Midfield is another difficulty. It's like the newspapers: it's better to have many options because the competition drives people on. Life is competition. I respect that.

"It's like changing McGeady when he was tired against Armenia, Keith Fahey scores a goal. I thought about that yesterday, but Aiden was playing fantastically well, he saw Fahey score the goal on Friday and he played 30pc better than he did for us in two years. He

showed us what he can do. Life is about competition. If there is no competition with your newspapers, there are no reporters!"

While the latter may be a pleasant thought for the rump of grumps within the Irish squad, McGeady will certainly be seeking to show that he can be the man to light the blue touch paper, especially when the fireworks fly in next month's double header against the big guns.

John O'Shea set him out after the match as someone who can "lay down a marker" in this campaign and Trapattoni believes that his recent move to Spartak Moscow may be a watershed in his career.

"I always remind the players that I have no influence on their club's system because that is not my job," explained Trapattoni.

"They do what their coaches tell them. But we have another system with other team-mates, with different jobs. I told him he can't do what he only does with his club.


"In Celtic, he used to get to the byline and cross for two big strikers to head goals. We haven't got those players in our team. Technically, he's very good and his speed allows him to get into the box and defenders are afraid of tackling him.

"Becoming better at delivering the final ball will come with the life experience. Take Ryan Giggs. I knew him 15 years ago, we played against him. It was super Giggs, he was playing so fast and that is all good, but now he thinks more about what he is trying to do.

"I spoke in my first press conference about the little details. That makes all the difference, so maybe in the future Aiden is not so fast. Maybe sometimes he thinks of making a pass instead of running.

"Until now, McGeady is dangerous, but he only plays in one way. But there are the moments when he has to help team-mates.

"I saw immediately in training that he had changed.

"Maybe this transfer to Russia has changed him. He seemed to have another personality in training, even yesterday he was winning the ball. He is very sensitive. He knows what we ask him, we have faith in his ability and the quality he can give us.

"I think he can improve on this and give us even more. When he has more confidence in the future, he may find out that he can also play, not just dribble and shoot. That is the metamorphosis of the player."

McGeady may be Ireland's secret weapon as a concealed spy on the ground to augment the views of former Irish international Don Givens -- scorer of a hat-trick against the old USSR in Dublin -- who witnessed Russia's surprise 1-0 defeat at home to Slovakia on Tuesday night.

"Russia were very unlucky to lose that match," revealed Trapattoni. "They had five or six chances and they lose a goal to a counter-attack. It will be a contest, different to Andorra, because we will both play.

"They have strong players in the European leagues, in England. They are an experienced international team. They believe they are very good. But they know that if they lose, they can say bye bye to qualification."

The Irish manager reiterated the need for caution, even though it frustrated Tuesday's underwhelmed crowd in Dublin 4.

"We cannot attack like Indians in the Wild West!" he stressed.

But there is one thing that is rattling the oldest gunslinger in the west, as he rides off into the sunset: the increasing amount of valid penalty claims being denied his team.

"I phoned up UEFA and I say 'Look at the video!' One or two times, maybe, we have patience. But it is not infinite!"

Irish Independent

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