Sport Soccer

Monday 20 November 2017

Trapattoni forced to take journey into the unknown

Next Monday, Giovanni Trapattoni will be in Dublin to name his squad for the March 26 Euro 2012 qualifier with Macedonia, in addition to the friendly game with Uruguay that follows four days later.

With the loss of Shay Given, and serious concerns over Richard Dunne, Robbie Keane, Liam Lawrence, Stephen Hunt and Kieren Westwood, the Irish manager will have to dig into his reserves to produce the winning formula for a crucial encounter.

Criticism of the Italian's scouting network is a recurring theme in the past year, with concerns that the 71-year-old is not fully exploring the options at his disposal.

On his most recent trip to Dublin, Trapattoni poured unnecessary confusion into James McCarthy's international situation, before admitting he didn't have the player's phone number and had made no attempts to speak to him.

Clearly, the Irish boss has an old-school approach to the gig, preferring to keep his distance and claiming he is better served watching a variety of games on TV in Italy rather than pounding the motorways of England and Scotland. Many believe that the FAI should be demanding more from a €1.7m-a-year employee.

It's expected he will take in a game or two next weekend before coming to Dublin, but, today, the Irish Independent proposes an itinerary for the coming week that would tick a number of boxes and provide some clarity on issues that are likely to linger into next week.

Monday: Premier League: Blackpool v Chelsea:

To watch: Andy Reid

Okay, so this might be a wasted trip, with Reid confined to the bench at Bloomfield Road since his January move, but surely if the manager retains an open mind on the midfield, the Dubliner at least deserves the respect of being watched to ascertain his form at a new club.

Tuesday: Championship: Millwall v QPR

To watch: David Forde, Alan Dunne (Millwall)/ Paddy Kenny, Hogan Ephraim (QPR)

A perfect match for the week that's in it. With Given out, and Keiren Westwood and Joe Murphy doubtful for Macedonia, Trapattoni has serious issues in the goalkeeping department, and this game brings together Kenny and Forde, the two most likely candidates to step up.

Kenny is a reformed character at QPR, while Forde has remained consistent at Championship level. In addition, Trapattoni could have a look at QPR's Hogan Ephraim, who qualifies for Ireland under revised FIFA eligibility rules. Millwall's Irish defender Alan Dunne would also be on show.

Wednesday: Premier League: Everton v Birmingham

To watch: Seamus Coleman (Everton)/ Keith Fahey, Stephen Carr (Birmingham)

What harm would there be in a trip to the British midlands? There are some concerns that recent debutant Coleman might soon feel the effects of a gruelling campaign, so Trapattoni can go and see for himself.

Meanwhile, midfielder Keith Fahey deserves to be in the frame for a start against Macedonia, so this is an opportunity to check on his well-being.

Speaking to Carr is a complete long shot, given that the right-back has retired from international football twice and probably doesn't need the hassle, but still, with a shortage of defensive options for the Macedonia encounter, there's no harm in being seen to ask.

Thursday: Wigan

To watch: James McCarthy

If Trapattoni is in England's north-west on Wednesday night, he may as well pop over to Wigan on Thursday and put the McCarthy doubt to bed once and for all. He has already indicated that he will be named in the squad for the Macedonia game, but it's quite likely that we'll be in a situation next week where the Irish boss says he is unsure if the 20-year-old will turn up.

McCarthy wants to play for Ireland, but hasn't been helped by bizarre comments from Roberto Martinez and doesn't want to make a fuss by coming out and making a statement that could be construed as a dig at his employers.

But it would solve a lot of unnecessary strife if Trapattoni could arrive in Abbotstown next week and say that he has spoken to the player. Whatever happens from there, he's done his job.

Friday: Wolverhampton

To watch: Jamie O'Hara/Richard Stearman

Ireland are short of defensive cover, and lack creativity in midfield, so the Wolves duo O'Hara and Stearman could help in that regard.

Okay, O'Hara has flirted with Ireland without ever suggesting he is fully committed to the switch, while Stearman's availability was leaked by Kevin Doyle a month after the player had publicly declared his desire to break into the English picture, so there's a bit of talking to be done. But a face-to-face meeting with a legendary figure in the game could move things along.

Saturday: Championship: Coventry v Hull

To watch: Keiren Westwood, Stephen O'Halloran (Coventry)/ Paul McShane (Hull) (also possibles: Richard Keogh, David Bell, Roy O'Donovan (Coventry)/ Jamie Devitt (Hull)

An opportunity to check on the fitness of Westwood ahead of what would be his biggest test. Meanwhile, if O'Halloran has shaken off injury difficulties, then the left-full deserves to be looked at with a distinct lack of cover in that department.

McShane has struggled with injury but, if fit, he will be in defensive shake-up after Richard Dunne's shoulder difficulties. There's another quartet of Irishmen that could be involved here.

Sunday: FA Cup: Manchester City v Reading

To watch: Shane Long, Noel Hunt, Jay Tabb (Reading)

Robbie Keane is battling to be fit for the Macedonia game, and in-form Long is in pole position to capitalise.

However, alternative options Leon Best and Jonathan Walters ply their trade in the Premier League, so this outing for the Tipp man against top flight opposition will be informative.

Noel Hunt has been doing well for Reading, but has effectively been out of the Irish picture for the guts of two years. Tabb has won his place back in the Royals team recently also, and is keen to break into the senior set-up.

This game would complete a satisfactory week's work -- in an ideal world, of course.

Irish Independent

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