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Trapattoni highlights the reward for loyalty

Giovanni Trapattoni deserved to write Ireland's history last week. The victories in the friendlies in Dublin and Liege would have been meaningless if Ireland had not also won in Skopje, but Trapattoni was entitled to claim that Ireland would not have won in Skopje without the time Trapattoni demanded together.

This is his project too and he made it clear last week that he wants it to continue. When he speaks, he so often causes confusion but when he talked about his contract and the possibility of extending it last Wednesday, Trapattoni was very clear.

He was in a position of great strength. Ireland had just defeated Italy and, more importantly, Macedonia. The players who had stayed had demonstrated the qualities Trapattoni considers essential. In his view, they had almost demonstrated them merely by staying before they even went out and played with heart and courage.

So Trapattoni was happy -- so happy that at one point on Wednesday he conceded that sometimes it might be necessary for his side to put on 'a show', something he usually suggests is available at La Scala.

He was also happy to respect the FAI and let them conduct contract negotiations in their own time. But he was also happy to warn them as he warned the players who had stayed away.

"There is a little problem --maybe another country come in. I don't wish it to come to this situation."

Trapattoni says he is happy to contemplate another experience and is not considering retirement from a job which he doesn't think is a job anyway.

Trapattoni has now handed the problem of his contract over to the FAI. He wants to stay and continue building the team but there is no problem if he doesn't. He has assured the FAI of his professionalism.

"Until the last month, the last result, I am one hundred per cent a professional," he said, reflecting on the times he has changed jobs. "We will do the same here depending on when it can happen. At the moment, the world is open."

So if the FAI thought they could stall and hand a contract at the last moment to a grateful septuagenarian who had no other option but unwilling retirement, Trapattoni, gently but clearly, made them think again.

He would prefer to stay, but when he talked to the Sunday journalists at the Airport Hotel on Wednesday, he was addressing a different audience when he talked of the restorative powers of change.

"The change is the next experience, it is a new experience for us, not only for the teams. A team has a coach, a manager, and this team changes 30, 50 per cent. He's not God, he can't changed it 100 per cent. Come another coach, another 30 per cent, another 50 per cent. He gives something to the general culture."

Trapattoni now feels he has control over the general culture of the Irish team, something he reiterated by demanding that the players who were absent would have to explain themselves in August or September -- and he wouldn't go looking for explanations.

"I cannot every day say, 'please, please, please'. They must say 'I wish or I no wish, I have injury or no injury. I come or no come'. Clear --they must be educated."

If Trapattoni is making it his mission to educate the modern footballer, many people's response would be 'Good luck with that'.

"I hope I can do this. But it also comes from their club managers who communicate with Marco and me. They are 22, 24, 28. They have to mature and be responsible."

An extreme absence of manners will now lead to exclusion. He was rewarded for his stance with vocal support from his senior players and, most importantly, three points in Skopje.

When he is asked about James McCarthy and the reality that a shy young footballer might have difficulty communicating with an energetic and, em, confusing manager, he recalls, again, Stephen Ireland and the hedgehog. "I can speak and create a problem."

Of course, he did speak and, at the very least, inflame a problem with McCarthy but he sees it differently.

"McCarthy never wishes to speak about himself or his position. Gary Caldwell said I put pressure on McCarthy. But I never did. Because I know the situation." The pressure on the players now comes from Ireland's victories.

There may have been luck in Macedonia and Italy may be no better now than they were when Ireland should have beaten them in the last campaign, but the results and the endurance shown were the key things from Trapattoni's point of view.

The game to come in Dublin against Slovakia will be crucial for Ireland. Ireland have failed to beat a team challenging them in the group at home since Trapattoni arrived.

There is nothing to fear from Slovakia who are an ordinary side, even if Ireland are too.

A win would allow Ireland to do what they do best and go to Moscow looking only for a point, although it could also be argued they are at their best when they are playing without fear. At the moment, it's hard to envisage that scenario in the tense final games.

The manner in which Ireland hustled Italy and Andy Keogh stopped Pirlo from playing is more likely to be needed in Moscow than in Dublin for the Slovakia game.

Trapattoni conceded he picked the wrong formation for the game against Russia in Dublin, but it is hard to see who would do what Keogh did to the Italians unless it is Keogh himself.

Simon Cox seems to have moved ahead of Shane Long, whose season ended with great disappointment. By the autumn, Long will probably be a Premier League player with a transfer decided once he returns from holiday in two weeks.

Robbie Keane might be too. In Moscow, he might be asked to drop into midfield but he won't be asked to man-mark. Keane is another who has had an exceptional fortnight.

On Wednesday, just before he left Dublin to return to Milan, Trapattoni made a point of highlighting the players who had played with injections to get through Skopje -- Given, Keane, Hunt and O'Dea -- and added that two of them, O'Dea and Hunt, needed an injection to play in Liege, as did Glenn Whelan.

"The three guys who got injections were the best on the pitch, they show us their commitment to the shirt.

"That is important. Let this be a lesson to the others."

Trapattoni was the teacher over the past two weeks and he is committed to his methods. Time is running out for those who weren't paying attention.

Sunday Indo Sport