Wednesday 13 December 2017

Trapattoni pulls in horns as Skopje comes into focus

Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli have left the troubles of this week behind them
Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli have left the troubles of this week behind them
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

TIME to move on. A mellower Giovanni Trapattoni has put the contentious absences of Marc Wilson and James McCarthy behind him. Now, it's all about Macedonia.

Sure, the Sunday joust with Scotland in the Carling Nations Cup should prove to be the highlight of that tournament, but the bigger picture is tomorrow week in Skopje. Trapattoni can't afford to dwell on the absentees.

Glenn Whelan and Keith Fahey have linked up with the Irish party, and they are welcome additions, although the former needs to get a minor injury assessed. With four members of his starting XI already out of the Euro 2012 qualifier -- Richard Dunne, Damien Duff, Sean St Ledger and Kevin Doyle -- the presence of the Stoke man is essential.

Figuring out how to replace that quartet is now occupying Trapattoni's thoughts. The next step, with respect to McCarthy and Wilson, will come in August when the squad for the match against Slovakia and Russia is named.

On reflection, he seems more willing to forgive. "Players are like kids, they are younger but acting in an adult world, so you must be patient. Never say never. The players who are not with us now, in future, they will be," said the 72-year-old.

"It's important they understand their responsibilities. They must have respect about Irish, for the country. They are the rules of life. The young must understand this."

There was a bit of light humour, however, when Trapattoni revealed that he had contacted John O'Shea and Shane Long last week about the respective club matches they face at Wembley this weekend. "They answer immediately!", quipped the Italian. "They are not shy."

New recruit Simon Cox certainly couldn't be accused of shyness. The goalscoring debutant in Tuesday night's destruction of Northern Ireland cancelled a holiday in Spain after learning of his call-up and cut a relaxed figure yesterday as he spoke about his rise to prominence.

Cox, who hails from Reading, has enjoyed a fine second half of the season under Roy Hodgson at West Brom, and has settled in quickly to life in the Irish camp.

He qualifies through his Headfort-born grandmother, although he admits that there wasn't much of an Irish influence in his life when he was growing up; apart, of course, from when his gran had "a few glasses of sherry." It was meant well.

Cox spent some time in Galway during the last international break and has even done a bit of research in an attempt to get the hang of 'Amhran na bhFiann'.

"I had it on YouTube the other day trying to learn," he said. "To be fair, I didn't even see the words on the big screen in the corner when we turned around. I was just standing there and looking at the flag on the top of the stadium."

The 24-year-old will be singing a different tune tomorrow evening, when he will perform the Otis Redding number, '(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay' in front of his team-mates; part of the routine for a newcomer. On the park, he feels he struck the right notes on Tuesday in partnership with Robbie Keane.


While Long will start in Macedonia if he comes through Reading's play-off final on Monday in one piece, Cox is potentially next in line, with Andy Keogh the only other striker in the squad.

"After I got called up, I wasn't expecting to play in the first game let alone the second. I didn't think that far ahead to the Macedonia game or, indeed, the Italy game," he said.

"I was just gonna come over, enjoy it, and get to meet everybody. I'd be more than happy to play against Scotland and, if I have to be an impact player from the bench in Macedonia, I'm more than happy to do that.

"I was happy with the way myself and Robbie linked up on Tuesday. We are sort of similar in the way that we play, the same type of player, and I thought, personally, it was a decent all-round performance."

Trapattoni has suggested that Cox could also be a wide option, although the player seems unconvinced about his own prowess in that role. He'd prefer to operate as a withdrawn striker, a role that Hodgson has deployed him in. But he's not too fussy about that or waving goodbye to a trip away with his mates.

"I'd cancel holidays every year to play," he smiled. Now that's music to Trapattoni's ears.

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