Trapattoni-Keane marriage a match made in heaven
As Robbie Keane emits another in a series of chuckles, Giovanni Trapattoni is expounding the queer similarities binding marriage and football management.
"After one week, they are married and happy," he says, flashing an already familiar smile. "But after six weeks? The lady ... ?"
Trapattoni's marriage is approaching its fourth decade, but it is to the capricious nature of football management he is referring, sparking the biggest guffaw yet from an Irish captain already betraying a buoyant mood on the eve of Croke Park's unveiling of another new dawn.
And, less than 24 hours after the first meeting, captain and manager represent a brighter and breezier ambience, starkly contrasting to the grim insecurities of the Staunton era.
Keane himself is getting married two weeks from today in Killiney Castle and, aside from grinning at Trapattoni's heartily delivered allegory, had unwittingly created some media kindling by skipping last week's training camp in Portugal.
Trapattoni and Liam Brady had cleared the Spurs' captain well-deserved rest -- what Keane felt prudent to do in the meantime was his own business and he certainly did not feel it necessary to apologise for it.
"First of all, I had a break because of Tottenham, and Ireland, I spoke with Liam Brady," he said, making it clear he had no doubts about his commitment to the green shirt.
"The club were supposed to go to South Korea, they wanted me to rest because I played so many games. I had 10 days rest which I certainly needed.
"But I'll clarify something. I wasn't in Las Vegas. The last time I saw a slot machine was in Bray."
Trapattoni's faith in Keane is no gamble. From an initial text message of congratulations following his League Cup triumph in March, the two have been in regular contact and Trapattoni is well-versed in the qualities with which the Tallaght man can provide him.
Especially so after his most productive season yet, his League Cup glory adding to the prestige of becoming the only player to score double figures in six successive seasons in the Premiership. His marriage to Trapattoni could be hugely significant for Irish supporters.
"To come here, to see the last couple of days, his (Trapattoni's) enthusiasm on the pitch, he has so much energy and that reflects on the players. I've spoken to the lads, they've enjoyed every minute on the park," said Keane.
"I've heard from what different people over the years how enthusiastic he was, you never really know until you see yourself. It's quite similar to my time in Italy, the language especially. I had Marco (Tardelli) at Inter as well."
Trapattoni intercedes that at least Keane is on familiar terrain this time compared to his ill-fated time at Inter Milan eight years back.
"Yeah, now they're foreigners in my home, at least I know that Marco can't get rid of me from the Irish team," said Keane.
"When you look at CVs around the world, the manager comes into that bracket with all the big names. The minute you come in straight away, you have total respect for him, he has that aura about him.
"The last few years I have really enjoyed my football, this year more so. You ask any player, it's about winning things."
After the vagaries of the Brian Kerr era and the deadening despair of Steve Staunton's gaffe-prone reign, Keane is enthused about the new era and he is hopeful that his team, and particularly its star striker, can shed some of the pressures which have weighed them down in recent times.
"There's always pressure but it's important to play with a lot of freedom. We're at our best when we put teams under pressure. You look at Brazil, I don't think we had a touch of the ball. We had the ball for a minute, they had it for 10. We were sitting off too much. With the players we have, we need to press people," he said.
"I'm very proud to play for my country, regardless of whether I'm captain or not, but to be named captain again is a great privilege. There's been a lot of speculation but I'm very grateful to be given the new armband.
"Football is about winning games, it doesn't matter who is in charge, it's about winning. It's about instructions, when you've got someone with the knowledge and the experience of the boss. Of course, you go out on the pitch and it's up to you. You will get certain instructions, the instructions you get from managers will help the team."