Sunday 25 February 2018

Trapattoni's choices forfeit pragmatism for loyalty

The manager has missed a chance to keep his squad on their toes, says Dion Fanning

Dion Fanning

Giovanni Trapattoni retains the capacity to surprise simply by never changing. For some, his refusal to consider James McClean for the Ireland friendly at the end of the month will be another example of a manager who knows his own mind and will not pander to the latest public clamour.

There is always a need for a manager to know his own mind but McClean's progress has been so astounding that the friendly against the Czech Republic should not just have been a chance for the player but an opportunity for Ireland as well.

While many have grown to tolerate the lack of adventure from this Irish side, it would be a great advantage to have a player like McClean among the squad and among the substitutes in Poland.

Trapattoni is right to show loyalty to the squad that qualified but this should be balanced by some pragmatism. McClean's goal yesterday against Arsenal is the latest evidence that he is more than just a fad.

By the time Ireland play Croatia, it will be seven months since the play-off game which is plenty of time for a loss of form. For those on the squad's periphery, the threat of losing their place should be enough to drive them. McClean's inclusion would have demonstrated the need to stay sharp.

Instead, Trapattoni has said that very little of that matters. If he is to lose one of the 24-man squad he named on Friday, it is likely to be either Seamus Coleman or James McCarthy.

Like McClean, they were the future once and Trapattoni will see the hype around McClean as just another chapter in a managerial career in which knowing what he wants has been the defining characteristic.

McCarthy's case demonstrates how Trapattoni can be right and how he can be wrong. Trapattoni has been impressed with McCarthy at times this season but he did point out that "McCarthy plays in every game for his club but they are bottom of the table". Yet he is closer to the squad, having served his time. It could probably have been done a better way, without Trapattoni's stubbornness but the manager is now prepared to see what he can do.

McCarthy won't start against the Czechs but Trapattoni sees him as an alternative to Keith Andrews rather than Glenn Whelan and he will get a chance.

Stephen Ireland is a different story. He always is. Ireland's girlfriend said her man was waiting for a call, presumably having lost the power to make a call himself.

Trapattoni is not interested. "He said or his lady said?" he asked when Ireland's desire to return was brought up.

Ireland's ability is not a matter for discussion, Trapattoni insists. "We never forget," he says, adding Kevin Kilbane's name as he once used to name-check Lee Carsley.

Ireland was never a possibility but Trapattoni has now made it clear that the promise and potential of players is something for the autumn. Now he will rely on the

players he knows and who have done what is required by him.

This has always been Trapattoni's way but McClean's form suggested that it could be different. The FAI felt that once his international clearance was received he would make the squad. They would have enjoyed it too because, even with reduced price tickets, they could do with the added attraction of a player that has every manager in England talking.

They all wonder how they missed him and some are asking if their scouting networks have to change. His sensational impact at Sunderland has made no difference to Trapattoni. It would take more than that to make him change.

Sunday Indo Sport

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport