Trap's baffling logic can be tolerated in pursuit of happiness
Giovanni Trapattoni's squad announcement on Friday followed all the patterns of inconsistency and stubbornness that makes them unsurprising and startling simultaneously.
Kevin Kilbane was informed by text on Thursday that he wouldn't be part of Ireland's best chance of reaching a major tournament in a decade. Leon Best and Wes Hoolahan were ignored, but Trapattoni will allow Robbie Keane and Shane Long a chance to assess their own fitness.
Keane will make an astonishingly swift return to fitness if, as expected, he returns for LA Galaxy for the second leg of their conference semi-final on Thursday. Galaxy may be even more desperate for him to return than Ireland. Keane arrived late in the MLS season and while the whiteboard in their dressing room dealing with players' fines made a joke of this, there was serious purpose behind the timing.
Under Bruce Arena, Galaxy had become a more solid team, but Keane was brought in to provide the goals as they attempted to win their first MLS Cup. The idea that he would miss the games he was signed to play in would have infuriated the club, especially given the circumstances surrounding the injury.
If Trapattoni was annoyed with Keane for not revealing the injury immediately and then baffled by his decision to enjoy a night out, Galaxy would have been worried too. Keane may not play in tonight's first leg in New York but he is expected to be available for Thursday's second leg and then, if they make it, the conference final, effectively the MLS Cup semi-final, next Sunday.
If he establishes his fitness in those games, he will start for Ireland in Tallinn even if Keane hasn't looked sharp yet this season.
Trapattoni wouldn't countenance going into the play-offs without a Keane who has declared himself fit. Even if he doesn't play in any of those games for LA Galaxy, Trapattoni says he will give Keane every chance to prove his fitness.
"I think I will call him and ask, 'Robbie, how are you?' I have three days to see him at training before the game." Trapattoni believes Keane will be fit no matter what. "These players play football since they are 12 or 14 years and the body develops. They can come back to fitness quickly, this is physiology. I studied this."
Long, he says, is also optimistic, although there may be more hope in this than anything. His absence would be a blow even if he has been ignored by Trapattoni recently.
Trapattoni's squad and selections might be curious, but he will ensure the right mentality in a game Ireland are expected to win. "We cannot afford to think we are favourites," he says, "that would be a great mistake."
Only the result matters against Estonia, Trapattoni says, the least shocking thing he has ever said. The players have an opportunity now and they have to take it. Nothing in life is certain. "Despite experience, there is always this elusive situations you cannot account for. Look at what happened in Italy with Marco Simoncelli. We have this fantastic young rider and then there is this tragic accident."
Trapattoni has a group that want to make the most of this opportunity. "We are not presumptuous. Around every corner there is a new situation. It's important you grasp this situation. This is why football is fantastic and why I will never complain about my job."
Watching his teams play isn't always as fantastic but next month Trapattoni will have the country's backing to pursue only the right result.
Sunday Indo Sport