by Leighton Cullen
After a dreadful Euro 2012 Ireland kicked off their World Cup 2014 qualifiers with a 2-1 win over Kazakhstan, a country more famous for Borat than their football. Yet the team ranked 142nd in the world often out-played an Ireland lacking both leadership and any tactical changes from a veteran manager in Giovanni Trapattoni.
Anyone who watched the game on Friday would have seen Ireland getting out of jail and consequently in the interviews that followed it was downbeat for all. Trap stated the usual clichés about the 3 points being everything but when you’re played off the park by a team whose biggest talent plays for SpVgg Greuther Furth then alarm bells start to ring.
Sadly for Ireland Trap isn’t for changing and we are hearing more and more about dissent in the ranks with players getting pissed off with the man and his ways. So far in the space of four months Trap has fallen out with a worrying number of players. Kevin Foley called it a day after getting dropped from the Euro 2012 squad at the last moment for Paul McShane who hardly kicked a ball. Then we saw Trap falling out with Shane Long who has been playing well for WBA since he moved there. Add to that Darron Gibson’s decision not to be put up for selection due to the fact he didn’t get a single minute of football in the Euros when a certain Paul Green got in ahead of him and you have to question whether the eccentricity and single-mindedness of the Italian is what we need right now.
Indeed, with a team in desperate want of overhaul and revision perhaps he is the last thing we need.
The concern of the supporters is evidently shared by the players, as James McClean’s twitter bombshell on Friday evening revealed. He was quoted as posting “Delighted as a fan we got the win….Personal level fuming. F***in’ joke. Embarrassing”.
It is a sentiment shared by millions but unfortunately McClean was forced to take the comments down soon after and issue an apology to the manager and his team-mates.
It was wise move from the Sunderland wideman as the previous examples of Villa’s Ciaran Clark and Stoke’s Marc Wilson have illustrated only too harshly just how hard it is to get back into Trap’s good books.
Forgiveness is an unfamiliar concept to the 73 year old.
His loyalty to players he favours however is unquestioned but this other extreme is equally damaging to the nation’s cause. Robbie Keane is past his prime yet is routinely selected no matter what. We have a number of MSL and Championship players getting games when we have a number of players playing week in week out in the Premier League who get over looked. It’s madness.
Now – finally – the media are on Trap’s case and most hope he calls it a day. Sadly that is unlikely.
Tuesday heralds a friendly match in London which has seen his senior players return to their clubs and forced the manager into experimentation. Robbie Brady from Manchester United and Alex Pearce from Reading have been called up but it’s a huge shame that the promising Pilkington has once again been over-looked. As stated earlier, Trap is not for changing.
Even so, these minor changes hint at a gesture of compromise under the barrage of calls to bring in fresh faces. It is a decision that can be viewed one of two ways. Either it’s a start, or it’s the last act of a man on his last legs.