Arrivederci e buona liberazione Signor Trapattoni!
Yes, goodbye and good riddance Signor Trap. While I’m relieved that the inevitable has finally come to pass, he should have been shown the door in the aftermath of our shambolic performances at the Euros in Poland last year. But, he spoofed and he spoofed, and a gullible FAI leadership, and – with some exceptions – an extraordinarily compliant soccer-writers contingent, decided to give him a fool’s pardon and allowed him proceed to a further calamitous odyssey on our would-be road to the Rio World Cup.
So now we’re left to pick up the pieces, as the Italian one-time maestro heads for home with a handsome pay-off from our financially embarrassed Football Association, and admonishments to the Irish fans from him and captain Robbie Keane that they needed to get real, and to temper their expectations. Talk about adding insult to injury! But the really sad thing was to hear so many soccer correspondents meekly reporting these excuses for the total failure of the manager and his team, on and off the field.
I’m reminded of those firebrand comments from Irish rugby captain, Ciaran Fitzgerald, in a famous 1985 Triple Crown winning game game against England, urging on his team mates with a rousing :”Come on lads. Where’s your f—ing pride” battle cry. The long-suffering Irish soccer fans deserved an abject apology from Trapattoni and Keane this past week, not a chastisement that their expectations were above their station.
I just cannot figure out why it got to this sorry outcome. Remember, here was a manager who was trousering up to €2 million a year in the early days – cut reportedly to a paltry €1.5 million after last year’s Euro debacle – for a part-time job. Yet, part-time or not, he didn’t even bother to attend English Premiership and Championship matches at the weekends to watch Irish qualified players in action. No, he said, this was not necessary. He was relying on watching videos of their performance at home in sunny Italy.
If you told an uninformed outsider this, they would not believe you. But that was the carry-on until the aftermath of the Euros, and in a big deal concession to his employers at the FAI, our Italian wizard agreed that henceforth he would actually attend some of those games in England! You couldn’t make up this stuff. A clear case of fact being stranger than fiction.
Then came the belated recognition of the abilities of various players who should have been in the Euro squad (James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman, Robbie Brady, etc.), but a slavish reliance on too many of the clapped-out Euro squad, and an inability to change his game plan, saw Trap’s latest campaign crash and burn as badly as his Polish adventure. And now we sit with our lowest ever ranking in the history of the FIFA table.
So where to from here? If Denis O’Brien is going to continue to splash his cash, then he should apply some basic business standards to how it is spent. Practical measurements and performance targets need to be applied to the job description. Match attendance at the English Premiership and Championship is, of course, a given. But regular attendance at League of Ireland matches, and a role in monitoring the performance of our under -21, and under-age teams, must also be part of the brief.
Me? I’m off to do a Novena that John Delaney and his FAI buddies have the cop-on to get Martin O’Neill on board before a realisation of the shambles he is inheriting sees him heading for the hills!