Mixed messages not helping anyone
Marco Tardelli’s press briefing yesterday highlighted exactly what has been missing from Giovanni Trapattoni’s management of the Republic of Ireland from day one; consistency of communication. Since the start of the week, the message coming from the team management has been mangled and at times incomprehensible.
On Monday, Trapattoni identified James McCarthy as a player who has not been returning his calls. He didn’t name him, the press were repeatedly reminded by the FAI, but there was nobody else it could have been, everyone was accounted for, whether they were there or not. And when that was laid bare, it was confirmed to be him.
The story didn’t quite add up the next morning when quotes from McCarthy and Wigan emerged, claiming the player was injured and would be sitting out the two games this week, at least, and most likely the games with Macedonia (June 4th) and Italy (June 7th). Numerous attempts to clarify with Wigan and the FAI as to when contact was made were rebeuffed, though I received this from Wigan on Monday.
“Roberto confirmed this afternoon that James has an ankle problem and that the FAI were informed about it according to all the regulations. “
Somebody was being economical with the truth. Either Wigan informed the FAI ridiculously late or the FAI knew more than they let on at Monday’s press conference.
It turned out to be somewhere in the middle. Wigan were pretty tardy when informing Ireland of the ‘injury’ on Sunday night, but it meant Trapattoni must have had some idea what was happening on Monday morning. If not, why not?
The email that revealed this during the first half of the Northern Ireland game on Tuesday was extraordinary. Here came some clarification of the issue during a game that was supposed to take centre stage. Not only did it reveal the timing of the contact between the medical teams at club and country to be at odds with earlier explanations, but it went on to cast doubt on the veracity of Wigan and their medical staff. Essentially, it said there was no physical reason why McCarthy could not turn up for Ireland. That morning, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said he was out for 3-4 weeks.
That email was, we were told, released with the consent and full knowledge of Trapattoni. It was then a bit surprising when he came in to the post-match press conference and said he didn’t want to talk about the missing players. Why sanction the statement and then try to ignore it? Why plead with the press to focus on the game when you have fed them the information during that very match?
Trap said “players” because it emerged during the evening, through word of mouth, that there was some confusion over the whereabouts of Marc Wilson, who never joined up with the team that day, despite being named in the starting XI. Trapattoni then referred to him as ‘the disappeared’, as if he had been dropped into an Icelandic volcano on the way over.
Admittedly, this press conference was hugely entertaining but it was confusing too. At one point, Trapattoni suggested they had not seen the scan sent by Wigan for McCarthy, but he was corrected and informed an FAI doctor had. Now, it could be that Trap was saying he had not seen it, which is fine, but at some point the FAI press team should step in and make sure there is no doubt in people’s minds that a scan was received and dismissed, as was asserted in the statement.
The situation arose again when Trap suggested Wilson was missing. After the conference one journalist checked to make sure this wasn’t the official line. It wasn’t, Stoke had been in contact claiming some sort of injury to the defender/midfielder and striker Jon Walters.
Trapattoni was fairly animated throughout the press conference, even more so than usual. Though he didn’t specifically say it was over for McCarthy, he did say this.
“They should come, be checked and then they can go back. This is for you and for the Irish people. This shouldn’t happen anywhere in the world. It’s impossible for me to understand this. This is the first time in all of my years I have seen a situation like this.”
He added: “John O’Shea, Shay Given, Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne who said ‘Mister I’m sorry, I can’t play.’ These are the players of Ireland. The other players are new. We discovered these. Where were they one or two years ago? Where?”
That’s fairly incendiary stuff. First of all, he suggests they have no respect for the country, the people and journalists (well we knew that last one), but he then suggests they were nothing without him. There really is only one conclusion to be drawn from this – that Trap has seen the last of the likes of McCarthy and Anthony Stokes, at least, and maybe Wilson. I haven’t mentioned Stokes until now because he barely warrants the time or space, his excuse of “tiredness” for not turning up pathetic.
This brings us on to Tardelli. The assistant manager claimed yesterday that Trapattoni “spoke about the behaviour of the players. He never doubted whether they were injured.”
Now, this is a bizarre u-turn from a little over 12 hours beforehand. Granted, Trapattoni seemed to skirt around the FAI’s doubts over injury reports, preferring to focus on desire and respect, but he gave his blessing to the email circulated in the first half and Tardelli subsequently contradicted the association’s stance.
That was his response when asked would the players in question ever play for Ireland again. Well, here’s why not. The manager questioned their desire, honesty and respect for the country and its people. Even if the manager has toned down the rhetoric and offers another chance to them in August, say, will they want to return?
Interestingly, Trapattoni was asked during that post-match press conference whether some of the younger players had lost respect for him. A perfectly legitimate question considering the Italian suggested they had lost respect for the rest of us.
There was an audible ‘harrumph’ from a few rows back. It turned out to be Tardelli. Clearly the assistant manager thought the suggestion ridiculous. Yet yesterday, he said: “The players must show some respect, not just for Giovanni, but for the Irish people, the journalists, Mary O’Brien (of the association’s international department who liaises with players).” That is tacit acknowledgement they had not respected their manager.
Irish Times Soccer Correspondent Emmet Malone quite rightly calls for the appointment of some sort of respected former international to mediate between players and manager, but there is also an urgent need for some sort of coherent and consistent message to come from those in and around the management team. Often it seems quite clear that not everyone is on the same page.
This isn’t to excuse the behaviour of some of the younger players, who could do with some sort of PR team themselves, but it would be a lot easier to be more forthright in condemnation if one had full faith in the message coming from Trapattoni and his team.
At the moment, that is not the case.