Delaney determined to stick with Trapattoni
Criticism may be mounting on the Italian manager but sacking him in the rush to find a scapegoat is not on the FAI’s current agenda, writes EMMET MALONEin Poznan
WITH JUST Monday’s game against Italy to come before the Irish team head for home, FAI chief executive John Delaney said yesterday “the players and the management owe the Irish supporters a performance for all the money they have spent”. There was no suggestion, though, that the association feels short-changed by its most expensive employee.
For Giovanni Trapattoni, this will be the third time he has failed to live up to popular expectation at a major tournament. His job looks secure, however, unless there is a major backlash against him and his employers decide, as they did with Steve Staunton, to cut him loose. In that event, though, they will presumably have to cope with the discomfort of justifying a hugely costly pay-off made in circumstances that would not have been unforeseeable had they waited just an extra week or so until after the draw for the finals before renewing his contract last year.
In the grand scheme of things, it may not end up counting for much but Delaney insisted yesterday that the deal will be honoured with the manager, he observed, having achieved the target that was set for him, to wit: “qualifying for a major tournament”.
If the pressure on him mounts next week, Trapattoni may yet wonder whether he would have been better off somehow failing heroically at the play-off stage again. In that event he almost certainly would have had to go, but at least the shortcomings of a team he has spent so long diligently reshaping would not have been laid bare so cruelly for all the world to see.
It is perhaps the firmest evidence yet that Cesare Prandelli is, at heart, still very much a disciple of Trapattoni, that the 54-year-old reacted to his Italy team’s failure to beat Croatia on Thursday night by questioning his players’ lack of killer instinct and fitness.
Still, things may be about to get better for the former Fiorentina boss when he meets his mentor on Monday. For the older man, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that things in the immediate future are only going to get worse. Although, if they really amount to anything, hints of unhappiness amongst his players are potentially a greater threat to his position than the last group game which, we can assume for safety’s sake at this stage, will not go too well.
But as things stand the case for nudging the 73-year-old towards the door is not compelling. Rather, there should be a plan being mapped out for where the team might be headed when he eventually departs along with, ideally, who it is that might bring it there. Marco Tardelli has already expressed an interest but unless Trapattoni departs on quite a high which, with Germany and Sweden to come in the World Cup qualifiers is looking like a tall order, it is difficult to see him getting the chance.
Trapattoni certainly appears to have made some questionable calls over the last couple of games but very few people have come up with wildly attractive alternatives as to what he should have done. There is a logical enough basis to his contention that Ireland struggle to mount an attacking threat against good teams when playing with just one striker but get overwhelmed in midfielder when facing better sides with two.
On Thursday, he tried to somehow square the circle by playing Simon Cox somewhere in the middle but, far from achieving his objective in either area, he only managed to leave both looking undermanned and Glenn Whelan, for one, seemed frustrated by the lack of assistance he had received on what was one of his roughest nights in an Ireland shirt.