FAI back Trapattoni . . . for now
SOCCER:GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI was last night given the backing of the FAI and will remain as manager of the Republic of Ireland after a dramatic day of speculation.
When the 73-year-old maintainted late on Tuesday night that he had “no idea” whether he was about to be shown the door by the FAI, the small band of Irish reporters present weren’t 100 per cent sure that he wasn’t sticking to the script he was asked to follow as part of a drama unfolding behind the scenes.
When the Italian said that he was “not worried,” he was entirely convincing though. After two days of his employers steadfastly refusing to comment on stories in the media in which a “senior FAI source” was quoted as confidently predicting that the veteran manager would be gone by the end of the week, he was the picture of dignity itself.
Trapattoni calmly observed that he’d seen it all before and that he would accept whatever decision the FAI arrived at as long as he was provided with an explanation.
The 73-year-old, who might have expected to expect anything up to €2 million in severance money, simply sat and called the association’s bluff and last night John Delaney and the FAI board quietly folded.
There is, as all but the most devoted of Trapattoni’s supporters would acknowledge, an argument to be made that the association might be better off if it had sacked the current manager. However, the case is far from compelling and when the finances of the situation are taken into account is hugely questionable.
In the end, it is not clear how many if any of the 10-board members at last night’s meeting felt that the case for dismissal was actually strong enough to vote for.
However, as the statement made clear, a majority found it impossible in the end to support the sacking of a manager whose record in four and a half years with Ireland consists of one play-off defeat, one play-off success, a disappointing Euro finals tournament and six points from three games in a qualifying campaign.
The decision seems to be, on balance, to be the correct one although Trapattoni will clearly have to contend on an ongoing basis with a sizeable number of critics who would prefer to see the back of him.
Having been forced to some extent by those same critics to play the team which lined out in the Faroes, it will be interesting to see the reaction of the supporters when some of his more established players are fit and available again.
For the FAI, though, there is the question of how somebody described as a “senior FAI source” could be allowed to publicly undermine the manager of a national team in the lead up to a critically important qualifying game.
It almost beggars belief that somebody from within the organisation would set Trapattoni up for a fall in the way that they did and it is to his enormous credit that he remained focused on the task of winning a potentially tricky away game.
But if the association did not approve of what was being done so blatantly in its name then why, for two days, did the its senior press officer, Peter Sherrard, decline even to acknowledge there was a story unfolding, never mind actually addressing some of the questions put to him regarding it.
The organisation’s chief executive, John Delaney, meanwhile, was consistently unavailable for comment and refused to answer the questions put directly to him both before and immediately after Tuesday’s win in Tórshavn.
There was talk, though, that having initially been quite gung-ho about replacing a manager with whom, it seems, he no longer has any sort of relationship, he had by Tuesday evening started to have second thoughts.
That certainly appears to fit with the way things have panned out.
It was, in short, a truly remarkable few days, even by the associations historically high standards.
For Trapattoni, meanwhile, the battle has been won and yet his chances of surviving the war may well prove to have been fatally undermined.
“The president,” he said ahead of last night’s meeting, “is the president (Delaney is actually the chief executive but Trapattoni was using the term as a generic one for the heads of clubs or associations). He has responsibility. He decides what happens or doesn’t happen. And sometimes (he thinks) it’s better to change the manager because there is a problem with the team.
“I’m not particularly anxious and I’m not worried,” continued the former Juventus and Bayern Munich boss. “Absolutely not. I continue to do my job with the same attitude and the same attention. I will keep doing my job and I think it’s honourable that I have this quality.
“If, when I discuss the situation with the president, he says: ‘Okay, Giovanni, thank you.’ My duty will be to say ‘Thank you very much; bye bye’. It’s the same as when I say to a player: ‘You’re not playing because I’m playing the other’. If the FAI say to me; “you’re being put aside,’ then I can only accept it – with an explanation.”
Instead, they have told him to carry on as if nothing has happened and issued a statement of “support” that would hardly suggest unanimous faith in him.
The upshot is that his position is likely to be continually questioned now, particularly by those in the media who most vehemently backed his removal in recent days.
And all this, remember, because a “senior FAI official” told a newspaper that he would be sacked this week and nobody in the association saw fit to say he was wrong.