Ireland on must-win mission in Torshavn
SOCCER:“HOPE” was the theme during Giovanni Trapattoni’s early days as manager of the Republic of Ireland. “Belief” or the lack of it, is now key to whether the veteran manager has any chance of carrying on.
At his pre-match press conference in Torshavn last night he did his best to generate a bit and his team selection might be seen as gesture to those who have been consistently frustrated by what they see as his conservatism.
On the face of it any sort of win against the Faroes this evening would put Ireland where they had always been envisaged they would be at this point on the campaign: on six points after three games.
A good performance might also help to heal the wounds opened by the Germans on Friday night.
There are those, though, who believe Trapattoni’s fate has already been decided with what might laughingly be described as “the money men” out at Abbotstown having weighed up the profit and loss implications of replacing the Italian in the light of so many poorly attended games, and come to the conclusion it is worth the risk. The thinking is a new manager with a bit more box office about him and a lot more swagger about his team would have enough of an effect on attendances at games in the Aviva to make the numbers more or less stand up.
There is no reason at this point to suspect anyone at the association has a firm idea who this manager might be and, given their record for dragging out their recruitment processes little enough basis, it seems, for expecting a new man might be in place for February’s friendly against Poland, never mind November’s against Greece.
But what is perceived as the growing antipathy towards Trapattoni and his team is regarded as a problem that needs to be addressed. For all of that there has not, it seems, been a meeting of the board that FAI chief executive John Delaney routinely refers to and reportedly defers to but the speculation action is imminent has been strong and the FAI (whose chief executive has been keeping what well might be described as a low profile) have not managed a single denial despite being given a lot of opportunities to utter one.
The situation is complicated, or perhaps simplified depending on your point of view, by the fact that businessman Denis O’Brien pays half the cost of employing Trapattoni and his management team.
He will effectively have to agree to any decision and may actually drive it.
The association will, in any case, be desperate to avoid losing what has become an increasingly important source of revenue; not least because in the absence of O’Brien’s support the budget for employing Trapattoni’s replacement would dwindle; with serious implications for the economics that are supposed to be fuelling the move against him in the first place. It is not, in short, a pretty situation.
Against this backdrop, Trapattoni yesterday sought to prepare his team for a game it really must win in order for the Italian to be able to credibly argue that Friday’s defeat by the Germans was, notwithstanding the successive disappointments in Poland, an aberration caused by the absence of so many first-choice players.
To strip away the niceties of the situation, Richard Dunne might be a “must have” for a game against the world’s second best side but against one ranked 158 Trapattoni, it is argued, should be able to engineer a victory with Darren O’Dea and co.
Having fallen out with Stephen Kelly because, he said yesterday, he had told the Fulham defender he needed a more attacking full back against the Germans, the Italian has gone further this time, bringing in Marc Wilson at left back for Stephen Ward and reshaping his midfield and attack with the addition of his returning skipper Robbie Keane and young winger Robbie Brady, at the expense of Simon Cox and Keith Fahey.
A fair few of his critics will point to the continued absence of Shane Long and there is little doubt the West Brom striker might harbour the firm suspicion he would be one of those to benefit should there be a change of leadership. Still, the selection would seem to signal a more positive approach by a manager anxious both to win a match and prove a point.
Séamus Coleman showed enough in very difficult circumstances last Friday to suggest he can make a very positive contribution and he linked up to good effect with Brady against Oman in London, while Wilson’s club form suggests he deserves his chance.
Clearly, the Irish shouldn’t find themselves under anything like the pressure they did in their last outing; this is a side that should be able to move the ball from back to front at least a little more creatively than we have become used to over the last few years.
Lars Olsen, who is expected to name an unchanged side to the one that lost by three goals in Germany and one at home to Sweden, insists his side will try to play too and on a reasonably well-sheltered artificial pitch the elements will not be the factor they might once have been.
Unlikely as it seems, a stylish win might yet strengthen Trapattoni’s case for staying on. Anything other than a victory, though, and those who want him out are bound to believe they have carried the day.