Trap’s no-shows gave early grounds for concern
Trapattoni’s reluctance to travel and see players in action was a slap in the face for Irish football
Giovanni Trapattoni makes a rare appearance at a Premier League ground to take in Norwich City’s clash against Arsenal at Carrow Road last season. Photograph: Ian Kington/Getty Images
The overdue removal of Giovanni Trapattoni from his post yesterday morning will have an immediate impact this Saturday when the Premier League and Championship return in England: there will be no Irish manager in the stands at White Hart Lane or Goodison Park or, to be realistic, at Leicester City versus Wigan.
What’s new? Trapattoni might not have been at any of these places anyway. It is only belatedly, after external pressure, and presumably following some embarrassment within the FAI, that Trapattoni began to be seen at English grounds on weekends to watch players.
The need to do this, a primary task, a basic of the job, had eluded Trapattoni and his masters for quite some time after his appointment. And that was quite a slap in the face for Irish football.
There was a lot made of ‘Trap’s’ wandering press conferences, his idiosyncratic use of the English language, but it served a dual purpose for the Italian. In the first instance it made him a ‘character’; and that helped disguise, or downplay, what else he was and was not doing.
A talented, and obviously well-known, Irish international said quietly at his training ground early last season that Trapattoni had still not called him. This was despite his presence in a Premier League squad. The player was aggrieved but also bemused and attributed part of the situation to Trapattoni possibly having never heard of him. This is someone with over 50 caps.
There is a chance, of course, that Trapattoni or Marco Tardelli had heard of the player and dismissed him as being not good enough for their Ireland, but in any other international set-up that decision would have been based on personal viewing.
But Trapattoni didn’t go to watch Irishmen in Britain and for him to have been allowed to get away with that - until pushed into it seems - is staggering. The fact is that Trap would not have dared address his job in that manner if he had been made manager of Italy again. Trap would have been at Juventus or Roma or Milan every week. He would have been there because that is what international managers do. That’s the job. And he would have been proud to do it.
But to go to Norwich City, for example, when they are in the Championship to see some wee lad called Wes Hoolahan? No. No, I’m Giovanni Trapattoni.
Imagine if he had gone to Carrow Road, imagine if he had thrown himself into the task, imagine what a man of his experience could have brought to the players and the team. (By the way, no-one ever said Hoolahan was Liam Brady or Johnny Giles, but he was an Irishman worth observing, and more than once.)
Because as Trapattoni knows, and will doubtless say in his defence, there are not lots of Irish players in Premier League starting XIs. There are not lots of Englishmen either but that does not stop Roy Hodgson going to games where he might see more Spanish players than ones he can call on.
This is the new world of British-Irish football. And it might require some adjustments, major re- assessment of Irish football culture even, but the next Irish manager must be enthusiastic and ambitious about what can be done. He can be realistic too, but not to the point of excusing himself of responsibility.