Something drastically wrong with this team's preparation

Sat, Sep 8, 2012, 01:00

SOCCER ANALYST:The attention to detail so vital to good international management is manifestly absent is this set-up. Then there is the dodgy team selection and dated tactics

I REFUSE to let my knee jerk. Deep breath, leave the stadium and go find a taxi back to the hotel so I can compose my thoughts.

I’m not angry. Just relieved.

Thinking rationally, here goes: there is something drastically wrong with how the Republic of Ireland football team is being prepared. The guidance and management under the current leaders are flawed.

Communication levels from manager to players, manager to the media and manager to the public have become farcical.

Yes, before the summer nightmare there had been some good results but the massive language barrier that exists and the arrogance gained by pointing to those previous results have created a smokescreen that thinly veils incompetence and carelessness.

The minute attention to detail required to be successful at international football is not evident from Giovanni Trapattoni.

Not attending matches with numerous Irish players involved and not communicating directly with these same players is ridiculous and cannot continue.

There is a dodgy selection process in place that sees too many playing out of position – John O’Shea is at centre back for Sunderland and we were putting strikers on the wing last night.

Also the tactics being employed are crude and outdated.

But there has to be another reason for what we just witnessed. The performance of professionals was so far off the expected standard.

Did they travel too late to Astana?

There is a five-hour difference. Anyone who has been on holidays to America will know the flight can fatigue you for a few days.

The team looked jaded in the second half, especially around the middle of the field. The defence looked knackered too. They were struggling. You could see it from the stand and it was a real leveller.

Tactically, there wasn’t actually an issue last night. The shape was fine. We weren’t outplayed around the middle as usually happens. It was just incompetence on the ball. We didn’t keep it, we didn’t try to unlock the Kazakh door.

Plan A was to hammer it down with a sledgehammer. There was no Plan B. Yet again. No alternative idea even when the first assault reaped no reward.

When we got the ball it was played up to Jonathan Walters. Robbie Keane was indicating for it to go up to him so he could chase the knock down.

That was it, besides a few moments when James McCarthy got on the ball and tried to move it about. Really, though, McCarthy and Glenn Whelan were poor. They were following orders, I presume.

But Ireland won the match. Eventually, and luckily, three points were delivered by a well constructed free-kick and Kevin Doyle’s fine volley.

The argument that will be rolled out in the coming weeks is: ‘The group table doesn’t lie etc.’

It doesn’t but we lacked guile, we never tried to outplay opponents that were starkly inferior. There was a cushy argument after the Euros: ‘Ah well, the teams were too good for us.’

That debate ended last night. It has been replaced by a far deeper problem. We gave Kazakhstan plenty of opportunities to look good but they never took them.

I genuinely believe a combination of travelling and the artificial pitch must be factored into last night’s performance.

But there is something badly wrong within the squad. James McClean blew his top last night with a public tweet. So it might all seep out. The players who were overlooked in Poland are still clearly unhappy.

The Damien Duff situation last week, when Marco Tardelli said he might return, will not have helped matters. The wingers would be forgiven for thinking that is a lack of belief in their ability.

There was another strange thing I noticed in the warm-up. Stephen Kelly had number 2 on his back. McClean had number 11. Doyle had number 9. Before the Euros Giovanni Trapattoni used to give the starting team 1 to 11. Maybe the kit man thought that was going to be the team! Maybe the kit man should pick the team. Maybe he would have a better idea.

I imagine there will be a lot of scrutiny of Robbie Keane’s performance. But, again, he might not have done much but he won the penalty before stepping up and burying it. However, in my opinion, it would have been better to start Shane Long last night. Long is quick, mobile, hungry, aggressive – his time is now.

I think Robbie’s trips back from California will take their toll. The MLS standard, while better than the Kazakhstan league, isn’t very high.

Reading this, most people have had a chance to sleep on it and realise the main goal of six or seven points from the first three games, miraculously so, remains on course. Somehow the lads pulled it out of the bag last night.

I’ve seen that happen countless times when I was Faroe Islands manager. We used to get done just before half-time. When we plugged that hole, sides used to do us in injury-time. The lesser nations always get caught at the finish line. Just the way it goes.

We got away with highway robbery and we all know it. The question is, will the problems be addressed before they become deep-rooted?

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