Trapattoni's passion is plain for all to see
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND TRAINING CAMP: THE CROWD of 5,000 that the president of Portimonense Sporting Clube had forecast for yesterday's training match against the Republic of Ireland failed to materialise, just 500 or so making their way to the Portuguese second division club's stadium in Portimao for the 11am kick-off.
The majority of them were Irish tourists who had forsaken the beaches to lend support to Giovanni Trapattoni in his first "game" as manager of the Republic of Ireland, but as it proved the Italian's unceasing animation on the touchline proved significantly more entertaining than the 90 minutes of football, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
A cry of "Trap Out!" from a man in a green and gold Ciarraí shirt (he, alas, appeared to have left his sun block behind in the Kingdom) drew laughter from fellow supporters when Portimonense took the lead on 16 minutes, Gonzalo's free-kick from the edge of the box going through the legs of Stephen Hunt in the Irish wall to beat Dean Kiely at his right post. The needless concession of the free-kick, by Martin Rowlands, took Trapattoni's levels of touchline animation to new heights; when the free-kick was converted his movement, in front of a slightly alarmed subs' bench, was Michael Flatley-esque.
Those who wondered if his heart would be in this job would have had their doubts dispelled yesterday. You were very animated out there, Giovanni? "I play with them, I have to help them. Go, go! Go now! Quickly! I'm not shouting, I'm calling their attention. For example, sometimes they look at the pitch, I say 'turn and look at the ball!' There isn't money on the pitch! Why are you looking there? Look at the ball! That way you can improve your position immediately. The other team wins a throw-in, we turn away, you help their player. Why are you looking at the pitch? At the grass? Why you look at the grass? It's a habit, yes? We must erase it immediately."
There followed, in his post-match press conference, a tactics tutorial, using the two glasses and two bottles of water in front of him, that brought back memories of Bobby Robson's employment of salt and pepper cellars in Malahide to explain to the Irish media how he hoped Ireland would play under Steve Staunton.
Yesterday the two glasses were Hunt and Damien Duff, the bottles Kevin Doyle and Daryl Murphy, the "habit" of the glasses to dribble too much and the tendency of the bottles not to notice each other unmarked in the penalty area an evident source of irritation for the manager. So irritating, in fact, the bottles, as he moved them with fervour around the table, clashed violently, the Portimonense press room perilously close to being showered in shattered glass.
So, yes, Giovanni Trapattoni is a touch passionate about the latest employment entry in his CV. When Andy Keogh equalised three minutes in to the second half, volleying home Stephen Kelly's header from left-back Damien Delaney's cross, he danced on the touchline as if Ireland had beaten Italy in Rome.
An end-of-season training match against a Portuguese side - that finished 15 points short, in 10th place, of second division winners Trofense - it might have been, and captain Robbie Keane, Richard Dunne, John O'Shea, Aiden McGeady and Andy Reid might have been absent, but it didn't lessen Trapattoni's enthusiasm for the task in hand.
"I didn't expect a lot after four days of training, some of the players are more tired than others. That's why, for example, I took Damien (Duff) off, he came from a long season and quite a few injuries as well. The most important aspect was that I saw what the qualities are, what the good things are and I saw what aspects might need improvement - there are some old habits that may need tweaking." Which habits?
"Dribbling, we lose the ball," he said. "Two touches, one two, one two, we must change the position of the ball, the angle of attack - we have 7,000 metres of pitch, 7,000! The habit is to look to dribbling, we must sometimes move the ball quickly, play it to the side, change the angle of attack. We will try to rectify that situation."
Delaney, Glenn Whelan, Rowlands, Wes Hoolhan and Crystal Palace teenager Seán Scannell, who almost snatched the winner in the last minute, his effort cleared off the line by Andre, all got their chances to impress ahead of Saturday's game against Serbia, but it was Rowlands, the QPR midfielder who partnered Liam Miller in the centre, who earned Trapattoni's praise after the game. "He has very good qualities, he's quick, he's aggressive in pressing - he is small, but I like, he did well.
"Tomorrow will be better," he said of tonight's game against Lagos, "another day together. The atmosphere (in the camp) is beautiful. They will learn, there is the willingness and the hunger. I don't want to change the mentality, I like the mentality - it is the habits I must change."
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND(v Portimonense): Kiely (West Brom); Kelly (Birmingham City), Bruce (Ipswich), McShane (Sunderland), Delaney (QPR); Duff (Newcastle Utd, capt), Miller (Sunderland), Rowlands (QPR), Hunt (Reading); D Murphy (Sunderland), Doyle (Reading). Subs: Keogh (Wolves) for Duff (46 mins); Long (Reading) for D Murphy (57 mins); J Murphy (Scunthorpe) for Kiely (62 mins); Whelan (Stoke) for Miller (70 mins); Hoolahan (Blackpool) for Hunt (70 mins); Potter (Wolves) for Rowlands (72 mins); Scannell (Crystal Palace) for Doyle (74 mins).