Trapattoni weary of players' antics

Tue, May 24, 2011, 01:00

SOCCER CARLING NATIONS CUP:IT REMAINS unclear whether Anthony Stokes really is too tired to play in the Republic of Ireland’s end-of-season games over the next couple of weeks, but by close of business yesterday it was clear beyond doubt Giovanni Trapattoni is finding the antics of some his younger players increasingly tiresome.

James McCarthy was firmly back in the manager’s firing line yesterday with the Wigan midfielder having not responded to any messages left on his phone since being named in the squad.

The manager did not name the 20-year-old directly, but it did not take a lot of working out from what he did say about trying but failing to make contact with someone who had been called up.

There had been some speculation in Scotland after the first round of games in this Carling Nations Cup that the midfielder would not want to play against the country of his birth, but that was before he came on against Macedonia, thus resolving any questions regarding his long-term international future.

Given the abuse he put up with from crowds while playing for Hamilton after his decision as a teenager to declare for Ireland, any reticence now about Sunday’s rather low-key game would seem a little bewildering and so his unexplained absence yesterday seemed a genuine mystery.

FAI officials refused to rule out the player simply turning up but they didn’t look like they expected it to happen and for a manager who had taken a fair bit of persuading regarding the player’s intentions to start with, the doubts have clearly been revived.

If McCarthy’s identity was initially kept under wraps, Trapattoni was less discreet with regard to a few others whose behaviour has made him weary of late.

He sounded utterly exasperated as he recounted sending countless text messages to Caleb Folan without reply or explained how he is routinely left clueless as to whether Leon Best is or isn’t fit ahead of any given game – including this one with the player overlooked on the basis of an injury only for him to come on for Newcastle against West Brom on Sunday. At least they had had the sense to send word they were injured, though, which is more than the Irish management team says Stokes did. The Italian suggested it would be preferable if players presented themselves for the FAI’s medical people to make their own assessment.

The notion of someone simply being too tired to represent their country, however, was clearly a new one on a man who regularly suggests he has just about seen it all over the course of his long and eventful career.

“It’s not the player’s fault, it’s the coach’s job,” he suggested with just a hint of irony. “They must say to the players that: ‘You must go with your country, not stay here.’ They are young players,” he said, warming to his theme, “but it’s not like this is a job. It’s fun. It’s playing football. For me, it’s unbelievable.

“When I worked with Italian players I asked them what their fathers did, what time they got up in the morning. ‘We are lucky’, I told them. ‘We get up at 10 o’clock because we are sports people’. We are lucky, but we must enjoy playing football. Football is beautiful; it always gives another chance to win.”

The lack of enthusiasm, he said, left him “a little bit bitter”, which prompted a debate over the wording, especially after he was asked, jokingly, by one reporter, whether he might go as far as to say “bitter and twisted”.

“It leaves a little bit of a sour taste in the mouth”, was the formula agreed upon by him, his translator and the association’s Italian-speaking press officer.

Asked, as Marco Tardelli had been on Sunday, whether Stokes had damaged his long-term international prospects, Trapattoni ostensibly insisted, as his assistant had, he had not.

“No, no, we don’t forget anyone,” he said. “I don’t forget Carsley, we don’t forget Steven Reid. Is Andy Reid’s friend here? Or (Rory) Delap’s? We look for new options, but we don’t forget anyone.”

Some of those options the manager mentioned have tended to be from north of the Border and with Nigel Worthington having repeatedly voiced his anger over the loss of young players to the Republic, Trapattoni was asked if he had some sympathy for his counterpart.

“There are other situations too,” he said. “There are players born here whose parents come from England or Africa and in those situations it is for the family to decide and I respect that. Never did I force a player to come with me. They have the choice and that is correct according to the rules.”