Brian Strahan shifts through the remnants of Friday’s night capitulation at the hands of the Germans and finds a wounded Italian and little hope for the immediate future of the Irish senior team.
Engulfed, between two rows of German fans, sounds worse than it was. In fact they were rather polite. And by the time goals four and five went in they were as enthused as any fans would be when they realise they are no longer in a contest.
They inadvertently make us feel a little like Maltese or Andorran fans. Now we realise that they indeed, are people too. Thrashings are hard to take. The Germans, annoyingly, are rather nice about it all and sympathetically strike up cordial conversations with some disillusioned Irish who start considering their exit.
There is resigned acceptance. This hurts. But we don’t feel hard done by, not really.
Friday Night Into Saturday
There is also apparent disconnect in the press conferences that follow on Friday night and on Saturday afternoon. As if to underline the distance between the Irish managerial set up and Irish football, Saturdays press conference is held as Sligo Rovers host St. Patrick’s Athletic in a hugely relevant and climatic league match.
When we strip it down, there is respect there for Giovanni Trapattoni. And on his side there is no real arrogance; despite the dogmatic picture that some are increasingly endeavouring to paint. But what Trapattoni is, is in denial.
Maybe the motivation is financial. But it doesn’t register that this is what purely drives the man. But nobody really knows, despite how the inevitable bouts of speculation are delivered.
What does seem to sit more convincingly is that Trapattoni doesn’t do failure very well. And why should he. Surely defiance makes successful folk successful. Or at least contributes. But even the most successful in business, life, and football, need to know when they’ve failed.
Giovanni Trapattoni is seventy-three. He’s had his health scares and he knows he’s not invincible. He’s seemed to enjoy his time with us. OK so at times the commitment hasn’t been all encompassing. But maybe when you’ve managed to the depth that he has done, Stoke City at home to Aston Villa isn’t a match you feel the necessity to attend in person.
But as a person, Trapattoni, you would imagine, has considered his legacy at times. It seems a reasonable assumption to make. After Paris in 2009 he was right to think that he had extracted performances from players that contradicted their abilities. And with that he headed into the qualifying campaign for Euro 2012 with resolve and belief, in his way. And his way got Ireland to Poland. And such is the fickleness of sport and life, if his journey ended there (purely for arguments sake) his legacy would have taken care of itself.
And it’s in that moment that John Delaney lacked foresight and retrospectively judgement and offered a new contract. But was he really rash? Who shouldn’t be rewarded for a job well done. But maybe a clause or a condition wouldn’t have gone amiss.
What we have now is a manager who is hurt. If he wants to keep his job for now, what other response then defiance should we expect. He will go. Wednesday, maybe, but unlikely. By the end of the campaign, highly probable. But is this really an arrogant man we are dealing with. No, it’s a hurt man. And if he goes down with a fight, who can blame him.
What do you expect?
There were boos on Friday night, but there wasn’t a cacophony of rage. Some fans in the upper tier did the Poznan. Some left in the hope of a seat on the last carriage of the Dart to Killester or Bray. Some just shrugged their shoulders.
There was an air of acceptance that regardless of manager, such a game could only have ended in defeat. Maybe not to the tune of such blanket dismantling. But defeat nonetheless.
Firstly, how many of the omissions from the Irish squad, if included, could have made a difference. Wes Hoolohan and Anthony Pilkington haven’t been given the chance to prove themselves by Trapattoni, of that there can be of little argument. But if, for example, Hoolohan sat in a midfield trio instead of Keith Andrews, would he have had the opportunity to be instrumental.
Andy Reid has been impressive for Nottingham Forest this season, but he’s still a championship player. If his overall form merited a premiership side, ultimately that’s where he would be.
What of the retirees? Shay Given had been firmly usurped by Brad Guzan at Villa Park. Damien Duff is having his best season in years, but maybe it’s the freshness that comes with international retirement that has contributed to this.
And those injured. There was a general sense of relief that Robbie Keane missed Friday night. James McClean if fit should have played but wouldn’t have and for that Trapattoni deserves criticism. Richard Dunne and Sean St ledger. St Ledger has been honest for Ireland but no one craved his presence against Germany. Dunne was missed. But a return to fitness and then form is needed. Glen Whelan would have given more bite in midfield but not enough to unsettle the flow of attacks that the Irish drowned in.
Let’s not forget how some thought that maybe Trapattoni had come about his best team by accident last week (until we realised Shane Long wouldn’t replace Keane). But realistically the pedigree of the team that started wasn’t good enough.
Our goalkeeper Kieren Westwood is firmly a reserve goalkeeper for Sunderland. Seamus Coleman at full back, was arguably our highest calibre player to start. He looked very tidy at the beginning but ultimately was swept up in the malaise. Our left back, Steven Ward, is a limited Championship player. John O’Shea, like Coleman, started well, but ultimately waned. Darren O’Dea plays for a Toronto FC team who were struggling defensively before Paul Mariner brought O’Dea to the club and still are.
Our central midfield trio belong to a lower Premiership team and two struggling Championship sides. Another championship side provided, inadvertently, one of our wingers. Our other winger is unhappy in Moscow.
This all boils down to one thing, the breadth and depth of talent needed, simply isn’t there. Robbie Brady crafted a corner kick of admirable precision for Andy Keogh’s goal and on the basis of his Oman performance and those for Noel King’s under 21 side, looks a very decent option for the future.
But unearthing more of his ilk and getting even more from the limitations in place is what awaits the next manager.
It’s not a job that is as attractive as it once was and possibly not a job that is as financially rewarding as it currently is.
But let’s not be too hard on Trapattoni. He should have gone out at the top, he was deserving of such. Now it appears, he’ll be limping out, pride dented and as a man, a little hurt; somewhere around mediocrity, or worse.
But it’s not quite over yet and the Faroe Islands await on Tuesday night.
But then again, maybe that being deemed a must win game, is telling in itself