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Marco's joke gets no laugh

IT'S not really good enough that Marco Tardelli should try to pass off Kevin Doyle's badly handled and inexplicable exclusion from the Ireland squad with a bit of slapstick and a belly laugh. The player deserves better.

This is not a maudlin and impractically emotional reaction to the poor treatment of a favoured player. It's a practical view of an international squad with few enough experienced men.

It makes sense to treat people well if you're in Giovanni Trapattoni's position and can only pick from a limited pool of players comfortable with international football.

But Trapattoni has made it his mission to develop self-defeating feuds with popular players and, so far, the only man he hasn't touched is Robbie Keane.

There were even small signs of a cooling off between captain and manager back in August and to be fair to Keane, he sounded more than a bit surprised that Doyle wasn't in Dublin to meet him when he arrived from LA.

Keane is not one to rock the boat, but there was a definite edge to his voice when he spoke about Doyle. It can't be a good sign if the captain looks like he's a bit baffled by a major management decision.

Let's face it, Trapattoni leaves everyone scratching their head these days and yet he ploughs on as if there is no place on the planet he would rather be and no job he would rather be doing.

Which is true. He is still an absentee manager who tunes into his job when he has to and has paid scant attention to the new set of instructions he received from the FAI in the wake of the heave against him in Abbotstown. Money for old rope some might say.

Others argue that he is still doing a job with a very average group of players and point to the alternatives in the management market as a reason to hold on to him

But it's gone beyond that now. There is no real debate. Everyone is waiting for the next bad result and that will signal the end of his time and it cannot come soon enough.



His decision-making since the play-0ff victory against Estonia has been suspect and his willingness to very publicly snub Doyle and Stephen Kelly suggests a man who has no intention of obeying his employers' instruction to keep any drama private.

On every occasion, Trapattoni switches on the foghorn and harangues his next target, Tardelli pops up with a big grin and a suitably foolish response to reasonable questions. He's a minder with a World Cup medal.

Of late, he has taken to lurking at the back of press conferences, spluttering into life when he feels his boss is in the firing line to spread a bit of testosterone around the place and argue the toss with hacks.

Mostly, it's harmless stuff and his pitch-side updates are generally filled with laughs and good humour. But he chose this tack unwisely yesterday and instead of diffusing lingering bad feeling about Doyle, he managed to make the situation worse.

But Marco doesn't really care any more and neither does Trapattoni. They're at this long enough to know that they are in the end game and that the odds are not in their favour.

Speculation is already rife about Ireland's next manager and pretty much anyone you ask will come back quickly with Mick McCarthy's name. Some believe it's already a done deal.

It would be a strange choice to make. McCarthy has done nothing since he left Ireland to suggest that his management skills have greatly improved since 2002 and he would come with an articulated truckload of baggage in tow. Do we really need to rake over those old coals again?

Brian McDermott's name has also been mentioned and if the FAI are fishing in the talent pool he represents, he wouldn't be a bad option. He's also available.

There is a movement towards change in Abbotstown, which was very evident after the Germany debacle via the best efforts of the Phantom Leaker. The announcement of a possible US tour in June would sit nicely in the schedule of a new manager.

But if Trapattoni is to go, Ireland's chance of qualification for Brazil 2014, the one the whole world wants to be at, will go with him because of poor results against Sweden and Austria.

He will not walk. The feeling is that it will take a hammer and chisel to chip him loose or more practically, his contract paid up in full, thank you very much.

That will take a few bob and all the indications are that the FAI don't have it and that Denis O'Brien is not minded to pay up, although that situation could clarify very rapidly if the wheels come off in the Friends Arena.

The key question after that will be whether O'Brien is prepared to continue his funding of the FAI.

If he isn't, put your money on McCarthy.