Saturday 24 March 2018

No sense in Trap choices

Going Green over McCarthy defies logic as slick visitors expose big cracks in system

IF James McCarthy went home to Wigan and penned a letter to Giovanni Trapattoni explaining why he no longer wished to be considered for international duty, who could criticise him?

McCarthy's a good lad and he won't do that, even if he has full justification for throwing his hat at Trapattoni's Ireland.

There's still a squad to be picked for Euro 2012 and even if he is now battling for the one remaining spot which might be available, that's a fight worth winning.

But McCarthy was let down by his manager at Lansdowne Road last night and, worse than that, insulted when Trapattoni told Paul Green to strip for second-half action.

Green is a mystery. It is very difficult to fathom why he still has any part to play in the Ireland senior squad.

He is neither a Premier League nor an international player and the fact that Trapattoni chose to send him on instead of McCarthy was incomprehensible.


It was almost a studied snub to McCarthy, who has had to put up with a lot from Trapattoni in the last few years.

He had to sit and watch mostly silently while Trapattoni publicly questioned his commitment to Ireland and threw up a smokescreen of nonsense to justify his unwillingness to experiment.

McCarthy gritted his teeth, played Trapattoni's game and is now a squad regular, but he must be frustrated beyond belief.

What made this situation worse than all the rest is the simple fact that Trapattoni has been talking up McCarthy and in each of his last half dozen press conferences, highlighted last night's friendly against Czech Republic as the game in which he would give Ireland's most talented young midfielder his head.

Why do that? What is there to gain from dangling the prospect of a start or at least some involvement in last night's game in front of McCarthy and then sending Green on as a second-half substitute?

It was all very peculiar. Green clattered into Czech midfielders because he is a second or two behind the pace of the international game and, beyond one daisy cutter, had no contribution to make to the game other than to lose possession.

This may seem a harsh assessment of a player who is probably a great human being and a nice chap.

But Green is in no way a better prospect than McCarthy, yet he is higher up the pecking order in Trap's eyes and that simply defies logic.

There is an impatience with Trapattoni which cannot be quenched despite the fact that under his watch, Ireland have qualified for a big tournament.


The roar which greeted James McClean's introduction was palpably full of pent-up frustration, caused in equal measure by almost complete Czech ownership of the football and the absence of anything new to see.

In fact, what was on show was another dollop of domination by a visiting continental side with a set-up and players capable of mincing Trapattoni's system.

Forget about Robbie Keane as Francesco Totti. The Ireland skipper didn't do anything differently to what he has been doing for the last few years and if this is the answer to Croatian guile and imagination in midfield, we're in deep trouble.

As ever, Trapattoni answered all the questions before they were asked and pointed out that the Czechs scored once and didn't score again and, of course, he was right.

Ireland's defence held up reasonably well without Richard Dunne and when Simon Cox lit up a dull night with a flash of pure skill, the unbeaten run inched forward to a round dozen.

Other than an awful and, it must be said, uncharacteristic outbreak of ball-watching by John O'Shea and Sean St Ledger for Milan Baros's goal, the Czechs were unable to find a way to break through again and in the end, Trap was able to say that his system delivered the goods once more.


But it didn't on this occasion. His system was losing by a goal when Keith Andrews changed the script, galloped forward with his attacking boots on and added some meat to the Trapattoni system by contesting for the ball near the opposition penalty area. This is not encouraged within the system, but it made all the difference. Possession won, a sweet little pass and Cox brilliantly did the rest to spare Trapattoni's blushes.

Not that he ever blushes.

Jack Charlton had the same ability to allow criticism to bounce off him while he ploughed a singular furrow through the beautiful game and, for a while, befuddled the best minds in football.

But eventually, his methods were found out and an increasingly sophisticated Irish football public realised that the long ball and an endless chase will only take a team so far.

So it is with Trapattoni. His system is designed to absorb and resist but not to create and hints always at limited ambition.

He has a poor opinion of our best players if he thinks that they are unable to play any other way than his way, despite clear evidence to the contrary in Paris in 2009 and, after last night, no opinion at all of our best young players.

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