WAS it the imagination playing tricks or did Giovanni Trapattoni slip in and out of town like a ghost last week? Maybe it was a quick visit between scouting assignments in England.
Maybe he had a hot date with Jermaine Pennant, the only man who can give Stephen Ireland a run for his money when it comes to headlines about deluded professional footballers.
Pennant’s “decision” to declare for Ireland simply because England have no interest in him is not a great deal different from the choice many have made but someone should have a word with him about subtlety and the art of diplomacy. Does Ireland need another problem child? Definitely not and particularly when Trapattoni is already struggling to cope with the ones we have and neither James McCarthy or Darron Gibson can be described as ‘problem’ players.
He leaves ripples behind him, does Trapattoni. In the last week alone, Gibson and Stephen Ireland have both answered questions about the Irish boss in his absence. Gibson reaffirmed his decision to stay at Old Trafford and his disappointment that Trapattoni wanted him to leave.
“I can see where he is coming from, he wants me to play every week so he gets the best out of me when I play for Ireland,” said Gibson.
“Obviously I would like to play more but I can't complain. When Trapattoni said I should leave this club I was a bit disappointed. It's my decision, if I wanted to leave I would.”
It was gentle enough stuff but the issue obviously still rankles with Gibson and justifiably so. John O’Shea is living proof of how wrong many of us were about his career at Old Trafford.
At least Gibson turns up for Ireland most of the time and even if pretty much everyone agrees that there is something vital missing from his game, he seems to possess all his thinking faculties – something which cannot be said for Stephen Ireland.
If he could sing or dance, he would make an ideal contestant for a reality talent show but he’s only got one song and it’s got an irritating chorus. Maybe he should get together with Jedward though the two lads might find him hard going. He certainly hasn’t been playing much football of late.
“For whatever reason”, said Newcastle boss Alan Pardew who was expecting to see Ireland on the pitch against Everton but was disappointed. Maybe he was worn out by the emotion he poured into his attempt to apologise to the people of Cork.
Those out there who still suggest that Trapattoni should sit down with Ireland and have a chat are sadly deluded. How many times before the penny drops? Trapattoni won’t waste his time and in this case, he’s dead right. In the case of Jamie McCarthy, he’s dead wrong. He should have been told by the FAI to seek out the Wigan midfielder and fix anything that might be broken.
While he’s there, he could take swift trip down the motorway to Molineux for a chat with Jamie O’Hara and apparently, Richard Stearman.
The personal touch works wonders. There’s plenty of worthwhile work to do in England at the moment now that Trapattoni has lost the backbone of his team but then, there’s always been plenty of work to do in England for Ireland managers.
We can only trust that Trapattoni and his helpers are earning their wages checking out Ireland’s goalkeeping talent, for instance, as a matter of great urgency.
Shay Given will want to be back for the summer internationals but as of now, that is unlikely and a competent replacement must be found.
The only way to do that is to cover the miles and watch all the candidates in the flesh and if Trapattoni isn’t up for the job, he should be getting detailed and up to the minute reports from Marco Tardelli. Robbie Keane may yet make it but he can’t be match sharp after a year spent watching rather than playing in most of the games he’s been at.
Fortunately, Kevin Doyle is hitting form; Damien Duff is on fire and Shane Long is the hottest ticket in the Championship.
Leon Best is making some progress at Newcastle and all of this gives Trapattoni options if he has to replace Keane. He could, of course, choose James McCarthy to play with Doyle or Long but that would be several steps too far for Trap.
All eyes will be on Trap when he announces his squad next Monday to see if he picks McCarthy, as promised. But nobody expects the young midfielder to play any significant role in the Euro 2012 qualifier.