Trap to Bridge gap for McClean
Italian tempers hype while taking unusual step of travelling to see winger at Chelsea
GIOVANNI Trapattoni doesn't want to say it but he's excited about James McClean. He wants no pressure, no hype but it is obvious that he likes the look of the mercurial Derryman.
In fact, Trap likes the look of him so much that he will change his habit and actually turn up at Stamford Bridge to watch McClean take on Chelsea.
When the subject was first broached with Trapattoni, he kicked for touch and explained that his priority for the first few months of the year will be to cement lessons already learned among his chosen ones.
Late arrivals to the Euro 2012 party, he said, will not make the plane, and for lads like McClean, Anthony Pilkington and maybe even Seamus Coleman, June will come too early.
But when pressed, he revealed that he has been paying close attention to the explosive start that McClean has made to his Premier League career with Sunderland.
"We watch him for six months," he said and that was saying something given the fact that most of us, even close observers of the League of Ireland, didn't realise how strong and capable McClean actually is.
But we can allow Trapattoni some exaggeration if he meant to underline the fact that his eye is firmly on the ball.
His priority with McClean is to prevent a build-up of hype and pressure around the player which could be counter-productive.
However, McClean is 22 and not a callow youth. Sure, his newfound fame and fortune could be a burden for someone younger and less mature but every indication there is would suggest that he has the physique, the ability and, most importantly, the confidence to continue in the same vein as he started a few weeks back when Martin O'Neill lifted the shackles and gave him the freedom to play.
Asked whether McClean would get a run out in February against the Czech Republic and might even be a surprise inclusion in the final panel for the Euro 2012 finals, Trapattoni first hedged but then conceded that he has taken steps to get in touch.
"I have his phone number," Trapattoni said with a grin. "I asked one of his friends at Sunderland for it and I was waiting until his position is clarified."
Presumably, Trapattoni does not want to get sucked into the ongoing battle between the FAI and the IFA for the hearts and minds of Northern Ireland's best players but in McClean's case there is no need for further clarification, and contact between manager and winger should happen when the action has finished at Stamford Bridge.
"I'm not going to see him because he scored a goal or because we will call him up or not," said Trapattoni. "We have been monitoring him closely.
"But I don't want to put him under pressure from the media and I don't want to be under the same kind of pressure to pick him.
"We must have respect for these young players who are now pushing forward but I must also have respect for the players who qualified. For the young players, this campaign is too soon. They will be for the next campaign and the future."
His last comment was both necessary and welcome. There are many Irish players in England and Scotland who still harbour dreams of making the cut for Poland and Ukraine and it would be a big blow if Trapattoni had effectively shut the door on their hopes with the year barely under way.