Thursday 24 January 2019

Trap turns team issues into farce

Ireland manager’s ill-advised public criticism of McCarthy and Gibson hard to swallow as bad calls keep coming

ARE you having a laugh, Giovanni? Darron Gibson's words and the perfect summariser for the Ireland manager's continuing and baffling bad-mouthing of James McCarthy.

But there's a bigger problem now than Trapattoni's loose tongue. It goes deeper than that.

Trapattoni and his assistant Marco Tardelli sat together at the Aviva Stadium last night, apparently scouting the opposition for the remaining Nations Cup fixtures this summer and that was really having a laugh.

Russia lost 1-0 to Iran in Abu Dhabi last night. Macedonia were beaten at home by Cameroon and Slovakia, almost unbelievably, lost in Luxembourg.

Surely Ireland's €2m manager could have learned something from travelling to one of those games, particularly Skopje where an African team found a way to beat Macedonia.

Instead, Trapattoni spent a few hours throwing petrol on the McCarthy story and just to add a bit more spice, once again pointed Gibson to the Old Trafford exit door.

Trapattoni's morning-after press conference is established as a more thoughtful and calm forum for discussing the immediate fallout from the last game. But yesterday was very different.

For the first time since he was hired, Trapattoni had to face an accumulation of tough questions, put off in the past out of deference first to his status in the game and more recently to his health.

As ever, his answers were contradictory but a recognisable theme has been established to deal with McCarthy and Gibson.

He spoke of McCarthy once again in disparaging terms; comparing the young Wigan midfielder to himself and Marco Tardelli at 21 and throwing the dreaded agent into the mix.

“We were men at 21. We did not ask an agent to decide for us. He must decide for himself – not the agent,” he said.

Later in an RTÉ interview with Tony O'Donoghue, he hardened his position further and heaped pressure onto McCarthy.

“We cannot force the player to play with us. He is 21 years old. I was a man at 20. I could decide which (club) to play (for). He is a free man, decide. We cannot ask why, why, why. Ask him.”


But what is it that McCarthy has to decide? Ask him what? Unless Trapattoni knows something the rest of us don't about McCarthy's intentions, there is no issue about his nationality.

The most recent contact with McCarthy by anyone connected with the FAI came from Under-21 boss Noel King and he has indicated that there was no sign of a change of heart.

Trapattoni has not spoken to McCarthy and it would appear that when he claimed that he and Marco Tardelli had “called” him before the Algeria/Paraguay friendly series, he meant that he had called him into the squad.

Worse still, he does not see any value in a face-to-face meeting and he dragged up Stephen Ireland to justify this policy, unfairly bracketing McCarthy with the most extreme example he could find of a player unmoved by the excitement of representing his country.

This is now a farce. Trapattoni is doing nothing more than digging a bigger and bigger hole for himself. He is standing over ill-judged and intemperate remarks and seems happy to rake up deeply sensitive issues to prove some, as yet, unidentifiable point.

He roped Roberto Martinez into his argument when he claimed the Wigan manager told him the decision not to come to Dublin was taken by McCarthy.

In doing so, he revealed details of a private conversation. During all of this, he paused to take aim at Gibson again – not allowing the player to enjoy his fantastic goal for even 24 hours.

“He can do more,” Trapattoni insisted. “He has big potential and the right mentality but I said a year or a year and a half ago that if I were Gibson I would go to another club where I can play continuously.

“With this you can build your mentality. In the end, you need to play, play, play. “You can take confidence from this, but I think he is fantastic.”

You'd never guess. This is washing underwear in public. Take the player to one side and make a point, but does Trapattoni have to share it with the world if the impact is almost certainly going to be a negative one? It was actually six months ago when Trapattoni suggested that Gibson should leave Manchester United and this was the response. “If Trapattoni wants me to move somewhere like Stoke where I'll get more games, but have little chance of winning anything, then I just don't know,” Gibson then said. “To move on from United just doesn't make sense to me.”


The final and most telling inconsistency in Trapattoni's position is this: Gibson has made his decision to stay at Manchester United. Like Trap and Tardelli, who were “men at 21”, he is in control of his own destiny and made a choice.

Trapattoni believes it is the wrong choice but maybe he should just be a man and respect Gibson's position. Maybe he should just be a man, take a trip to see McCarthy in Wigan and repair the damage he has done.

And while he's at it, be a man and offer an olive branch to Andy Reid. Perhaps he could ask him to have a chat with McCarthy and if there is a need, explain why he is so proud to be an Irishman and how much it hurts to be on the outside looking in.

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