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Hot Press tackle Irish Football Crisis
The crucial questions that Giovanni Trapattoni declined to answer.
Niall Stokes, 04 Oct 2012
Very few football fans are in any doubt at this stage that there is a crisis in Irish football. The problems that emerged during Euro 2012 with the management of the team can be nutshelled in a few phrases: an apparent arrogance on the part of the manager; a series of communications breakdowns with players; a parallel inability to communicate effectively with the media; bizarre team selections and substitutions that almost no one else in football seems to understand; a football philosophy that produces what most observers agree is a style of football that is both outdated and deeply unattractive; a simmering mistrust of youth on the manager’s part, bordering at times on contempt; and more recently, a fresh round of players retiring and making themselves unavailable for selection.
If the team continues to fail to get the results, the cost to the FAI will be horrendous. The effect on every layer of football in Ireland is potentially devastating – giving anyone and everyone who cares about the game here a stake in what is happening. Which is why football people now need to hear clearly and unambiguously from the manager why so many problems have arisen and what can be done to alleviate them.
Ahead of Ireland playing Germany in Dublin in our World Cup qualifying campaign, we decided to put a series of questions to Giovanni Trapattoni. We believe there is an onus on the manager to answer these questions, in the interest of the future of football in Ireland. He has, however, declined to do so.
In that context, we are now making a public call on the manager – whose track record in club football is extraordinary – to make the effort that we believe his salary as Irish manager, and the responsibility that the role entails, demand of him: to answer in full the questions set in the new edition of Hot Press. There are times when these questions are explicitly critical of Giovanni Trapattoni’s performance as manager; No pleasure is taken in this whatsoever. But it is necessary. The future of Irish football is far more important than any one man...
With Ireland having lost two matches, and performed badly in Euro 2012, there was an opportunity in the final game to give other players a chance. Instead you played the same team as for the opening game.
• Why did you persist with a team selection that was clearly not working?
• Why did you pick the same players, who would clearly have been tired physically as well as mentally, when there was the option to introduce some ‘fresh legs’?
• Did it not occur to you that it would be a good idea to give, for example, Darron Gibson the opportunity to show what he could do?
• Do you recognise his right to feel aggrieved at being left kicking his heels for the entire tournament, especially given that Paul Green – who plays in centre-midfield as Darron does but at a lower level in England – was given a run against Spain.
• Did you ever speak to Darron in Poland and reassure him that you respect him as a player and want him to be part of the squad going forward?
• Were you not aware of the possible negative effects on the morale of the other players that you would stick so resolutely with the players who had lost two games badly?
You have repeatedly criticised or poured cold water on the young players both inside and outside the Irish squad.
• Are you not aware of the damaging effect this has on their self-belief and on their commitment to the cause?
On a number of occasions you have publicly blamed the players for the performance of the team.
• You were quoted recently saying that none of the players in the squad have a “big personality”. Are you not aware that this is a condescending way to describe the players you are working with?
• Are you not aware of how potentially damaging to the morale of players it is to constantly belittle them in that way?
• Do you not recognise that as manager, part of your job is to instil confidence, belief in their own ability and strength of purpose in the players?
The extent of unrest and unhappiness among the players has been glaringly obvious in recent times with two players – Shay Given and Damien Duff – retiring, Darron Gibson deciding that he would not be available for the Kazakhstan game, James McClean tweeting about how unhappy he was and Ciaran Clark (among others) speaking about not knowing where he stands.
• Are you aware of the growing public perception that this player unhappiness is a reflection on you and on your style of management?
• How do you respond to the view that it suggests a lack of communication – or a lack of ability to communicate – with the players?
• You are over four years in the job as manager of the Republic of Ireland. Why have you not made a greater effort to improve your use of the English language sufficient to make yourself understood by the players, and indeed by the media?
• Do you recognise that communication with the players and with the media has been a persistent problem, and that there is a very public view among the soccer writers that your statements at press conferences are often impossible to follow or to understand?
For the full report including the all the questions from Hot Press that Giovanni Trapattoni declined to answer, see the new edition in stores now.