Trappatoni offers opportunity and encouragement to Ireland’s younger set
The presence of five players new to international football in Ireland’s team to play Nigeria is surely an insight into part of Giovanni Trapattoni’s football philosophy.
Macro Tardelli, Trapattoni’s assistant with Ireland, recently outlined some of that philosophy when he said: “For Trapattoni it is very important to prepare the national team for the future.
“He loves to work in this way and he has always done it.”
Trapattoni is no different from all other managers in that he wants to win every match.
He indicated as much yesterday when, after announcing his team selection for the match at Craven Cottage, London, he said: ““Nigeria will provide us with a difficult match but we are going out to win it as always for it is important to reinforce a winning mentality.”
Trapattoni is on record as saying that football is all about results. Statistics can be cruel in that sense for very often no distinction is made between results in friendly matches – as against Nigeria for instance – and competitive matches.
It is fifteen months since Trapattoni took over as manager of Ireland and in that time he has shown that he is not so obsessed with producing a positive sequence of results in ALL matches that he is not prepared to gamble.
He sent out experimental teams with new international players in previous friendly matches against Colombia and Poland. It is clear that he is prepared to risk a negative result or two in the interest of identifying players of international potential.
Tardelli – such a brilliant player for Italy in the World Cup finals of 1978 and 1982 – metaphorically tipped his cap to Trapattoni’s standing as manager/coach when he said: “He is a good professional coach … all good coaches, for me, when they work with the team, must prepare for the future.”
Ireland play Bulgaria in the World Cup qualifying tie a week on Saturday, on June 6, and Trapattoni might have been expected to stick closer to his competitive team selection against Nigeria because of that.
Instead he has chosen to reward Kevin Foley, Sean St. Ledger, Eddie Nolan, Liam Lawrence and Leon Best for their efforts in this and previous training camps and their form at club level.
Now they, and perhaps others in the group like goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, will be given a glorious opportunity to show they have the personality, confidence and ambition to make it at senior international level.
Meantime it is certain that the week’s training camp in London has given Trapattoni the opportunity to work his troops through the patterns he favours and the tactics he will seek to impose for the important visit to Bulgaria.
It is certain that the more experienced members of the squad who are not in the team that starts tonight at Fulham’s ground will be in their regular positions when Ireland step out against Bulgaria in Sofia.
But the injuries that have robbed Trapattoni of Steve Finnan, Steven Reid and now Kevin Doyle can strike at any time.
Ireland’s advancement will only be maintained if managers like Trapattoni look beyond immediate results in friendly matches in the interest of offering encouragement to emerging players like Foley, St. Ledger, Nolan, Lawrence, Best and Westwood.
It is essential that Ireland have a substantial back-up force of capable players to offer Trapattoni alternatives and to be ready to step in when the more experienced internationals are not ready to play because of injury or suspension.
Ireland’s former manager, Mick McCarthy, went through this process when Ireland played the Czech Republic in Olomouc in March 1998. He sent out a team packed with new internationals and they fought hard before losing to a talented and experienced Czech team 1-2.
That match introduced a clutch of players who went on to give Ireland some wonderful service. Foremost amongst them were Damien Duff and Robbie Keane.