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Caught in a Trap?

Ireland's new boss is receiving a lot of flack over his selection policies. But as long as he continues to get the right results, there's no reason why he should bow to his critics.

Tony Cascarino, 26 Nov 2008

Giovanni Trapattoni seems to have come in for a bit of criticism over his squad selection lately. The accusations are: that he doesn’t attend enough games, he can’t get a full picture of what the players are capable of just by watching DVDs, and he clearly has his favourites and players that he just doesn’t rate. There’s no room for Noel Hunt, Andy Reid, Rory Delap or Lee Carsley; on the other hand, lads like Caleb Folan, Alex Bruce, Damien Delaney, Anthony Stokes, Shane Long and Andy Keogh are almost fixtures in the squad.

The thing is, Trap has been getting the results – so far – and we can’t moan or complain as long as that’s the case. We look brighter and better-organised than we did before he took over, and look like we’re becoming hard to beat again. He’s got his own ideas, he’s decided that he wants a certain game-plan and he’s picking players to fit that system. We have to accept his judgement. He’s chosen to ignore certain kinds of players, and I don’t have a problem with that. All the best managers know exactly what they want from their teams: it’s clear that he’s the same, and has a definite idea what he wants. Big Jack was the same: he was known for doing things that seemed a bit off-the-wall, he had a very fixed idea of how he wanted us to play, and it was successful. That meant sacrificing Liam Brady’s creative talent to an extent. Now you have a similar situation with Andy Reid.

And I agree with Trap; I wouldn’t pick Andy Reid. He can’t run, and he’s completely immobile when we don’t have the ball. People go on about what great feet he has and how great he is from dead-balls, but 50% of the game – more so, against the very best teams – is about what you do when we don’t have the ball, and how you go about getting it back. That was a serious problem under Staunton. Reid has some great qualities, but he’s not the right player for what he need at the moment. We needed a dramatic change in our approach, to make us tougher to break down, and I’m sure Trap decided exactly that when he saw videos of the last campaign, and realised Reid was one of the main problems. Trap’s vision of what a midfield should be is simple and straightforward: two wide men who can beat their man and send in crosses and have a bit of freedom, two lads in central midfield to shield the back four and do the donkey work, and the full-backs aren’t allowed to cross the half-way line. I can see what he’s thinking, and so far, it’s worked out well. There was a naivety about the team, which he seems to have stamped out. We look more of a man’s team now, much harder to break down. He isn’t necessarily picking the best 11 footballers: he wants the combination which will give us the best chance of winning as many points as we can. That’s his job.

I heard about the Gary Dempsey betting scandal – a lad who plays for St. Patrick’s Athletic putting £20 on his own team to lose. First of all, people need to accept that there’s no hint of corruption here. He wasn’t playing in the game in question, he was a substitute, and if he had any real inside info about the match being deliberately thrown, he would have lumped on a lot more than £20. It was a stupid thing to do, of course, and it doesn’t say a whole lot for his relationship with his team-mates. The sum of money is next to nothing, though, and we need to keep this in perspective – the kid was having a bet. Twenty quid at 4/1 or 5/1 or whatever was not going to change his life. You’re not looking at match-fixing: he probably thought ‘well we have a few injuries, the price of the opposition is pretty good, and I might grab a few quid here.’ I would never have backed against my own team – these are your friends and your working colleagues. I would have found it impossible. But millions of players have bets on football, usually your own team to win or someone to score the first goal or whatever, fun bets. It was a stupid thing for the kid to do, and he needs a bit of a talking-to from within the club – it’s just not the done thing. A few quiet words in his ear and a slap on the wrist should do the trick, and hopefully it won’t happen again.

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