THE NEWS THIS week that Giovanni Trapattoni would not be stepping down as Ireland manager was greeted with cynicism by many Irish supporters who are sick of the Italian’s negative brand of football.
However, in an attempt to help those fans remain upbeat, we’ve composed the following 15 reasons why Trap staying on may not be such a bad outcome for Irish football after all.
1. Whatever you thought about the manner in which he achieved the feat, he still got Ireland to only their second European Championships ever – something that no Irish manager other than Jack Charlton has done.
2. Recent matches represent an anomaly rather than the norm in terms of the team’s defensive record. They were relatively solid for the Euro 2012 qualifiers, conceding seven goals in total – only one more than they let in in the Germany game.
3. Ireland have only lost three qualifying matches in 27 games under Trap – against France, Germany and Russia. Moreover, they have yet to lose a competitive fixture at an away venue.
4. The last time Ireland were comprehensively beaten at home in a World Cup qualifier – 3-1 against Spain prior to the 1994 competition – they ended up still qualifying for the tournament.
5. The Italian is rumoured to be willing to attend Premier League matches on a more regular basis, having been coerced by the FAI into doing so. Assuming this happens, it’s at least one less criticism that can be thrown at him.
6. Trapattoni is one of the most experienced and successful managers in the history of the game. He has won ten league championships in total, and is one of only four managers to have achieved this feat in four different countries – Ernst Happel, José Mourinho and Tomislav Ivić are the other three.
7. The Italian took over a demoralised Irish team. During Steve Staunton’s brief regime by comparison, they only won four of a possible 12 qualifiers.
Trap’s tenure has at least been more successful than that of his predecessor, Steve Staunton (INPHO/Dan Sheridan).
8. The last time Ireland were beaten while being comprehensively outplayed at home (before the Germany game), in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Russia, they reacted by enjoying one of the best runs in the side’s history, going 14 games unbeaten.
9. We’ve still yet to experience a major slip-up against a smaller nation under Trap, as his side have normally tended to dispatch their inferior opponents with relative ease. By contrast, all of Ireland’s recent managers before him – Jack Charlton (Liechtenstein), Mick McCarthy (Macedonia), Brian Kerr (Albania) and Steve Staunton (Cyprus) – have had at least one poor result against the smaller nations.
10. It’s unclear what the calibre of the potential replacements would be like. Given the state of the FAI’s finances, it’s unlikely that they’d be able to be able to invest in someone with as impressive a CV as Trap. Moreover, of the names bandied about, Mick McCarthy was not necessarily interested in the position, while Roy Keane would hardly be a radical change from Trap, given his similar habit of falling out with players, and Owen Coyle failed to get the best out of limited footballers at Bolton.
11. The FAI are at least in a somewhat healthier position financially, given that they have opted not to pay the compensation required to sack the manager.
12. Trapattoni showed some boldness to his selection against the Faroe Islands by finally taking heed of calls for Robbie Brady, Marc Wilson and Seamus Coleman to be given a chance in a competitive fixture. These decisions demonstrate that he is not necessarily as stubborn as some people assume, and that he is open to change on occasion.
13. His relationship with Shane Long may not be as bad as some commentators assume. Many people have suggested the reason Long isn’t starting is because his relationship with Trapattoni is poor. However, it could be argued that his treatment of Long is nothing personal, and that he simply considers the striker to be more useful as a Stephen Hunt-esque impact sub.
14. His idiosyncratic use of the English language – “the cat is in the sack,” “the egg, the chicken and hot bum,” constant references to “the little details,” the use of the stock answer: “we need to be more incisive” whenever Ireland don’t achieve a positive result. There’ll surely be plenty more amusement to be had in the coming months.
15. He seems like a genuinely nice man. This last reason may seem akin to clutching at straws, but given the numerous unsavoury incidents and countless examples of bad behaviour that have been prominent in football of late, one would be forgiven for presuming that the sport is a game in which nice guys finish last. However, in contrast with certain other well-known Premier League managers, Trapattoni has conducted himself in a relatively dignified manner during his time as Ireland boss. Football needs more people with his level of class.
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