A real sense of optimism surrounded the Irish camp in 2008 when veteran Italian manager Giovanni Trapattoni took over the head coach role and this optimism was well placed. ‘Il Trap’ as he became known, had a long history of success in the game as one of the greatest and most-respected managers of the 20th Century.
However, despite the undoubted success of reaching the 2012 European Championship, Trapattoni’s reign at the helm of Irish football has proved to be a disaster which has seemingly destroyed everything that was progressive and positive. Not only had Trapattoni alienated many of the elite players, the defensive and negative football he had his team playing was completely insufferable.
Trapattoni seemingly destroyed the very nature of what was good about Irish football. Gone was the will to win, gone was the efficiency of the midfield and the clinical nature of the strike force. In its place was a tendency to surrender and an attitude of resignation whenever the team played. This was brutally demonstrated by the crippling 1-0 loss against Austria
on Tuesday evening.
The basic problem for Trapattoni seemed to be his unrelenting support in favour of the 4-4-2 and his unwillingness to back down over selection issues. Take the Euros last year, for example. Kevin Foley was left out for no apparent reason, although he was easily Ireland’s most consistent right-back that season season. Darron Gibson has been all but frozen out of the team, which is ludicrous considering his position within the Everton squad.
Trapattoni’s insistence on long-ball football and an unwillingness to invest in attacking players in favour of defensive solidity meant that the Irish team suffered as a whole. Talented youngsters such as Robbie Brady and Anthony Pilkington have only just recently broken into the team and while there is definitely a lack of depth in Irish football, players like Wes Hoolahan deserve a chance - something Trapattoni never gave them.
While this Ireland team is definitely in transition with many older players retiring and young players trying to break through, many argued before his sacking that Trapattoni was fighting a losing battle with a fan base which is too expectant, and that is probably correct. However, Trapattoni was stuck in the Dark Ages of football, relying on veteran players such as Robbie
Keane instead of testing young players.
These old-fashioned tactics and pure stubbornness have destroyed Ireland’s chances of qualifying for Brazil 2014, and it is all down to ‘Il Trap’.
His successor, whoever that may be, needs to leave behind the Trapattoni era and has to begin again from scratch with a higher focus on youth and attacking football. Only then will the expectant fan base of Irish football be satisfied.
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