In Trap we rust


Following back-to-back draws against Sweden and Austria, Robert Ranson presents the case for change in manager of the national team

Trapattoni needs to go, and now. Never mind the result, which was depressingly predictable, just listen to his post-match interview with RTÉ’s Tony O’Donoghue. Responding to O’Donoghue’s post-match questioning about whether he would be considering his position in the aftermath of Ireland’s 2-2 draw, an indignant Trapattoni spoke with venom.

“Why? Why?! You remember we are Ireland. You know we are not Germany… or England.” Ouch, that hurts. But hold on, England? Does he mean the same England which had just struggled to a draw with a superior Montenegro team who remain two points ahead of them? That is the same Montenegro team that is only four years removed from finishing nine points behind Ireland in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

While we are neither Germany nor England, it is not the veracity of his comments that matters. What’s important is the righteous, incredulous manner in which Trapattoni spoke. It was a moment where the mask slipped. It was a moment where he revealed how he feels about Irish players and even Ireland itself: we are inferior.

We cannot compete with the larger countries and we certainly cannot attempt to play a progressive, passing style. We must rely on organisation, physicality, commitment and force of will. Accordingly, Trapattoni’s newfound infatuation with Conor Sammon should come as no surprise.

In Trapattoni’s eyes, he is the embodiment of the perfect Irish player: industrious, committed and, most importantly, willing to follow instructions. He is also completely bereft of any semblance of flair, imagination or creativity; perfect for Trapattoni and perfect for Ireland.

Many people might agree that, with a population of 4.5 million people, we cannot hope to compete with the larger European countries. With a shambolic football association and poorly run youth systems, we cannot hope to compete with graduates of La Masia and Clairefontaine. Undoubtedly, there is a degree of truth in that, but to say so is missing the point fantastically.

Look back to the 2012 European Championships; we struggled through to the play-offs and, by a fantastic stroke of luck, we were drawn against a poor Estonia side and reached the Euros full of hope. Yet, adhering rigidly to Trapattoni’s instructions, we were happy to cede possession to our opponents and were rightly outplayed by more technical sides.

This was no glorious failure, it was a humiliation. Is there any point in struggling to qualify for a major tournament if we arrive woefully unprepared to compete? After all, football is entertainment, so would we not prefer to attempt to entertain and to reward those fans paying upwards of €50 to sit in a freezing stadium and watch their nation compete? It’s not like we have much to lose.

We are unlikely to qualify now. Even if we do, success would just be delaying inevitable failure at the tournament. Why not try and play a more progressive style? We would still defeat the likes of San Marino, Kazakhstan and the Faroe Islands. Draws with poor Sweden and Austria sides are hardly outstanding achievements.

Would we not have preferred to see some guile, invention and ambition from an Irish side, even if we were to ultimately lose 5-3? The FAI have massive debts and the fans are reluctant to spend the little disposable income they have to watch us struggle to beat Armenia 1-0. They want excitement. They want to entertainment. They want change.

Obviously, the question then arises; if not Trapattoni, then who? Brian McDermott is the current favourite, since leaving Reading. Chris Hughton should make a fine Ireland manager one day, but is unlikely to leave Norwich in the near future. Mick McCarthy has been mentioned, but alas his teams are not exactly renowned for their free-flowing football.

During his time at Bolton, Owen Coyle was often talked about as a potential Ireland manager and perhaps his somewhat cavalier approach to football is what we need. However, if we are to bemoan Trapattoni’s lack of invention, it would seem hypocritical to not engage the imagination when searching for a successor.

There are three simple criteria that a successor must fulfil. Firstly, they must be committed to a passing, progressive style of football. Secondly, he must be prepared to reside in the UK and regularly attend matches involving current and prospective Irish players. Finally, he must believe in the Irish players and their capabilities, and treat them and the job with respect. The litany of players Trapattoni has fallen out with during his tenure as manager has become farcical.

Given that the recent revelations about Michael Lowry have brought the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal back in the news, it is unlikely that Denis O’Brien would withdraw the funding he provides for half of Trapattoni’s wages, should a new manager to be appointed in his stead. The reported €500,000 per annum contribution is a minuscule amount for someone as wealthy as O’Brien, who would undoubtedly welcome some good PR.

Political corruption, legal findings, monopolistic media ownership, editorial independence; these things all pale in comparison to the importance of football, of course. Use the blood money, find a suitable candidate, let us believe again and then let us fail gloriously once more.

It’s time for the FAI to reject Trapattoni’s cowardly pragmatism and embrace our natural creativity and reckless optimism. Football can be artistry, and this country has always respected and embraced the arts. If they are in need of further convincing, they need only open up a copy of Worstward Ho and take some inspiration from Samuel Beckett; Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Sack Trap.