Trap needs to take leap of faith with promising players

WE ALL knew Giovanni Trapattoni wouldn’t want to look at any new players before Euro 2012, but it was still a little disappointing to hear him confirm it on Friday.

Trapattoni’s instinct is to make changes only when absolutely necessary and now he can couch that conservatism in the language of respect for the players who helped us to qualify.

Having got us to the finals, they deserve to make the trip.

Let’s not pretend our qualification record couldn’t have been better, however. We are in the finals largely thanks to a play-off draw that pitted us against the hopelessly inadequate Estonians. We beat them 4-0 on a night when they were reduced to nine men.

In six crunch matches, against Russia, Slovakia and Estonia, that freakish rout was our only victory.

Our problem was an inability to score and we shouldn’t let the three goals in the second half in Tallinn erase memory of struggles before.

That being so, it’s hard to know why Trapattoni might not consider freshening up the squad.

On his visit to Dublin on Friday he said he was following the form of James McClean, but added that Ireland already had “Duff, McGeady, Hunt, Lawrence...”

Liam Lawrence has not started a competitive game for Ireland since the defeat to Russia in October 2010. It is difficult to understand the thought process by which he could still be ahead of James McClean in the reckoning for the finals squad.

Adding a new player to a side is not necessarily the massively destabilising blow Trapattoni seems to think it is. Lawrence’s first competitive start was against Italy at Croke Park, and he rose to the occasion. Similarly, Sean St Ledger hit the ground running in a potentially difficult match away to Bulgaria.

There are many examples of inexperienced players performing brilliantly at tournaments, most obviously Toto Schillaci, who had never played for Italy before the 1990 World Cup and ended up replacing Gianluca Vialli in the starting line-up and scoring six times to win the Golden Boot. Italy’s tournament ended in the semi-finals, but it would have been a lot shorter had coach Azeglio Vicini not gone with his hunch about Schillaci.

There is no reason to pause the evolution of the team just because there is a tournament coming up. If there is a player in form, Trapattoni should be looking at him.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

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