As a former long-standing correspondent from Ireland for Italian sports papers, I have witnessed the ups and downs of Ireland, especially before and after the Charlton era.
If it is true that every town in Ireland should have a statue dedicated to big Jack for his triple achievements from 1988 to 1994, it is also true that ever since, with the exception of the Mick McCarthy and Brian Kerr’s tenures, Ireland did slide down into insignificance until Trapattoni took over. This is something that the Irish fans’ fraternity, which is notoriously a ruthless judge of the national team’s affairs, has forgotten in Ireland’s case.
Under Trapattoni, in spite of the language barrier and his supposed stubbornness in terms of player selection, I saw the boys in green capable of passing the ball in a way that was rare under Charlton, who solely believed in speed and long balls. There have been some matches played under Trapattoni’s time which showed all the seeds of high class football. Thanks to this quantifiable, qualitative improvement in the game, Ireland got very close to qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, had it not been for the disgraceful Thierry Henry’s handiwork, and got in amongst the greats in the 2012 European championship.
If Trapattoni’s luck ran out, as some cynical observers would like to put it, it is hardly his fault really. The point is that, having finally found reasonably good young players to nurture for better things to come, the more urgent matter of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup wrong-footed him, as it didn’t allow him enough time to put the team to a more timely test.
Lastly, the players Trapattoni had to work and produce results with were, and still are, not the ultimate in terms of skill required for major international competitions.
Players of the calibre of Liam Brady, Paul McGrath or Roy Keane and very few others are in short supply these days.
Having said this, I am very curious to see the miracles which the likes of Martin O’Neill, as the mooted new manager, will perform.