When Giovanni Trapattoni stole a long march on his Euro 2012 rivals by naming his squad as early as May 7, it seemed like a powerful statement of intent and a resounding expression of confidence, both in his players and in the certainty of his own decision-making.
Just 22 days later, on the UEFA deadline day of May 29 for the submission of Euros panels, the temptation was to file it under ‘must have seemed like a good idea at the time’.
Because, in declaring his hand so early on, Trapattoni failed to account for the possible intervention of “events, dear boy” and, specifically, the circumstances whereby injury concerns about other players would ultimately lead to the bizarre situation of a fit player being dropped from the panel.
Trapattoni might have had the best of intentions back in early May, anxious, as he said at the time, to avoid the situation of having to send home a whole group of stand-by players from Italy. But, in the luckless case of Kevin Foley, the effect of not delaying the announcement of the 23-man panel for as long as possible meant that a good player and a good man had almost the guts of a month to psyche himself up for the Euros and virtually no time at all to absorb the shock of learning that he wasn’t going after all.
Nor was the situation helped by Tuesday’s FAI statement confirming the Euros squad and announcing Foley’s omission, released shortly after UEFA’s midday deadline.
In it, Trapattoni was quoted as saying: “Kevin Foley, John O’Shea, Paul McShane, Darren O’Dea, Shay Given had all been carrying knocks and we have been monitoring them closely in their recovery. Although Kevin has been recovering well, I have made the difficult decision to leave him out of the 23-player list after completing fitness tests on John O’Shea and Paul McShane this morning.”
Understandably, this was almost universally reported as confirming Foley — who only recently returned to full training after a hamstring problem — was missing out through injury, a confusion which clearly reinforced the player’s own publicly stated determination to prove he was fit by playing in that night’s warm-up against a Tuscan selection. Which he duly did, and to good effect.
But when Trapattoni spoke to the Irish media after the game, it immediately became clear that Foley’s fitness was by now not really an issue at all. Rather, the issue was lingering concern about injuries to Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Darren O’Dea and John O’Shea.
In short, as he put it the other night, what he required was “a stopper”. And, for the manager, McShane, not Foley is the one who best fits that mould.
One can only hope now this week’s dreadful experience hasn’t permanently soured Foley’s attitude to international football, just as one hopes too Trapattoni will understand the emotion and despair which fuelled Foley’s talk of feeling “betrayed” on Tuesday. That Foley’s Euro 2012 should end in this way is deeply regrettable. Were his Irish career to follow suit would be even worse.
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