ALTHOUGH he admits it took him weeks to recover from the pain of Paris, Giovanni Trapattoni is now relishing the opening of a new chapter in his reign as manager of the Republic of Ireland.
And, announcing his squad for next month’s friendly against Brazil in London, the Italian made it clear that the crying time is over.
Recalling the agonising manner of Ireland’s World Cup exit last November, Trapattoni said: “At that moment, the players were disappointed because this defeat was very, very difficult. I saw the players crying. But, as I have said before, being a footballer is a fantastic job. It gives you the satisfaction of a result and the disappointment of a defeat but, either way, you must get up again the next day because football always gives you another opportunity to win. That is the gasoline, the petrol for life. Tomorrow is another day. It was the same for me.
“I needed a week, two weeks, three weeks to recover from the disappointment. But you can’t keep crying and going on about France, France, France – it’s finished. Tomorrow is another day, another opportunity – especially for the players who were there.”
And although a trio of new faces – James McCarthy (Wigan), Marc Wilson (Portsmouth) and Greg Cunningham (Man City) – leap out of the 23-man panel for the game against Brazil, the presence yet again of the 102-capped Kevin Kilbane confirms Trapattoni is in no hurry to offload any of the long-established players who brought Ireland to the brink of World Cup qualification last year.
Said Trapattoni: “In Italy we have a senior player and every week all they talked about was his past. But now for the last month he has been the best player in the team (Juventus). I don’t say his name – it’s Del Piero (laughs). Kevin knows our system and he has a good personality. We can call Kilbane, knowing he is available whether he plays or not. This squad, this team, is very, very strong when you have this kind of player. For example, in the last friendly game when we won 1-0 against South Africa, we said to some of the senior player to rest, to stay at home. And Damien Duff said, ‘Boss, I stay, whether I play or don’t play.’ He played the last 20 minutes.
“These kind of players – for a coach and for a team – are very, very important. A coach needs players with heart. And Kevin is like this. Damien Duff also.”
Judging by his loyalty to the old guard, Trapattoni is happy to go into friendly battle against Brazil with the bulk of his World Cup squad, augmented by a couple of young guns.
“This senior team deserves to play against Brazil,” he said. “They come from a very good season. But it’s important also we choose some other new potential, like for example (James) McCarthy. He can play in midfield and not only behind the striker but on the left or right. It’s important when we see on the pitch the qualities he can develop.”
While Andy Reid’s hamstring injury eliminated one likely bone of contention from squad selection, mention of the player’s namesake Steven – who was on the bench for Blackburn Rovers at the weekend – provoked an animated response from Trapattoni who clearly feels that questions about the player’s fitness should be addressed to Sam Allardyce, the Blackburn manager who previously criticised the Italian for, in his view, overstating the seriousness of the player’s long-term injury problem.
“I wait for this question,” said Trapattoni. “Why does he not play for Blackburn? I cannot call a player who is injured. You can understand this. I don’t know if he’s fit or not, he’s on the bench but doesn’t play. The problem is his knee.”
And, of course, no press conference with Trapattoni is complete without a question about Irish football’s most famous missing man, Stephen Ireland.
And, as before, the manager is still insisting that his door remains open to the prodigal son.
“I will talk to (Roberto) Mancini, but it’s better at the moment to leave Steven Ireland alone.”
As for himself, Trapattoni admitted that he has had a number of “temptations” in the form of well-publicised job offers since the end of his last campaign but says that with so much unfinished business with Ireland, he has found such approaches easy to resist.
“I think we have a good team. And I know I can do more with this team. I need to improve again. We started two years, step by step, to improve. Ireland is strong now, stronger than two years ago. So I could resist the other temptations because I have this temptation – to do more with this team, to get closer to perfection.”
* The fixtures schedule meeting for Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualifying group is likely to take place in Moscow on March 16.
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