The FAI’s curt response to the latest twist in the controversy was implicitly critical of Trapattoni, with a spokesman saying yesterday: “Everyone knows that Giovanni is a great manager with a lot of experience but the association feels team matters like the one before the Faroe Islands that was reported yesterday should really be dealt with in private.”
The FAI comment came after Kelly had issued a furious statement in response to remarks Traattoni made about him during a press conference in Dublin on Thursday. Having previously denied that there had been a falling out with the player, before explaining his absence from the squad for Wednesday’s friendly against Poland on the grounds that he was being “rested” to allow the manager an opportunity to try other options, Trapattoni suddenly changed tack, claiming that, prior to the trip to the Faroes in October, Kelly had threatened to walk out if he was not guaranteed a place in the team.
Speaking at a press conference in FAI headquarters, an increasingly angry Trapattoni went on to say: “The (players) must be happy to come for their country, for their shirt. In their club if they didn’t play, they would not say ‘I no play, I go home’. They wouldn’t do that in their club. Only here.”
The stand-off with the Irish management in October, it was widely reported at the time, was only resolved when the player, said to have been angry at being overlooked for selection, was finally persuaded to board the flight to Torshavn for the World Cup qualifier against the Faroes.
However, in a statement issued yesterday, Kelly hit back furiously at the manager’s latest comments. The Reading full-back said: “It is extremely disappointing for me to have to make this statement. I am simply shocked and disgusted with the untrue and unwarranted comments made by Giovanni Trapattoni.
“These hurtful and untrue comments have caused distress and upset to myself and my family who have supported me throughout my career and know the level of commitment and passion I have always shown in representing my country.
“I have proudly represented Ireland from the age of 16, and I have never shown anything other than 100% commitment to my country and my team. I cannot and will not tolerate attempts to defame my commitment and loyalty to Ireland.
“Representing Ireland at senior international level has given me some of my proudest moments in my professional career, and for me captaining my country will always be my greatest achievement. It saddens me greatly that I should have to defend my good character and reputation in a profession I love. However, I refuse to allow anyone to question my passion for representing Ireland. I will continue as always to proudly be available for my country.”
Trapattoni has found himself at odds with a number of Irish players during his time in charge of the national team, from the now fabled bust-up with Andy Reid in Mainz in 2008 to describing Shane Long’s claims he had been fit for last year’s friendly in Serbia as “idiotic”, after the manager had ruled the player out of that game owing to injury concerns.
When the FAI board met in emergency session in October to discuss Trapattoni’s position — amid reports that he was fighting to retain his job in the wake of the 1-6 mauling by Germany — one of the concerns raised was that such media outbursts about players were, as one source put it, “not helpful”. It has also been confirmed that, after the board had backed Trapattoni to retain his job, this concern was then relayed to the manager in subsequent clear-the-air discussions he had with FAI chief executive John Delaney.
It’s understood that, before answering media inquiries about Stephen Kelly’s statement yesterday, the FAI appraised Trapattoni of the content of their response but there was no comment from Abbotstown on the manager’s reaction. Meanwhile, sources close to Kelly said he would not be adding anything to his statement before today’s visit to Stoke City in the Premier League. However, the same source indicated that the possibility of the player choosing to speak further on the issue in the coming days has not been ruled out.
Although the midfielder’s problems preceded the Italian, Ireland felt a meeting between the two was just a publicity stunt on the part of the manager and that Trapattoni “wasn’t really interested” in bringing him back.
Had a huge fall-out with Trapattoni after a late night in the team hotel following the Italian’s first competitive game against Georgia, and was subsequently frozen out.
Trapattoni publicly doubted in 2009 whether Reid was ever capable of recovering from a cartilage injury, with the player’s then-manager at Blackburn Rovers, Sam Allardyce, describing the comments as “disgraceful”.
Had an uneasy early relationship with Trapattoni as the player wasn’t overly enthused with his treatment and the manager seemed to resent pressure to cap McCarthy. It was even mooted that he might declare for Scotland. Relations have greatly improved since.
First earned the scorn of the manager after failing to report on time for the Carling Nations Cup game, with an apparent case of ‘mistaken identity’ over a disciplinary issue then delaying his return.
Suffered badly from Trapattoni’s occasionally bizarre selection decisions as he was initially named in Ireland’s 23-man squad for Euro 2012, only to then be dropped in very undiplomatic fashion. Has vowed never to play for the manager again.
Despite Trapattoni appearing to prepare him for specific role at Euro 2012, Gibson was one of five outfield squad-members not to appear for a single minute. Was on the verge of walking out mid-tournament, precipitating his subsequent withdrawal from the squad.
Another who was aggrieved about selection policy at Euro 2012, and was later forced to apologise by Trapattoni for a deleted tweet describing his omission from the Kazakhstan game as a “joke”.
After a series of public contradictions about the striker’s fitness for the August friendly against Serbia, Trapattoni labelled his behaviour “idiotic”.
The latest war of words only brought to a head Kelly’s increased unhappiness at his treatment under the manager. Also very disappointed not to play a minute at Euro 2012.