Simon Cox insists Giovanni Trapattoni is still the right man to lead Ireland forward and believes criticism of the Italian is ‘short-sighted’.
Trapattoni has taken the blame for Ireland’s woeful Euro 2012 campaign, in which the side lost all three of their games, as well as their the lacklustre start to the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Victories over Kazakhstan and the Faroe Islands sandwiched a disastrous 6-1 home defeat to Germany and the subsequent 1-0 defeat to Greece at the Aviva last month sparked speculation over whether the 73-year-old could continue in his post.
Yet Ireland’s players have continued to back their manager, pointing out that he has won every major European trophy and 10 league titles with the likes of Juventus, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich during an illustrious career.
And few are more vocal in their support than Cox, who has featured in Ireland’s last 10 matches. The Nottingham Forest striker is set to miss the next two months with an ankle injury but is confident of returning for the friendly against Poland on February 6 before vital back-to-back qualifiers against Sweden and Austria in March.
Cox believes it is now a three-way fight for second place behind the Germans on the road to Brazil, but he is convinced that Trapattoni is still the man to take Ireland to the Copacabana.
“We are very much behind the manager,” Cox exclusively told The Irish Examiner at Forest’s training ground.
“He has come in and his record speaks for itself — he’s only lost two qualifying campaign games.
“If you take away the handball by Thierry Henry (that cost Ireland a place at the 2010 World Cup) then he has only lost to Russia and Germany.
“You can’t begrudge him (another chance) as we know what his record is like.
“We, as a set of players, are very much behind him because we feel his tactics are spot on.”
And Cox believes the criticism of Trapattoni has been too harsh, insisting the players have taken little notice.
He added: “I think some people are a little bit short-sighted — they forgot his record is very good and he’s taken us to a major tournament.
“Obviously it was a disappointing campaign but we got there and I think that was the main objective.
“Also, if it wasn’t for a handball he would have got us to a World Cup as well. That is a very good record for any manager, so we are very much behind him.”
Yet this has been a period of transition for Ireland, with Shay Given and Damien Duff retiring from international football and Richard Dunne not making an appearance this season due to a groin injury.
But Cox is confident the new generation can take Ireland to Brazil, even if they have to finish above Sweden to even make the play-offs.
“Qualifying for the World Cup is the aim, and we are trying to put a group of players together again,” said the 25-year-old.
“There has been a lot of change with the likes of Shay and Damien Duff retiring. But we have got lots of young, hungry players that have come forward and are doing really well at the minute.
“Hopefully we can get out of our Group, although we have a couple of really good teams ahead of us at the moment.
“Germany beat us quite convincingly, and then you have Austria and Sweden. Zlatan Ibrahimovic seems unstoppable at the minute and he is a very talented individual.
“But he isn’t going to be able to produce that if he doesn’t have 10 players around him. We aren’t going to focus on him when we play Sweden, but he is going to be hard to stop and we will have to be on our A-game to do so.
“It’s going to be tough, but hopefully we will have a good enough team spirit to get through.”
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