STEPHEN HUNT is normally one of the most talkative players in the Irish squad, a footballer who has little truck with the Premiership norm of whatever you say, say nothing.
But after yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Portimonense, it sounded like the Reading man had taken a vow of omerta, at least when it came to offering insights into what Giovanni Trapattoni had asked of his team.
“To be fair, you should ask him that — whether he wants to give that away is another thing,” parried Hunt, apparently anxious to keep his Trap shut, as it were. “I don’t want to say too much as I’ll get myself in trouble. But it will be a different way of playing for us and you’ll figure it out for yourselves. We’ll be hard to beat, that’s for sure, hopefully we’ll get better going forward. It will take time, it’s a new manager and a new style, and a new regime. It’s fresh.”
The language barrier has been easily surmounted on the training pitch, according to Hunt.
“Obviously Liam (Brady) is there to help him if needs be, but it’s fine. Football is one language and you get the gist of what he’s saying, although it will take time for us to get used to it too. He’s trying to change our mentality in terms of the way we play. But he’ll do a good job and hopefully we will qualify for a World Cup, which is the most important thing.
“Even though it’s three or four months away yet, he’ll instil the right mentality. So when we do turn up in September we’ll know what exactly is needed of us and where we want to be. We’ve two away games first so we’ll be straight up against it and hopefully we can come out with some good results.”
Wolves striker Andy Keogh did no harm to his chances of making an impression on the new regime with the goal which gave Ireland a draw in yesterday’s training game.
“I’m still learning my trade,” he said. “But I definitely feel that I can do a job for Ireland. If I come into a game then I feel I could nick a goal. There are a lot of players ahead of me in the pecking order but as long as I can give the manager something to think about, then that’s all I can do.”
Less reticent than Hunt, Keogh also offered some intelligence on the Trapattoni approach.
“It’s really a case of getting used to his strategies and formations,” he said. “He wants us to press and play a high intensity game. And also to let the ball do the work, one touch, two touch. He wants the wingers coming in and helping the forwards. And when the opposition wingers get the ball he wants he wants us to track back to try to get the ball back for the team. It’s early days yet and we’ve still got the rest of the week to learn what else he wants us to do.”
Birmingham City’s Alex Bruce said that he was enjoying the opportunity to work with one of the game’s most successful managers.
“It’s great,” the centre-half enthused. “He is very big on organisation and the organisation of the team, and making sure everyone knows our jobs. You don’t win what he has won in the game if you don’t know what you are doing. He has shown in training that he is a top-class manager and we are all happy to be with him.”
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