GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI has given his backing to Liam Brady in response to Brian Kerr’s claim that some of the Irish players might have difficulties with Brady’s role as an assistant in the new management set-up.
The former Irish manager, writing in a newspaper column at the weekend, suggested that Brady has “ground to make up” with those players “still bristling” from his comments as a media analyst.
In the same column, Kerr had stated that some members of the Irish squad had broken a 1am curfew while on a night out during the training camp in Portugal last week. But, following Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Serbia in Croke Park, an apparently relaxed Trapattoni chose to play down the situation.
“It’s no problem,” he said. “I give them a free night after eight days, some time off.” And he joked: “You work in newspaper, yes? Journalist, yes? I think sometimes you have a rest?”.
Yesterday, following squad training in Malahide, Trapattoni, although bristling ever so slightly himself, was equally dismissive of Kerr’s observation about Brady.
“When I was a younger player I thought that journalists, reporters, didn’t understand football,” said Trapattoni. “As you grow up you understand that each of us has a different job to do. Liam was a pundit — that’s normal. But it’s not as if you write something bad about the players and then they stop playing football. Many times I have said to players that you need to do interviews, for example, because it’s only by doing that you can learn and understand the process, what kind of questions might be thrown at you and what kind of answers you should give. That’s also part of your job as a player.
“It’s not a problem. Liam is a good asset here. He is important for me and the team. He was a famous player, was captain of Ireland. In Italy there are 20 or 30 ex-players that work in television. Should we all stop playing because they are criticising us? We are not children. We are grown men. If these are the worries we have, instead of thinking about qualifying for the World Cup, then it’s better we stay at home.”
The new Ireland manager was much happier to stick to matters on the pitch and was eager to talk up what he saw as the positives from the opening game of his reign.
“It was an excellent performance apart from two moments of distraction which first gave Serbia an opportunity to score and then eventually the goal,” he said. “When you want to win, it’s normal that you leave some space to your opponent which, if you lose the ball, they can exploit in a counter-attack. But this happens all over the world.
Asked what kind of improvements he would like to see, the manager replied: “I would like more fluency in our play and I am also hoping to build more offensive action. I am optimistic that Ireland can eliminate the kind of small errors that caused them to lose in the past. We are a compact, tight team.”
Trapattoni admitted that he was disappointed with the defensive lapse which allowed Marco Pantelic in to score Serbia’s goal, and cited it as an example of the kind of “small error” he is anxious to eradicate.
“We have eliminated a lot of fouls, for example, that give away dangerous frees,” he said. “Defence has been a matter of contention for Ireland. But I think last night the defence played well. The goal came because of a lack of concentration. Paul (McShane) wanted to play offside and the others stayed back. We need confidence and they can improve. Paul is only 22, not 30. But as all the players gain confidence, there will be less room for error.
“Richard Dunne coming in brought a lot of trust to the little defensive structure we’d been working on. And with John O’Shea coming back, we will have even more experience. With five or six senior players, I am certain the team will grow in confidence. We don’t have excellent, amazing superstars, but we are a very good team.”
Trapattoni paid tribute to Ireland’s goal-scorer, Andy Keogh of Wolves, who has now made it three goals in three outings — the others coming in the two training matches in Portugal — under the new regime.
“He has excellent qualities,” the Italian enthused. “He reads the game well, he is a little like (Kevin) Doyle but with a stronger personality. He certainly needs to put some weight on! But he’s a very creative player, who takes the initiative. He has qualities that go beyond scoring goals.”
While the young Dubliner still has a job on his hands to replace Doyle or Robbie Keane in the starting line-up, Damien Duff’s position is assured, to judge by Trapattoni’s satisfied assessment of the performance of the Newcastle United winger at Croke Park.
“He worked very hard,” Trapattoni observed. “On Saturday, when I thought about making substitutions, I had to decide between Duff and Hunt. I chose well. Before the game, I had thought a lot about the fact that he was a long time out with injury. Because he hasn’t played as much during the season as the others, I felt he needed to play 90 minutes. And we saw that even in the last moments of the game, he still had the energy to go around the player and create opportunities.”
Three of Saturday night’s players — Daryl Murphy (knee), Paul McShane (neck) and Richard Dunne (foot) — picked up minor knocks in the game but the manager expects all to be available for selection for next Thursday’s friendly against Colombia at Craven Cottage. However, he still hasn’t quite made up his mind about the inclusion of Celtic’s Aiden McGeady. “I’m not sure if he’ll play right away,” he said. “I want to see him and make sure that he understands the new system before I put him in the team.”
And Trapattoni revealed that he will not make too many changes to the line-up for Thursday’s game.
“Immediately no, because I look for more confidence,” he said. “I’m looking for a tight, solid team. I know now that players like Keogh and (Damien) Delaney have already made huge progress. And in just 10 minutes I saw some real intelligent movement from (Shane) Long. If we make too many changes we lose focus and concentration. There has to be a foundation we can build on. But we have started. We have begun.”
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