As an Irishman I’d thought that beginning of us ceasing to follow the lead of our English neighbours began with our hard fought break away from the Union in 1921.
Corporate tax breaks, adopting the Euro, public smoking bans and I’ve even heard rumors that the debate is on to convert the Republic to right hand drive, something I think should have been done years ago.
So it would appear that the Football Association of Ireland has not followed suit and have instead opted to follow the example of the English F.A. in opting for a foreigner in their search for a new national team soccer coach. Giovanni Trappatoni has been unveiled with much aplomb at a conference venue in Dublin as the new saviour of Irish soccer just as Fabio Capello was in England a month ago.
If fact the similarities don’t stop there. Both men are Italians in their sixties. Both men come with little or no knowledge of the English language or the English/Irish brand of football. (Virtually all the players on both squads play in the English Premiership.)
Both will have natives working behind the scenes assisting them, in the forms of Liam Brady and Stuart Pearse. Both were appointed after two home grown managerial disasters in Steve Staunton and Steven McClaren were sacked after failing to qualify for Euro 2008. Staunton a native of Ireland’s smallest county, Louth and McClaren were both appointed to their jobs with no prior first team managerial experience.
Is it fair so say that if one finds success or failure the other will too? Either way it will all play out in tandem as the World Cup qualifying campaigns get under way later this year. There is cause for optimism amongst the similarities. Both men come with glittering managerial resumes with each having won seven Scudettos (Italian Serie A Leagues) and one European Cup/Champions League. Both men are renowned for their no nonsense, “my way or the highway” attitude which has naturally brought criticism through out their careers. In February 2006 Trappatoni while managing Stuttgart dropped Danish internationals attackers Jon Dahl Tomasson and Jesper Gronkjaer after they openly critized his style of play. He was sacked the next day.
For his first match with Switzerland last week Fabio Capello unthinkably omitted the international superstar poster boy of world football, David Beckham from his squad, with Beckham just one cap shy of a landmark 100th appearance for his country. Did Beckham think he could succeed where so many greats have failed? Best, Pele, Stoichkov, Valderrama all played in the U.S. in the twilight of their careers in the hope of popularizing the sport there. Soccer is a secondary sport in America and always will be.
Only time will tell if it’s yet another F.A.I. blunder but at the very least it’ll set the bar high for future managerial appointments. Poor results against so called minnow countries, plummeting FIFA World rankings with a team of Premiership stars? Maybe there’s something missing here, motivation perhaps? Gone are the days of the Charlton era of long ball, route one, put ‘em under pressure football; to the joy of admirers of the beautiful game but I remember it yielding results no matter how ugly they came. I anticipate much of the same with our new Italian manager. He comes with a reputation of getting a one nil lead and putting eleven men behind the ball and defending it. It may not be sexy football but it has been proven to get wins.
When I watch Arsenal play Manchester United on a Sunday morning as a neutral observer I want to be entertained and see the beautiful game at its finest. When it comes to my country I want to see the results no matter how they come. International football isn’t just a game. It’s nation against nation.
This blogger endorses Trappatoni.