Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Trapattoni hints at Ireland extension

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has given his strongest indication yet that he would like to extend his tenure as Ireland international manager.

Trapattoni’s two-year deal with the FAI expires in May of 2010 – a month before the World Cup finals in South Africa – but speaking yesterday in Dublin, the 70-year-old managerial veteran indicated that he has longer-term plans for the Irish job.

Asked if he would like to stay for the 2012 European Championship, Trapattoni replied: "Marco (Tardelli) and I have said before that we are proud to be managing Ireland. We would be very happy to be able to continue this work, we don’t want to leave it halfway and not finished. I think we’ve done a good job – we haven’t excelled, we can do a little better and there’s more to do. We have some young players and there is room for improvement so we want to work on that."

The FAI have said that they will only comment on contracts when there is something new to report but, last month, when asked about the manager’s position, chief executive John Delaney remarked: "The preference for any football club or national association is to have somebody for a longer period of time. But we’re in the results business and everyone knows that."

And results is what was uppermost in Giovanni Trapattoni’s mind yesterday as he unveiled a 25-man squad for the friendly against Nigeria on May 29 at Craven Cottage in London which will then be cut to 22 for the crucial World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia on June 6. The manager made no bones about the importance of the game in Bulgaria in shaping the outcome of the group and, especially, the battle for second spot and a play-off place. The Irish currently lie second in Group 8, two points behind leaders Italy and five head of Bulgaria who have a game in hand.

"The result of that game will be most important for our qualification," Trapattoni said. "And for Bulgaria, it could be the last opportunity to keep their qualification hopes alive. We want to keep a distance between us and them in the table so, while we will look to win, it’s very, very important that we don’t lose."

Trap’s understandable desire to give Kevin Doyle every chance to prove his fitness by naming the struggling Reading striker in his squad shows the importance of Doyle to the managers plans. Doyle sustained an Achilles injury in the first leg of his club’s semi-final promotion play-off and, while an initial scan wasn’t definitive, there was a general acceptance that he was unlikely to be fit for the game in Sofia.

However, Trapattoni yesterday revealed that Doyle will train again this week and have a second scan to see if there is a fresh reaction to his injury.

"I had this injury when I was a player and I have had many players who have had it," said Trapattoni. "Muscular injuries are very dangerous. Only if we are 100 per cent certain that he is fit will we decide he can play because a new injury in this position could be very difficult to recover from for September. Because he’s an extremely important player for us, I cannot run the risk of making the injury worse and having him out for two months."

Hull City’s Caleb Folan now tops the list of candidates to partner Robbie Keane should Doyle be ruled out, although Trapattoni could also turn to Shane Long or Andy Keogh.

Providing extra attacking cover – but much more likely to see action in the friendly against Nigeria – is Coventry City’s Leon Best, one of five uncapped outfield players in the squad, alongside Liam Lawrence (Stoke City), Sean St Ledger (Preston), Eddie Nolan (Preston) and Kevin Foley (Wolves).

John O’ Shea will be excused the Nigeria game to allow him time to recover from the Champions’ League final while the manager also made clear that Damien Duff will not be playing at left-back for Ireland as he has been in recent weeks for Newcastle United.

Meanwhile, no Trapattoni press conference is ever complete without reference to the self exiled Stephen Ireland, and the Italian couldn’t suppress a wry smile when asked what he made of Roy Keane’s suggestion that the manager should sleep outside Ireland’s house if that’s what it takes to entice the Manchester City man back into the Irish fold.

"I say ‘thanks to Roy’ and if he wants to help me then maybe he can sleep outside Stephen’s house," said Trapattoni. "It is up to Stephen to say that he wants to come back. Maybe he will review in his head that he wishes to come back in the future or maybe next season.

"That is important. The first time I saw him I could see his quality. He moves the ball well and passes it immediately before they can take it off him.

"But I cannot force him. I cannot force him."

Yet, the manager continues to resist eliminating Ireland altogether from this World Cup plans.

"No, no. Maybe during the summer, near the sea he can think about it, and ‘oh’. We have people who have the heart for the Ireland team and the Irish people. We are Italian but will do all we can to get the results for Ireland.

"But Stephen Ireland must decide. I think he is a little bit shy but I don’t know why.

"But if his view is that ‘at the moment I am quiet, I am happy and I stay at home with my family’ then that’s okay. That’s what he decides. It’s not my decision, it is his decision."

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