There’s been a lot of chat since James McClean’s debut against the Czech Republic over whether or not some of Ireland’s younger stars will be making the trip to the European Championships.
In response to speculation, the FAI released a statement in recent days (which is never a good idea in football) insisting that a couple of places are still up for grabs. However, we will not see all our potential heading to Poland – the squad just isn’t big enough. The fact is that players are going to miss out, and we have this same dilemma ahead of every international tournament as the country’s journalists all try and out-exclusive each other.
In discussion with a couple of people I’ve heard the view that Trapattoni should take some of the youth as it would ‘benefit’ them for the future. My reply was and is – what do you reckon the FAI told Trapattoni about his employment target? I’m thinking: ‘Qualify, under any means necessary’. And Ireland has done just that. The team is not playing attractive football but are we capable of qualifying and doing the same?
The style we played under Jack Charlton was pretty basic and was aimed at putting the better teams ‘under pressure’ least we forget – at a time when we had some of the best players in the English game at our disposal. We fared better under Mick McCarthy but we didn’t qualify for as many tournaments. So where is the balance?
In hiring and retaining Trapattoni, the FAI has shown that qualification is their priority and their manager’s action reflect that. Players like James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman and even McClean might be doing well at their respective clubs at the moment but if they don’t fit into Trap’s ideal, they won’t play. The stubborn Italian defender has turned into a stubborn Italian manager, as Andy Reid has found to his cost, and no one should be surprised by what’s going on as a result.
Given the finances involved, the FAI is never likely to ask a senior team manager to develop players and bring them through to the senior set up in any meaningful way – he just doesn’t have the time, even in half-paced friendly games.
The insistence that Ireland had to be mindful of its ranking for the friendly game against the Czech Republic was a bit odd but in deciding when McClean should take his bow, he was also trying to have a look at Jonathan Walters, Paul Green and Simon Cox, who have all been in the squad for a longer period and are amongst those realistically vying for the final seats on the plane.
This European Championships is coming too soon for some of Ireland’s starlets. They have just got to hope that Ireland do qualify for another tournament in the future, at a time when they are more involved in the reckoning. As supporters we mightn’t like it, but the manager has players to be loyal to.