The latest communications mishap surrounding the Irish football team should have us all clamouring for the return of Liam Brady to the management. The pundit is renowned for talking sense on RTE’s soccer panel and there’s nothing sensible about some of the talk coming from the Irish camp in recent days.
An assistant to Giovanni Trapattoni when he first took the Irish reins, Brady recently left his post with Arsenal’s youth academy. His immediate future is uncertain with some reports suggesting he will be redeployed within the London club’s staff structure. Irish papers immediately touted him as a successor to Trapattoni when the time comes for him to leave, with March’s double-header likely to prove pivotal in that regard.
Where Brady excelled when he was part of the set-up was as the liaison between the squad and the management. He was based in England, spoke the language of the players and was able to relay back to the manager. He was also able to deal with the media and wasn’t afraid to issue stern words like when the question of Stephen Ireland’s return was repeatedly asked.
It’s obvious to everyone that Trapattoni’s level of English is not helping matters. That confusion allows papers to exploit the situation. According to the manager, Stephen Kelly issued an ultimatum before the game with the Faroe Islands saying “I play or I go.” This prompted the Dubliner to release a statement last week calling the comments ‘untrue and unwarranted.’
No one believes Kelly actually said that. What we know is that he was not happy after the Germany game. At some point, the Reading defender spoke to the management about not being in the team. Then there was the outburst on the training pitch. Subsequent reports say Kelly had to be persuaded by management to go to the Faroe Islands at all.
When all that is taken into account, Trapattoni’s exasperation seems valid last week. Kelly told him he wanted to be in the team, and then had to be convinced to stay in the squad. That could certainly be summarised as “I play or I go.”
Trapattoni’s problem is that he is airing Ireland’s dirty laundry in public. Why bring up Kelly at all? His initial reason for not picking Kelly for last week’s game was the player was being ‘rested.’ Now it seems, Trapattoni is punishing him. Trap is a vastly experienced manager but at times he conveys an image of a grandfather who indulges his young players but ultimately knows best. He’s seen it all before.
The papers are only too willing to portray this story as ‘Trapattoni blasts Kelly.’ And they are correct because, regardless of his firm belief, he has criticised Kelly in front of the media.
Kelly’s has stupidly reacted to the story. He was incapable of biting his tongue and agreed with the papers’ slant that he was being slighted by the manager.
There’s just one problem. We’ve been led to believe Kelly was prepared to leave the squad before the World Cup qualifier with the Faroes. So when he said last week, “I have never shown anything other than 100% commitment to my country”, it’s not exactly true in this case, is it?
The player would argue he was showing his passion to play by wanting to be in the team but that’s putting a personal spin on the fact that he was prepared not to show up last October. You could also argue if commitment is best demonstrated by publicly undermining the Irish national manager by releasing a statement.
The problem, again, is none of us should have heard about it. This should all have been kept in-house.
There’s no denying the presence of Brady on the management team also lent the Irish set-up a credibility. There’s a kind of ‘anti-foreigner’ and ageism that’s crept into people’s perception of Trapattoni since Brady left the set-up. There are constant references to Trap’s inability to speak the language. But he’s a 73-year-old man who’s tried to learn it from scratch. On the other hand, because he’s that age, so many disillusioned fans have repeatedly referred to him as ‘senile.’
Trapattoni doesn’t help himself as his press conferences and interviews can be incomprehensible when he refuses to utilise his interpreter Manuela Spinelli.
The FAI have also shot themselves in the foot. Whoever this spokesman was who ran his mouth off last week deserves a dressing down. Someone thought he would help this sorry situation by telling journalists: “Everyone knows that Giovanni is a great manager with a lot of experience but the association feels team matters like the one before the Faroe Islands that was reported yesterday should really be dealt with in private.”
Surely this person knows how the remark would be reported in the press. The Irish Independent subsequently ran the headline ‘FAI believes Stephen Kelly’s version of events over Trap’s’ while the Examiner used ‘Fresh FAI warning for Trap in Kelly row.’
This fiasco could have been avoided if all parties had kept their mouths shut in public and aired their grievances within the confines of the Irish camp. It’s ironic that the FAI chose to criticise Trapattoni in the media for his criticism of Stephen Kelly in the media, while the player contributed to the farce by choosing to release a public statement.
It’s believed Trapattoni is now under instructions not to undermine Irish players in interviews. He should never have needed to be reminded. Liam Brady’s return to the management team would give the manager and players alike a much needed voice of reason.