Halloween. When the deceased come back to life. Giovanni Trapattoni is in Dublin and has named his first squad since many had him dead and buried following our German horror show. He’s bitten the silver bullet and named Wes Hoolahan but there’s no Shane Long. Are Greece likely to emerge into an eerily quiet Lansdowne Road and have the crowds been scared away?
Shane Long is suffering from a hamstring injury according to the FAI while Robbie Keane is spared the need to jet in from the States but there’s no call-up for Hoolahan’s club-mate Pilkington.
Conor Clifford, Robbie Brady, and Ciaran Clark are also listed among the 26 names. The squad will eventually be cut to 23.
Irish fans are disillusioned. Many wanted Trapattoni gone and were dismayed with the decision of the FAI to stick with the Italian. It will take more than naming a young team in a meaningless friendly to convince supporters to arrive in numbers.
For we’ve been here before. So called second-string Irish teams played entertaining football in the home friendly with Uruguay, almost snatching a draw, and the stunning victory over Italy in Belgium.
When it came to the crunch, Trapattoni preferred to show loyalty to the older players. Those stone gargoyles had rings run round them in Poland. World champions Spain toyed with Ireland before piercing us four times in excruciating fashion.
Throughout the Euro qualifying, Ireland had two ghosts in midfield and we were hopelessly exposed both in the summer and humiliation against Germany.
Sadly, in another nightmarish game, this time in our own house, our central players vanished again.
After our displays in Poland, no team holds a fear of playing Ireland, not even in Dublin.
And yet Trapattoni has shown signs that he is willing to change.
Under the old regime, there is no way in hell Marc Wilson, Seamus Coleman, and most especially Robbie Brady, would have started a qualifying game under Trapattoni as they did in the Faroe Islands. Even David Meyler was introduced in the final minute.
Those who argue that his back was against the wall after the German fiasco, or that the opposition allowed Trapattoni to play to the gallery by fielding the people’s choices, ignore that this is the stubborn man who has managed his own way for the last four years.
He has now been given an ultimatum by his employers to travel to watch his players and he has been doing so. Time will tell, if this continues or if even Trap himself will tolerate these orders.
Marc Wilson will be heartbroken to have suffered a bone fracture in Stoke’s last outing. He looked like he was about to displace Ward at left-back. Coleman and Brady now look like playing enhanced roles in the Irish set-up.
And if Ireland produce another horror-show against the Greeks, it could be another nail in his fastly closing coffin. Even Trapattoni will be down his local Ladbrokes laying money he’ll be out of a job come March. By the time the Poland game comes early next year, yet more fans will have given up the ghost.
Provisional Ireland squad to play Greece:
Westwood, Forde, Randolph, Coleman, O’Shea, O’Dea, Kelly, McShane, Ward, Duffy, Clark, Delaney, Andrews, McCarthy, Fahey, Meyler, Whelan, Clifford, Keogh, McGeady, McClean, Brady, Hoolahan, Doyle, Cox, Walters