©INPHO/Donall Farmer
Euro 2012 Play-off

Trapattoni cautious as he readies Tallinn battle plan

The Republic of Ireland manager is determined that next week will make him rather than break him, and he’s not leaving anything up to chance.

STARING INTO EIGHT days which will define his time as Ireland manager for better or for worse, Giovanni Trapattoni left nothing up to chance at the team’s training base in Malahide yesterday.

Since that Krakow morning when Zbigniew Boniek, a star of Il Trap’s great Juventus side of the early 1980s, pulled Estonia’s name from the pool of Ireland’s possible play-off opponents, a few wry smiles have passed among the country’s more assured football fans.

The plum draw; a favour by Boniek for his old mentor and manager, many felt.

But Trapattoni had a message for his players, the fans and the media yesterday. It was so important that he wrote it down on a piece of paper stashed away inside the pocket of his tracksuit.

“Don’t jump the gun.”

“In Italy, I say: ‘Be careful the cat. No say the cat is in the sack when you no have the cat in the sack,’” he chuckled.

One gets the feeling that this cautious approach will become the mantra which defines all that happens between now and next Tuesday evening. Respect without deference. It is, Trapattoni feels, no more than the Estonians have earned in getting to this point.

“They beat Serbia and other important teams. Why, I ask you, are we considered superior? They have played 10 or 15 games, in this tournament and against South American teams and European teams. They have achieved good results.

“If our players play like against Armenia and like Italy, I think we can achieve this objective to qualify. But it should be very dangerous if we think that this is enough when we go on the pitch.”

We have to play. We have to be hungry for this game because they are hungry.


But this hunger — the mentality and psychology which Trapattoni is so fond of stressing — will not be enough to carry them past opposition good enough to beat the dual Eastern powers of Serbia and Slovenia on the road, even if Estonia did slip up against Brian Kerr’s Faroe minnows.

And so, with every working minute between now and tomorrow’s departure for Tallinn, Trapattoni intends to put his recent DVD marathons and telephone chats with both Kerr and Italian manager Cesare Prandelli to good use, using the insights gained to drill his players on every possible situation that might arise on Friday and again next Tuesday.

It’s not that he doesn’t trust them to think and adapt for themselves, he says. It’s just good preparation.

We must have patience because we must prepare every little detail. With the little details, we can hope that we can also achieve our objective.

Hearts and minds

This meticulous attention to detail is textbook Trapattoni -- the man who introduced the word sistema into the Irish lexicon. With his contract negotiations at a qualification-dependent impasse, he is determined to show the FAI that he still has the energy, committment and passion that made him the standout candidate for the job three years ago.

Coupled with that is the charm offensive. The manager knows that his utilitarian, result-focused style is not always the most aesthetically pleasing. But he insists that the dogged struggle to this point, and that which is yet to come, is all for the fans.

With at least 1400 hardy travellers set to pack into the A. Le Coq arena on Friday, Trapattoni is the first to acknowledge the “great sacrifice” which supporters have made to support his Boys in Green through tough economic times.

“It’s not only about the players and whether they play well or not play well — it’s money. I know this. We wish to give them satisfaction.

I play this match for me, for the team, for the Irish people. I’m sure the players feel this too.

But even if he wins the battle for hearts and minds, will it be enough to secure him an extension through to Brazil 2014? Facing into the next week, Trapattoni’s own situation, as well as the team’s, has somewhat cheekily been compared to a man standing on a precipice, peering over the edge into the great unknown.

It’s a situation which Trapattoni says he is well used to, not least because of his recent visit to the Cliffs of Moher.

In my life, thank God, I have had many, many situations like this — Champions League, UEFA League, Italian Championship [Serie A].

I have the vaccine for this kind of dangerous match. I was always on the edge of the cliff.

Trap optimistic on O’Shea’s recovery

So it begins… players urge supporters to ‘go green’ for November 15