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Opinion: The more things change, the more they stay the same for Ireland

Whether Trapattoni really does intend to ring the changes for the World Cup qualifiers is unclear, writes Paul Fennessy.

Giovanni Trapattoni, pictured at yesterday's press conference.
Giovanni Trapattoni, pictured at yesterday's press conference.

SUGGESTIONS THAT THE Ireland squad is set for a major overhaul and change of style in the next few months seem way off the mark.

Granted, Trapattoni has left out the highly experienced quartet of Shay Given, Robbie Keane, Richard Dunne and Damien Duff, but is this as significant as some people believe?

It is by no means the first time Trap has rested the likes of Keane and Duff for a friendly match. And barring an unexpected retirement or two, it seems inconceivable that Trapattoni will neglect to pick any of the four players in his squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

A truly bold decision would be to select Stephen Ireland – Villa fans’ Player of the Season last year – who, despite the personal baggage he invariably brings, would surely be worth affording one more chance, given that he remains more talented than the majority of players currently in the squad.

And elsewhere, there appears to be little deviation from Trap’s old, familiar style.

The selection seems typically cautious, with players who could potentially bring a level of depth to the Ireland squad that the team currently lack, such as Wes Hoolahan, Anthony Pilkington and Ciaran Clark, once again ignored.

Meanwhile, footballers who are arguably inferior to the aforementioned alternatives, such as Paul McShane, Paul Green and Andy Keogh, continue to be chosen, despite their distinctly unremarkable club form and the widespread lack of public enthusiasm about their presence in the squad.

In Trap’s defence, while his squad selection indicates caution in many cases, it is by no means a certainty that that he’ll refrain from making sweeping changes for the World Cup qualifiers.

Nonetheless, a good indication should be the midfield he selects to start the game. A fascinating, genuinely experimental side would include the quartet of McClean, McCarthy, Gibson and Coleman. However, if Trap is intent on sticking to his old ways, a midfield of McGeady, Whelan, Green and McClean seems more likely.

The latter selection would suggest Trap is intent on persevering with his pragmatic style of football, in which negativity prevails, and the ball is treated as if it were a hot potato.

On the other hand, selecting McCarthy et al would signal a genuine desire to radically alter the style of the Irish team. Players of his calibre are significantly more comfortable in possession compared with Whelan and Green, and arguably just as efficient defensively too, as anyone who saw McCarthy’s exemplary performance in Wigan’s 1-0 win against Arsenal at the end of last season will attest.

Elsewhere, his tendency to alienate certain players from squads continues, with Kevin Foley the latest individual to ostensibly fall out with the veteran manager, and consequently make himself unavailable for selection indefinitely.

Trap gave a half-hearted explanation of why Foley was absent from the squad, telling reporters at the press conference yesterday:

“I called Foley, and he told me he is still very disappointed. He thanked me for the call, but told me that he was still not ready because he is still disappointed.”

Foley can thus be added to a list of players that includes Andy Reid, Anthony Stokes and Steven Reid, among many others, who have publicly fallen out with Trap at one stage or another.

And this is perhaps the Italian’s most worrying habit of all, as Ireland have a limited enough pool of players to pick from as it is, without Trap reducing his options even further, owing to petty personal quibbles.

Yet these issues aside, he will ultimately be judged on results – something he badly needs over the next two or three matches to improve morale, following the side’s dire Euro 2012 performance.

But for now, Ireland fans at least need a sign that significant change will be implemented. Sadly though, the absence of Keane and co just doesn’t seem a convincing enough indicator of better, or even less familiar, days to come.

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Paul Fennessy

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