Russia manager Dick Advocaat shouts
instructions as Ireland manager
Giovanni Tratattoni looks on during the
match in Dublin last Friday
There’s a Wolfe Tones song that the Celtic and Ireland fans like to sing which contains a very poignant chorus for the current state of Irish football.
Soccer supporters out there will know the song I’m talking about. Officially it’s called “The Celtic Symphony,” a celebration of all things related to Glasgow Celtic, their Parkhead Paradise and the jungle that is home to the most fervent Hoops die hards.
It also celebrates, among other things, everything from Paul McGrath in the live version to the Rah on the record, politically incorrect as it is in the current climate of peace and goodwill to all men in Ireland, which may explain why the Tones are nowhere near as popular now as they were during The Troubles.
The old South Terrace chant of “Here We Go” also features in the song when the Green Army sing it, and on more than one occasion I have heard travelling Irish fans go straight from the “Celtic Symphony” to an “Ole Ole Ole” chorus from the glory days of the Charlton era.
Doubtless the song got another airing in Bratislava and Vienna and Krakow on Monday night as the Green Army descended on the Slovakian town of Zilina from all nearby cities with Ryanair airports.
Their brief, as always, was to follow the Irish team with the blind faith of true believers, worshippers at the altar of the God fearing Giovanni Trapattoni.
All was changed, however, as they headed east on Monday morning, the memory of that Dublin demolition at the hands of Russia last Friday night still fresh in their weary heads.
Never mind the 3-2 scoreline and the narrow defeat from the biggest game yet at the wonderfully appointed and nearly full Aviva Stadium.
Team Ireland and Team Trap were destroyed in Ballsbridge last Friday night, the manager and his caveman tactics cruelly exposed by a Russian team playing total Dutch football inspired by their own imported manager, Dick Advocaat.
Dick is well known to us as a purveyor of real pain by the way. He was in charge when Holland had the World Cup last 16 game over within 20 minutes in Orlando back in 1994 on a day when Packie Bonner cried as he apologized for his error to his teammates in the dressingroom afterwards.
Advocaat’s midfield cut through Big Jack’s long ball game like a knife through butter on that raging hot afternoon in the Orange Bowl.
By the way, the stadium was known on the day as the Oranje Bowl thanks to the oranje clad Dutch fans, none of them in sponsored World Cup mini-skirts from what I can remember!
He may be almost as old as the 71-year-old Trapattoni, but Advocaat’s memory of that Orlando win is still vibrant and very valid.
On Friday night, he met another Irish team intent on playing long ball and only long ball, so Advocaat adapted the lessons from his Dutch pass and Ireland were dead and buried, this time after 50 minutes when Shirokov landed the third of three Russian goals, all without reply.
Ireland did stage a late rally, albeit one inspired by a Robbie Keane goal from a penalty awarded in the 72nd minute after his dive that was every bit as treacherous as the Thierry Henry handball in Paris last November.
They even got within sniffing distance of an incredible draw thanks to a Shane Long goal six minutes later, but any reward for that inept performance by the home team would have been so wrong.
All of which now brings me back to the Wolfe Tones and the “Here We Go -- Again” song.
This column is being constructed on Tuesday morning Irish time, just hours before Trapattoni’s battered team returned to action against the Slovaks in Zilina and without the injured Kevin Doyle.
The “Here We Go -- Again” bit refers to the pressure the manager is now under after yet another disastrous display by an Irish side that hasn’t qualified for anything since the doomed World Cup bid of 2002.
On this very page last week, you’ll have seen reference to the need for Team Trap to take a leaf out of Big Jack’s book and give an ailing nation a lift on the football field.
Sadly, the only thing they took from Jack’s book was a penchant for the long ball game -- and without the quality of players available to Charlton all those years ago.
Trapattoni, lest you forget, is on €1.8 million a year in our money at a time when the ordinary man and woman is struggling to see the ends never mind make them meet.
That partly explains why he has been subjected to criticism of a venomous nature in the days and nights since that horror show against the Russkies.
Ireland were brutal on Friday night, and mostly because of Trapattoni’s tactics and his decision to stick with two central midfieldera against a three man Russian midfield for all of 60 minutes.
It was so plain to see that Ireland were being outnumbered in the centre of the park that even those high in the new stands at Lansdowne Road were able to shout it at the bench from the time of the first goal, in the 10th minute as it happened.
Their shouts fell on deaf ears. Trap didn’t make a change until the hour mark and by then it was too little too late, even if two goals followed when parity was established in the midfield trenches.
The manager has been sticking to his guns ever since, even in the wake of damning quotes from Richard Dunne in the immediate aftermath of the game which suggested the players are not at all happy with the manager.
He will continue to play 4-4-2 because he doesn’t have the players to do anything else apparently, and he doesn’t stop his players from playing a short game despite the evidence to the contrary.
And he’s not looking for excuses for the Russian defeat, but the first goal was offside and the third one was a “lucky” deflection.
Watching Trap explain himself on Saturday was so sad and so reminiscent of recent events with previous Irish managers.
It had echoes of the worst times under Brian Kerr and Steve Staunton, men who weren’t allowed to get away with the slightest error by a media waiting to pounce on their every mistake as we did with Trap on Saturday and Sunday and Monday.
So here we go -- again. The Irish soccer team is in crisis, the manager is under pressure like never before and the critics are having a field day.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this under Giovanni Trapattoni. He’s the world class manager who’s going to bring the good times back to Irish football.
Yet, on Friday night’s evidence, we’re back in the doldrums for all Trap’s reputation. His team, like this country, is on its knees.
Zilina may change things, you’ll know that before you read this, but one thing is crystal clear this morning – Giovanni Trapattoni has got to start earning his corn and justify that criminal salary.
SOCCER: Silly line from the Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington, who described the Faroe Islands as a British style team managed by a British manager before their European qualifier on Tuesday. Brian Kerr, whose father hails from Belfast, is not a British manager and the jibe will have surely riled him. Worthington, by the way, did refer to the mainland on three occasions when we interviewed him in Dublin recently regarding the forthcoming Carling Nations Cup tournament at the Aviva. Maybe he was referring to the Aran Islands!
GAA: So the GAA won’t be getting horny next year. Croke Park officials have abandoned plans to introduce hooters to signal the end of playing time in their inter-county games. The trial was proposed for the 2011 National Leagues but the cost is proving prohibitive for the time being at least. Guess that’s a hooter for the hooters! Since the restaurant chain of the same name are now in England, maybe they could open in Ireland and sponsor the GAA’s Hooters!
RUGBY: Leinster go to the Twin Towers on Saturday for a Heineken Cup game against Saracens at the new Wembley but they may travel without their injured star Brian O’Driscoll. His hamstring problem is not good news for club or country with the Autumn Internationals, the Six Nations and the World Cup all on the radar. Like the soccer team, the rugby side can’t do without its best players.
HERO OF THE WEEK
Richard Dunne told it like it was when he criticised Giovanni Trapattoni’s tactics on RTE television straight after the humiliating defeat to Russia on Friday night. Well done Richard.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
Some claim Liam Brady was little more than a translator in the Irish camp when he worked alongside Giovanni Trapattoni. Judging by his performance as an analyst on RTE television after a Trap inspired embarrassment against Russia on Friday night, he is now little more than an apologist for the Italian.