Okay first things first, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way. We are all suitably delighted the Irish soccer team have qualified for the European Championships. The qualification for same harkens back to the glory days of the Charlton era and no doubt will give Ireland a much needed national boost when the tournament comes around. The inevitable hard fought 0-0 group round draws, the feisty performances and the lovable underdog tag will undoubtedly be a blast. The heart breaking tournament exit after a penalty shoot-out will give us all a reason to knock back a few brews. Fabulous.
The problem is, you can pretty much write the script months ahead of the event itself. How come? Because the Irish manager, Gio Trapaphoney, is a stubborn old man.
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To continue the disclaimer before we head into the rant, whilst it is a fantastic achievement to qualify for the Euros, and whilst we will all put our reservations to one side and get behind the boys in green when it starts, this doesn’t mean we have to agree with the method and style in which we achieved said qualification.
Trapaphoney has announced the Irish squad to face the Czech Republic in a friendly, and amongst several other notable absentees, he has perhaps most glaringly omitted one of the hottest, most energetic and most exciting prospects in one of the if not the biggest leagues in the world. Leaving Sunderland’s hard working, enterprising young winger James McClean out of the squad should be a shock to anyone who has seen McClean literally change the fortunes of the team that has finally given him his chance.
However, it is no shock to anyone who is used to Trapaphoney’s tired old schtick. He has his trusted few and he is going to stick with them, the future of Irish soccer be damned. The style and development of Irish soccer be damned. The ability for the Irish team to do something special, be damned.
Mark my words, this team is a fantastic, gritty bunch of over achievers, however we all know they lack that something special. They will inevitably play some hard working, tough tackling soccer and we will all be proud of them, but there is no way they will be doing anything special.
We need someone with a creative spark.
Enter James McClean. Buried by Steve Bruce, McClean got his chance when Martin O’Neill became Sunderland boss and had the Cajónes to play the young starlet in the making. The rewards have been plentiful. McClean has goals and assists to beat the band, and Sunderland are a completely different team since his inclusion. He has a few tricks as a winger, delivers a great cross, has an eye for goal and, most impressively perhaps, tackles back. He protects the fullbacks and works very hard both in and without possession.
Finally, he has youthful energy, gallons of it. He rampages around the park looking for something to to.
Watching Sunderland beat Stoke recently, watching Glenn Whelan, one of Trapaphoney’s most trusted soldiers, fight his personal battle against falling down while walking, it was painful to think, no doubt Whelan will be in the team ahead of McClean. Worse news would follow of course, now that we know Trapaphoney doesn’t even deem a place in the squad necessary for one of the most exciting prospects in Irish soccer, nay, Irish sports.
You know what, one giant **** you to Trapaphoney. Seriously, it can’t be said strongly enough. This is like some kind of Brugellian nightmare, one you can’t wake up from. The Irish team are on the cusp of a once in a lifetime opportunity, and yet ‘the man who got us there’ is determined to scupper our chances of actually doing anything when we do begin play. **** you Trapahoney, you stubborn old fart. **** you for screwing with our hopes and dreams of shock wins and a surprise run into the latter stages of the tournament.
It cannot be said strongly enough, we are not going anywhere with the likes of Glenn bloody Whelan, as he stumbles about the pitch like a disabled baby deer, falling over himself and swiveling around to play the ball backwards at every opportunity. McClean offered a wonderful opportunity to bring some pace, some attacking energy and some youth into a tired, limited old squad.
Instead we’re going to go ahead and ignore the chance to be progressive.
One more time, with feeling, **** you Trapaphoney. **** you because I love the Irish team, and I hate to see it held hostage like this.
We can only hope for the future of the Irish National team that young, gifted, up and coming players like McClean are strong enough of mind and character to wait Trapaphoney out, and eventually get their chance to shine when a more enlightened manager takes over.
That time can’t come soon enough.