I'LL WRAP HIM UP IN COTTON WOOL; HELLO GIO: ITALIAN MAESTRO READY TO LEAD IRELAND TO SOUTH AFRICA Trap Vows to Handle Stephen with Care

The Mirror (London, England), May 2, 2008 | Go to article overview

I'LL WRAP HIM UP IN COTTON WOOL; HELLO GIO: ITALIAN MAESTRO READY TO LEAD IRELAND TO SOUTH AFRICA Trap Vows to Handle Stephen with Care


Byline: BY PAUL O'HEHIR

GIOVANNI Trapattoni insists patience and kid gloves are the order of the day when dealing with Stephen Ireland.

The controversial Manchester City star is among the 40-man provisional squad for the upcoming training camp in Portugal and the friendly games against Serbia and Colombia at the end of the month.

But the 21-year-old's intentions remain unclear with sources close to the player suggesting he could be ready to permanently retire his green jersey.

Trapattoni, though, is adamant Ireland can be lured back into the fold, and following a conversation with the player's club boss, Sven Goran Eriksson, the Italian believes it is "doable".

"Sven didn't say he is not coming," said the veteran Italian.

"He said he is a promising player who is very good technically.

"And Sven thinks if I talk to him it's doable and he might come back.

"Stephen never said he doesn't want to play for his national team."

But while Trapattoni will go out of his way over the next 10 days to coax the Cobh man back into action, he is refusing to deem this Ireland's last chance to commit to the Irish cause.

"It takes a lot of patience," he said. "If you have children you know how much patience it takes. Today it's raining, tomorrow there's sun.

"I don't want to be boring and it's a very important situation, but I will always be looking because the qualification campaign is for two years.

"Journalists have the right to criticise everything I say but I need the players on the pitch and I also need their trust. I will always try get players back and try keep my options open."

Trust. It was the one word that Trapattoni - the former Juventus, AC Milan, Benfica and Italy boss - repeatedly turned to.

He also wants pride restored to the jersey and is only willing to work with players who will sweat blood for the cause.

"When I was at Italy some Italian players said they were finished, they didn't want to play for the national team.

"So I want players who are proud to be in this national squad, that is my first priority."

Secondly, Trapattoni wants results, and wants them fast.

He is acutely aware of the fact that expectations have risen among Irish supporters following his appointment - supporters who have grown frustrated at the lack of recent qualification for major finals.

But while success is top of his agenda, he insists his team won't resort to negative tactics just to grind out results in a bid for World Cup 2010 qualification.

This squad will be required to adapt to his continental style of management - eventually.

He also acknowledged that sudden radical change to tactics and formation could scupper the Irish team's chances as they prepare for their opening qualifiers against Georgia and Montenegro.

So there'll be no immediate drastic transformation, no radical departure from the 4-4-2 style of play.

Yes, he will tinker occasionally but to do so on a grand scale so suddenly would, he said, be unfair on the players.

So much to get across to his new players, so little time.

And it is for precisely those reasons that he is stressing the importance of hitting the ground running during this month's busy schedule.

The month ahead will be a steep learning curve for both manager and players.

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