By Mark McCadden | Irish Daily Star soccer writer
Is it finally time to ditch ‘Trapatelli’ and bring in a new management team with the X Factor to take Ireland to the next level?
Ireland’s World Cup campaign hasn’t even begun and already Giovanni Trapattoni and his assistant Marco Tardelli appear to be out of tune and are calling for back-up.
Maybe it was tongue-in-cheek or perhaps it was the opening salvo in a desperate bid to woo Damien Duff back into the fold, but Tardelli’s strange comments on Monday sent tongues wagging.
“I think in the next match (against Germany) many senior players will be back. Richard Dunne should be back and I hope also Duff. Why not?” asked the 1982 World Cup winner.
“Duff? Yes, I hope. I don’t know if he will come back but I hope. I see him always during the matches at Fulham. I think it’s possible.
Why not? I think Duff is a very good player. Now he has said he has stopped playing in the national team but I hope.
Was this the latest misspeak from our well-paid managerial double-act Trapatelli?
Was it another communications gaffe by the Italian pair or a poor effort at humour?
Or were they words carefully chosen to tug on the Fulham winger’s heartstrings?
Duff gave an interview to a Sunday newspaper where he made it clear that he was not for turning, unless: “There’s 20 lads down with food poisoning,”
Or… “If there’s a ridiculous problem and it’s crying out for a winger and I’m 42 years old, I’ll look at it.”
So that should be that. It’s unfair on Duff to bring his name back into the mix at this stage. It brings pressure and attention he neither wants or needs.
The time for putting the squeeze on the 100-time capped winger has passed.
Trapatelli should have been crooning Duff’s praises in the weeks between Euro 2012 and Duff’s announcement that he was hanging up his international boots.
Tardelli’s comments have made Ireland fans nervous
It may not have been his intention, but Tardelli’s comments have drawn attention to the tricky task facing Ireland in the upcoming World Cup campaign. And what kind of message does it send out to the players hoping to fill Duff’s boots?
As if Kazakhstan away isn’t tough enough (and it’s going to be much more difficult than our hosts’ 145th place in the FIFA world rankings — lodged between St Vincent and the Grenadines and Vietnam — suggests), we have Germany at home next month.
Trapatelli could do with a team of Damien Duffs for that one.
Friday’s opponents Kazakhstan’s most recent results include a 3-0 defeat away to Armenia and a 5-2 win at home to Kyrgyzstan in June.
They held Latvia to a scoreless draw in February, while they drew 0-0 at home to Austria — also in Ireland’s World Cup group — last October.
Apart from that they are something of an unknown quantity, made up mostly of home-based players, a Bundesliga midfielder and a German second tier defender.
Kazakhstan’s manager is Miroslav Beranek, a 55-year-old Czech who played for Slavia Prague and was the Czech Republic’s Under-21 manager and senior number two.
While Trapatelli rarely set foot in League of Ireland grounds, they could do worse than having a conversation with former St Patrick’s Athletic boss Pete Mahon ahead of Friday’s tie.
Four players likely to feature against Ireland lined out when the Supersaints defeated Kazakh side Shakhter Karagandy in the Europa League last summer. They are full-back Aleksandr Kirov, midfielders Ulan Konysbayev and Zhambyl Kukeev, and striker Sergei Khizhnichenko.
To stand any chance of qualification, and splitting Germany and Sweden, we need to be heading into the winter break with seven points from our opening three games — Kazakhstan (away), Germany (home) and the Faroe Islands (away).
In the midst of post-Euro 2012 despair, the retirements of Duff and Shay Given, and another player fall-out in Darron Gibson, we could end up with just four, including a draw in Astana on Friday.
And if that does transpire, then surely it will be time for Trapatelli to get off the stage.
You can read Mark McCadden on football every day in the Irish Day Star. Follow him on Twitter, here.