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Our Soccer Manager...........in A Nutshell

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A good mate of mine, the musician Liam Coade, happens to be an avid football fan and he remarked that after our disastrous experience at the Euros, the fans should change their traditional chant from 'Ole, Ole, Ole' to 'Oh dear, Oh dear, Oh dear'.

He was laughing as he said this to me, but he was laughing through gritted teeth.

Because the simple fact is that no Irish squad has ever been as poorly served by its manager as the squad that exists under Trapattoni.

I always assumed that the worst manager who would ever look after Ireland would have been Steve Staunton -- and, in retrospect, I wrote one particular piece about Staunton that was deeply unfair and for that I apologise -- but Trapattoni now makes Staunton look like Guardiola in comparison.

I do not know one single football fan who is looking at this afternoon's game in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, with any enthusiasm.

Now, we normally head in to the start of a qualifying campaign with a weird mixture of gallows humour, fatalism and a flickering sense of optimism.

There is no optimism this time.

In fact, I don't think I can remember a time when there was such a toxic air surrounding Irish football.

We've had our difficult times in the past, of course.

The end of the Charlton era was bad, but nothing compared to Saipan, where Irish football became the talking point of the World Cup for all the wrong reasons -- if you recall, that happened at the height of the boom when people still had enough money to deeply, genuinely, care about the strop between Keane and McCarthy. I doubt we would be so quick to indulge a clash of egos between two millionaires in our current climate.

But there is something utterly different this time.

The squad is split and shorn of crucial members who have decided to call time on their international careers.

Others have decided that they simply don't want to play for the Italian and while any of us who grew up dreaming of playing for our country -- I'm 40 and I still have the same dream about wearing the Green as I did when I was 10, for God's sake -- will struggle to initially understand why the likes of Gibson have given Trapattoni the finger, you can't really blame them.

Because, rather like the way his compatriot Capello did with England, there's the increasing sense that not only does our manager not rate our players technically, he seems to be developing a deep personal dislike of some of them, which is not just petty and amateur -- it is a bloody disgrace.

His increasingly cranky and nonsensical press conferences would be funny if they weren't so horrifying.

I was speaking to one football reporter who spent most of this week covering the events in Malahide and he simply shook his head when I asked him what was going on. "Mad house," he replied, "the whole place is a f***ing mad house."

In fact, things have gone so tits-up in our squad right now that we're experiencing the kind of internal chaos that you would traditionally associate with the Dutch squad -- the difference is that at least they had the talent.

When Trapattoni was hired, we assumed that the highly decorated veteran coach would bring much-needed organisation, concentration and discipline.

We also had the naive temerity to assume that, for all the millions he was being paid, he would actually become physically engaged with the team.

Instead, he is often content to stay at home in Milan watching DVDs.

Similarly, we could have been forgiven for expecting him to learn the bloody language.

Instead, he insists on hiding behind Manuela, the translator, while shouting in increasingly incomprehensible Pidgin English.

This rubbish reached a new low the other day when Trapattoni was shouting in a mix of languages that might as well have been Klingon for all the sense it made, while Tardelli started roaring about Roy Keane for some reason while Manuela made a game effort to make some sense of it all.

She wasn't the only one.

I can honestly say I have never gone into a qualifying campaign with such a sense of despondency. And I'm not alone.

We've had a mixed summer when it comes to sport.

The Olympics, Katie Taylor specifically, gave us a lift for a while. And our Paralympians -- 13 medals at the time of writing -- are doing themselves proud.

But now that the serious business of football is back, the entire country just seems to want the Italian to simply bugger off.

Because he is, to paraphrase Arsene Wenger, 'an enemy of football'.

For a manager who prided himself on stability, organisation and focus, we have received none of these things.

Instead, we have endured bickering, back biting and, I must admit, a staggering level of pettiness and churlishness from the manager.

In fact, it seems he is as interested in settling scores at press conferences as he is with getting us to score on the pitch.

I actually know some people who hope we are beaten later today.

Not out of any disrespect to the players, you understand.

No, it's merely because this old chancer has been getting away with murder for too long now and football fans want, need and deserve more.

Because here we have a coach who sneers that if you want to see a show, you should go to the opera rather than watch football.

So, we go into Astana with nothing but foreboding and the instinctive hope that we get a result which, looking at the opposition, we should.

But if our tactics and management style stay the same, can you imagine what the Germans are going to do to us in October?

The mind boggles.

Look, Trap -- you don't like us and we don't like you.

Maybe it's time to call it quits, eh?

Irish Independent

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