January 2008: Trapattoni

This is the story of how the man who once accused his Bayern Munich players of being as weak as empty bottles (surely what he meant was that they had no bottle?) became manager of the Irish Republic soccer team.

It is the finale of what was the long, drawn out effort to find a replacement for the man who put the gaff in gaffer, Steve Staunton, the man who has risen form the lows of being Irish manager to the heights of being assistant coach at Leeds United. The story goes something like this….

A man walks into the board room in Merrion Square, a tired but satisfied look on his face. The man on the telephone motions him to sit down and the man tries not to listen in on the conversation.

“Listen, Roy, would you ever feck off and stop annoying me. I don’t need you to tell me how to run football. I was on top of things when you were still kicking your nappies off you down in Cork….”

Delaney slams down the phone.

“Ah, Don, there you are. Any news for me?  I’m shagged if I’m going to face the press again without a name for them.”

“Well, John” says Don, “there’s good news and bad news. Giovanni Trappatoni has agreed to become our next manager”

“And what’s the good news?”

“That is the good news”

“Oh… really? Never heard of him. What’s his name did you say? Trapper Tony, did you say?  Is he Canadian? They’re not that good at soccer, are they?”

Givens sighs and explains carefully to his boss. “It’s pronounced Trap-a-Tony, John. He’s Italian. He won the Serie A no less than seven times, back when Italian football reigned supreme and the Premier League was only a glint in the eye of Rupert Murdoch. And they also say that Dunphy thinks he’s a good one……maybe even a great one….”

“Jesus, Don, did you have to bring him up?! I’m sick of him harping on about the disaster of  Stan’s appointment. Anyway, back to this Italian guy. Does he know me? Was it my name that made him apply for the job?” Delaney pulls himself up to his full height in anticipation of a preening.

“Well” Givens says, hesitantly, “Not exactly, boss. He didn’t actually apply for the post. We only heard of him from Liamo after we interviewed the five hundredth and sixty eighth candidate, Patsy McGowan.”

“Brady, you say? I hope that weasel Dunphy … or for that matter Giles …isn’t behind all this, are they?”

“Not at all, not at all” Don appeases him, quickly, “Liamo happens to know him from way back. He rang him up, asked him what he thought of us and bingo! He said yes!”

“Ah, sure I’m not surprised he jumped at the chance. Sure he probably heard we wanted a world class coach to follow the one we just sacked. After all, it’s not every day a manager gets the chance to work with the likes of Daryl Murphy and Colin Doyle, two of the best young players in football today. And what about that American lad that Stan capped last summer? What’s his name?”

“Frank Lapira” Don responds, tiredly, “I don’t think Giovanni has actually heard of these lads, John….”

“No matter, no matter. I’ll soon put him right on that score.”

Don could see that Delaney was getting a little over-excited. “Listen, boss” he said “Why don’t you sit down and hear me out? Ray, Don and I are fed up hopping on and off planes and if this Italian wants the job, we’ll have to pay him good money…about a million. That’s the bad news I wanted to tell you”

Delaney suddenly stops his pacing of the room and swivels to face Givens.

“What!? How much?!? Jaysus, Don, we can’t afford that kind of cash!  After all, I’m running  a business here that doesn’t have any income coming in. We’ve got no place to call our own and we have to go cap in hand to our sworn enemies, the GAA, every time we want to kick a few balls about. This Catch Anthony guy, or whatever you call him, will have to stay on the dole or take the same as Stan did, God bless him …”

“Eh, he’s not on the dole. He’s actually managing a club team at the moment. In Austria.”

Delaney calms down a bit. “Hmmmm” he mutters, almost thinking out load, “That’s a better start than Steve had. Might be worth a risk. After all, I’m getting a bit fed up with being without somebody to defend at press conferences. But where are we going to get that sort of money. There’s not much in the coffers after my salary is paid, the boys get their expenses and we commission a few reports like Genesis. Wait a minute …I have an idea…..!”

He picks up the phone.

“Hello? Oh, hello Denis. Listen, about that offer you made to me a while back. Is it still on the table? Oh, good, good! Just sent the cheque to me in the post. Yes, yes, I won’t tell anybody else about it … don’t worry.”

He puts down the phone. “That’s settled then. Now to lead the press another merry dance, eh, Don? Keep them guessing. God, I love this job….”

Don sighs and says nothing.

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