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How Shane Long brought down Roman’s empire — and 5 other games that shaped di Matteo’s Chelsea reign

21 Nov

Published by, 21 November 2012

AS CHELSEA MANAGER your days are inevitably, and literally, numbered but that won’t be much consolation to Roberto Di Matteo this morning.

Although that prized first Champions League title and a bonus FA Cup are safely ensconced in the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet, Roman Abramovich’s brief fling with di Matteo came to an abrupt halt today 262 days after it started.

Last night’s 3-0 defeat against Juventus left Chelsea on the brink of the dubious honour of becoming the first Champions League winners to hand back their European title in the group stages the next season.

Abramovich acted with characteristic speed, axing the Italian who barely outlasted his predecessor Andre Villas-Boas (256 days), Avram Grant (247) and Luiz Felipe Scolari (223) in what is unquestionably the most dangerous job in football.

These are the six games that defined di Matteo’s time in the dugout. Was it really all Shane Long’s fault he got the sack?


Darkest before the dawn as Trapattoni looks forward to new era

16 Nov

Published by, 16 November 2012

A YEAR THAT started with so much promise for Giovanni Trapattoni and the Republic of Ireland ended on Wednesday night with a feeling which has become all too familiar: defeat.

If last November’s play-off win against Estonia was the high point of the Italian’s reign, much of what has happened since has been laced with bitter disappointment.

Once upon a time it was convenient to point to an unbeaten run which reached 14 matches and spanned 16 months, but there’s little comfort to be found in the cold hard facts now. They speak for themselves.

2012: Played 12. Won 4. Drawn 3. Lost 5. Scored 14. Conceded 20.


Method in the madness as Trap readies Greek play

14 Nov

Published by, 14 November 2012

MAYBE IT WAS nothing more than end-of-term fatigue but there was a hint of the surreal about Giovanni Trapattoni’s pre-match press conference in Malahide yesterday afternoon.

If there are fears that tonight’s friendly against Greece will be staid and predictable, Trapattoni’s team announcement was anything but.

The tone was set when the Italian arrived, much later than originally scheduled, and opened by mistakenly listing Darren O’Dea in his starting XI when it is Ciaran Clark who will earn his third cap and partner captain John O’Shea in the centre of defence.


Trap the believer knows stakes are high

11 Nov

Published by, 11 November 2012

A FRIENDLY AGAINST Greece might not be the most attractive show in town next week but Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni accepts that this is not just another meaningless international break.

On Wednesday night the stakes are higher.

The balm of time hasn’t soothed the pain of last month’s 6-1 horror show against Germany, and though beating the Faroes stabilised a ship that appeared to be fatally holed below the waterline, Trapattoni knows that the healing is still a work in progress.


Croly ready to lead Rovers revival

8 Nov

Published by, 8 November 2012

TREVOR CROLY SAT down on Tuesday night and started to draw up a “to-do list” for his new job as Shamrock Rovers manager.

Bringing in a replacement for Gary Twigg, Rovers’ iconic striker and three-time Golden Boot winner who left for Portadown at the end of the season, is one of his top priorities.

But before he tries to reboot the attack and bring it into the post-Twigg era, Croly knows there’s one thing he must do if he is to succeed where his predecessor Stephen Kenny failed: he has to patch up the Hoops’ leaky defence.


House of horrors: 5 things we learned from Ireland v Germany

12 Oct

Published by, 12 October 2012

Trap’s possible 4-3-3 was always going to mean 4-5-1

BAR A PROMISING opening 15 minutes in which they briefly seemed like they might put it up to Germany, Ireland were on a containment and damage limitation exercise from the outset.

In his pre-match press conference, Giovanni Trapattoni said that his starting XI allowed for a flexibility between 4-3-3 and 4-4-2, depending on the evening’s circumstances. In reality, it turned out to be a defensive 4-5-1 with Jon Walters flying solo up front.

The two wide men Aiden McGeady and Simon Cox got up to offer some support during the opening minutes but their presence in attacking positions became a less frequent sight as the game wore on and Ireland played with 10 behind the ball. [...]

Friday night lights ‘an opportunity’ for young Irish stars, says Giovanni Trapattoni

12 Oct

Published by, 12 October 2012

AFTER ALL HE has been through this week, it came as no surprise when Giovanni Trapattoni touched on the twin topics of miracles and faith at his pre-match press conference in Malahide yesterday.

Losing Glenn Whelan, Sean St Ledger and James McClean to injury on Monday was enough to cast a pall over the build-up to tonight’s World Cup qualifier against Germany.

By the time the full ramifications of Robbie Keane’s Achilles’ “knock” became clear, it must have felt like the penultimate blow in a week of a thousand cuts for the Italian.


Monday morning blues as Trap tries to figure out injury crisis

8 Oct

Published by, 8 October 2012

IN HIS FOUR years as Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has certainly had easier starts to an international break.

A nightmare weekend of Premier League injuries saw the Italian arrive in Malahide on Monday morning for the first day of training armed with a growing list of knocks, niggles and doubts.

By the afternoon it had become clear that James McClean would remain in Sunderland for treatment on a hip flexor strain which rules him out of Friday night’s World Cup qualifier against Germany, while Trapattoni indicated that hamstring victims Sean St Ledger and Glenn Whelan will need a minor miracle if they are to be ready for the trip to the Faroe Islands four days later.


Murphy focused on the one that keeps getting away

14 Sep

Published by, 14 September 2012

FOR A PLAYER who has won multiple league medals, league cup medals — even a Setanta Sports Cup medal — there is one important blank on Anto Murphy’s career CV: he has never won the FAI Cup.

Not that the Dubliner hasn’t come close. In the summer of 2008, Pat Fenlon brought him home from Sligo to strengthen a Bohemians squad that was challenging for both league and cup. Bohs did the double that year; Murphy, however, was cup-tied.

When it seemed his chance might finally come with St Patrick’s Athletic last season, Shelbourne spoiled the party, upsetting the Saints in a semi-final replay.


Brady: ‘The culture of football in this country is wrong’

31 Jul

Published by, 31 July 2012

AMID THE LATEST spate of Abbotstown cost-cutting, Liam Brady has called on FAI bosses to find a man who can inspire a rethink of the country’s footballing culture from schoolboy level up.

High performance director Wim Koevermans, technical director Packie Bonner and football support services manager Eoin Hand have all left the Association as part of an effort to merge roles and drive down the wage bill.

At this month’s AGM, chief executive John Delaney said that the process of finding a replacement for Koevermans was ongoing following his departure to take over as coach of the Indian national team.

The Dutchman’s successor will focus on coach education and the emerging talent programme, Delaney said, and Brady feels that Ireland’s schoolboy system should be the first target for an overhaul.

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