Trapattoni Continues Charlton’s Legacy
Irish Football is a relative newcomer on the world football scene. The nation which did not achieve World Cup qualification until 1990, long after Wales (1958), and a decade of outstanding Northern Ireland teams (the North took solid teams to both the 1982 and 1986) now has a chance to reach its fourth World Cup in the last two decades, following a 2-2 draw at Lansdowne Road versus Italy.
The transformation of Irish Football is an amazing story. Much like the great work that England’s 1966 World Cup winner, Jack Charlton did in the late 1980s and early 1990s bringing Ireland’s National Football side to a high level, Giovanni Trapattoni could take Ireland to an even higher level.
Charlton’s accomplishments have been given scant credit in certain segments of the British press. While at the time, there was an almost universal recognition of his fine work, today many dismiss the Republic of Ireland’s success of that period or have simply forgotten about it.
This is unfortunate because Charlton made the Republic of Ireland embrace football and had lots of success as well. Between his success at Leeds as a player, his World Cup winner’s medal and turning around Irish Football, you could make the case that Charlton is among the most significant football figures in the British Isles over the last half century.
Since Charlton’s departure the Republic’s football fortunes have been fairly poor. Mick McCarthy’s 2002 World Cup squad did well, but Ireland did not have the type of side, or mentality that could sustain the success.
I’ll save a full profile of Trapattoni for another posting, but the most successful coach in the history of Italian Football has made revitalizing Ireland perhaps his final stop on a long management journey. With the Irish headed to the UEFA World Cup playoffs as a second place finisher, the coach who has won domestic club titles in four different countries seems to have worked a miracle with the Irish side.
The current Irish selection is made up of several players that either play for second division clubs or don’t play much with the clubs they are contracted to. Yet, Trapatoni has them playing disciplined football. Almost without exception, the current selection of Irish players performs better for country than club: a mark of a great coach and a great system.
Irish Football is in a unique place today. Unlike England where football reigns supreme, in Ireland the sport is fighting a constant battle for attention. Charlton made the sport and the Irish National Team relevant. Trapattoni could be the figure that puts Ireland over the top.