Keith Andrews plays down Republic of Ireland's 'day off' saga


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The Independent Football

An element of agitation was rising in the voice of the otherwise calm Keith Andrews yesterday. For about the fifth time, one of the Irish squad was asked to clarify whether they had expressly gone to manager Giovanni Trapattoni and asked for a day off on Wednesday, whether they felt they were being overworked.

"I think [that issue] has been built up to be more than it is," Andrews said. "The lads spoke to the manager and [he] came to the conclusion that a day off would be best for all concerned. It's as simple as that."

On a certain level, you can understand any frustration. The "day off" story was already being presented on Wednesday in terms of "player power" and forcing the manager's hand.

Clearly, that isn't the case. But it's also not the case that "nobody asked us not to train", as assistant manager Marco Tardelli said yesterday and thereby caused some of the confusion.

Tardelli's comments seemed to be borne of an apparent sense of duty to defuse any potential controversy before it could begin. Here, however, there was no need. Indeed, it probably says much more about the calmness of the Irish camp that something so small became an issue, as Andrews actually praised Trapattoni for his man-management.

"Yeah, I think [it shows he's flexible]... the vast majority of us are used to the English system where we train for two or three days and have a day off. Italian football is a lot less intense. When we train, we can't seem to take it easy. Once we stick a goal and a couple of keepers in, it becomes competitive. That's just our nature.

"I think it was just a clever call [from Trapattoni] to be honest."

Certainly, the rest seemed to revitalise the players. After an intensive two weeks in Italy, Hungary and now Poland, there was a feeling yesterday that the pressure valve was released.

"I think the day off was needed," Andrews concurred. "We've been training a lot. It's really lifted the lads. It was nice yesterday to literally do nothing, have a walk around and sample the atmosphere. So, yeah, spirits are very high."

As, once again, were intensity levels. After the poor performance against Hungary on Monday and the lethargy of the public session in front of Gdnyia locals on Tuesday, the Irish team recovered an edge yesterday. Most notably, Kevin Doyle looked much sharper. At the other end, John O'Shea was reassuringly completing a full session after his recent injury.

There was, however, still no sign of Shay Given doing any heavy work – something that has been the case since he went off at half-time in the Hungary friendly and has caused an element of concern. While the rest of the players were competing in a full training match, the No 1 was doing lighter work in the corner.

Tardelli sought to allay such concerns... but, at the same time, only raised further questions. "Shay is fit. He decides if he wants to rest or not because he knows his body. He knows his mind and I am sure he'll be fit 100 per cent. Against Hungary, he showed he was fit. Today he did different training but there are no worries."

Asked whether Given would play all three group games, however, Tardelli was oddly evasive. "I don't know. I can't foresee. After Croatia, then we will understand whether he is fit or not for the other games."

It wasn't the first time in the day that the assistant manager had sent out mixed messages.