Early Doors

Giovanni Trap O’Toni

Early Doors

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Early Doors loves nothing more than an unfounded rumour, and has already ordered its 'Giovanni Trap O'Toni' t-shirt.

The legendary manager is now the unlikely favourite to take over as Republic of Ireland boss following a bombshell from Sky's all-powerful little yellow news ticker.

Citing mysterious 'Sky Sports News sources' (were these the same sources that said Arsenal were about to buy Jonathan Woodgate?), the ticker said Trap was the front-runner to replace Steve 'Steven' Staunton.

Almost immediately, the Italian's odds plummeted from 150/1 to around 7/4, despite there being no indication that he wants the job or can speak English. Mind you, he is fluent in German and most Germans are brilliant at English.

The Trapattoni link was, apparently, news to the FAI, who are old-fashioned - some would say unenlightened - fellows who think the national team boss really ought to be able to communicate with the players.

Trap might not have the language skills, but he does have a birthday on March 17th - St Patrick's Day - meaning he celebrates the passing of each year by downing pints of lager with green dye in it and donning a Guinness-branded foam shamrock hat. And it doesn't get any more Irish than that.

More good news for lazy stereotypes is that he is a devout Catholic who brings plastic bottles of holy water to the bench with him at matches. One man's isotonic drink is another man's religious sacrament...

Trapattoni's sister is a nun and - if more help were needed - he has a direct line to the big man upstairs as a personal acquaintance of Pope Benedict XVI.

But for all the indications that Trap's sides might get the rub of the green, his spell in charge of Italy was characterised by anything but good fortune.

The Azzurri crashed out of the 2002 World Cup with a spectacularly unlucky defeat to South Korea, and two years later went out of Euro 2004 in the group stage after Sweden and Denmark's 2-2 draw rendered Italy's win over Bulgaria irrelevant.

Early Doors was reminded of that convenient Scandinavian stalemate while watching Ivory Coast wallop Mali at the African Cup of Nations yesterday.

A draw would have seen both sides go through but the Ivorians tonked them anyway, helping Nigeria sneak through.

Earlier, Namibia said they rejected offers to throw their match against Guinea and ended up with a draw.

Benin's coach claimed he was offered a bung to lose to Nigeria and, although the Squirrels were defeated, Early Doors suspects this was down to their lack of football ability rather than anything more sinister.

So Early Doors says fair play to the African nations for playing the game - something to think about the next time two Champions League sides grind out a mutually beneficial nil-nil.

Here endeth the lesson.

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During his first spell at Newcastle, Kevin Keegan's motto was "you score three, we'll score four" - second time around he is already halfway there.

Another 3-0 reverse has prompted Early Doors to dig out its chalkboard and give Kevin and Dennis a few tips to help turn the Toon around.

What is striking - and a profound source of regret to anyone with Shay Given in their fantasy team - is just how few saves the Newcastle keeper makes.

The Irishman managed to turn away just one effort at the Emirates while picking the ball out of his net three times.

Given has now conceded 32 goals while repelling 43 shots for a saves-to-goals ratio of 1.34 - meaning nearly every second shot on target ends up in the back of the net.

This ratio is the worst of any current first-choice Premier League keeper. The only man with a worse record, Tottenham and England's Paul Robinson, is now riding the pine after producing just 42 saves for his 33 goals shipped.

Does this mean Given is the worst keeper in the division? Looking at the way Maik Taylor ducked out of the way when Rade Prica scored Sunderland's second last night, probably not.

What it does mean is that the Magpies' defenders are so inept they manage to hand strikers unmissable chances on a weekly basis.

The stats geek's delight of a table below shows all the current Premier League number ones' saves, goals conceded and saves-to-goals ratio. And don't say you never learn anything from Early Doors.

Edwin van der Sar (Manchester United) 38/8 = 4.75
Joe Hart (Manchester City)                 57/13 = 4.38
Manuel Almunia (Arsenal)                    56/15 = 3.73
David James (Portsmouth)                   84/23 = 3.65
Petr Cech (Chelsea)                           43/13 = 3.30
Robert Green (West Ham)                    67/21 = 3.19
Tim Howard (Everton)                         59/20 = 2.95
Maik Taylor (Birmingham)                    68/28 = 2.43
Brad Friedel (Blackburn)                      72/31 = 2.32
Antti Niemi (Fulham)                           71/33 = 2.15
Scott Carson (Aston Villa)                   52/25 = 2.08
Jussi Jaaskelainen (Bolton)                  65/34 = 1.91
Marcus Hahnemann (Reading)              92/49 = 1.88
Jose Reina (Liverpool)                         28/16 = 1.75
Mark Schwarzer (Middlesbrough)          58/35 = 1.66
Craig Gordon (Sunderland)                   61/39 = 1.56
Chris Kirkland (Wigan)                         58/38 = 1.53
Radek Cerny (Tottenham)                    11/7 = 1.57
Stephen Bywater (Derby)                     62/41 = 1.51
Shay Given (Newcastle)                     43/32 = 1.31

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I knew about it. It's not a surprise to me, it might be to other people." That bit where Kevin Keegan appeared to know nothing about the appointment of Dennis Wise? Never happened.

FOREIGN VIEW: With just two days remaining in an underwhelming transfer window, Corriere dello Sport decides to shake thing up a bit by linking Chelsea with a £14m move for Palermo striker Amauri.

COMING UP: Lots more live football this evening, with five Premier League games including Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. First, Egypt and Cameroon look to confirm their progression in the African Cup of Nations.

 

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