Trapattoni welcomed as Lippi feels the Bari blues

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trappatoni was given a rousing welcome on his return to Italy ahead of tonight’s World Cup qualifier in Bari. Trapattoni’s reception was in stark contrast to the one afforded Italy manager Marcello Lippi. The World Cup-winning coach has come under fierce criticism since omitting the revered son of Bari, striker Antonio Cassano, from his squad. Lippi has remained tight-lipped on the subject. “I appreciate people asking about Cassano because he is from Bari, but I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “I’m sure the Bari supporters will be behind Italy.” Former Juventus boss Trappatoni gave Cassano his international debut when he was in charge of the Azzurri, but he also remained pragmatic on the situation. “I called up Cassano because he was a great player,” said Trappatoni. “I advised him like a son and he paid me back. But every coach has to make his own decisions, his own choices.” Protests against Lippi are planned inside the stadium for tonight’s game, prompting mayor Michele Emiliano to request that fans don’t boo Lippi or the team. Italy top the qualifying group and are two points ahead of Ireland, who sit in second place.