Friday 21 October 2016

Big Sam should stay out of our business

Player release has nothing to do with club bosses like Allardyce or McClaren

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce should stay clear of getting involved with Ireland boss Martin O’Neill (pictured) when it comes to player availability
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce should stay clear of getting involved with Ireland boss Martin O’Neill (pictured) when it comes to player availability

There should be no dialogue whatsoever around the availability of international players any more. If there is, it's the fault of the international team manager.

I've watched the build-up to Ireland's play-off against Bosnia and wondered why someone like Sam Allardyce or Steve McClaren felt they were in a position to involve themselves in Martin O'Neill's business.

I know why they made the kind of statements they did about John O'Shea and Rob Elliot but they had no right. Not any more.

This is really very simple. The club manager has no say. The international manager now holds all the cards and Allardyce and McClaren should have been under no illusions about how the FAI and Martin O'Neill would proceed.

The UEFA rule which makes it a requirement that all players report in, even if it is only for a medical assessment, covers everything.

It takes pressure off the players, the manager and everybody else. Don't doubt that headlines like the ones we've seen surrounding a list of Irish players in the last week impact on the player and the squad.

It is totally unfair for a club manager to use that kind of emotional blackmail, which is exactly what it is.


O'Shea is an experienced lad and can look after himself but younger players might find it harder to resist a manager trying to make them feel guilty for wanting to play for their country.

That's what at the root of all of this in the end. The player is torn and he can't win. I know. I was on both sides of this coin. O'Neill knows and so does Roy Keane.

Remember the play-off second-leg against Iran back in 2001? Alex Ferguson put huge pressure on Mick McCarthy and Keane was placed in a very difficult position.

He made the call that at 2-0, the tie was done but it wasn't really his to make. It should have been Mick McCarthy's decision, in an ideal world, but when someone like Ferguson is on the other end of the phone making demands, it must have been very hard to deal with.

That's the whole point of this UEFA process. It removes doubt and places reposibility for the players on the national associations.

I understand completely why Allardyce would try to do anything to make sure O'Shea doesn't travel.

There's nothing in an international break for a club manager, other than potential disaster. At best, he gets a player back who is tired and has been knocked out of his daily rhythm, perhaps elated but maybe disappointed, even heartbroken.

At worst, he comes home in a cast and he's out for the season.

But the new UEFA rule means that the issue should simply not arise any more and to me, it is up to the international boss to set the tone from the start.

Giovanni Trapattoni had no relationship with England or English managers and it was easy for him to lay down the law, as he did with James McCarthy.

But I suspect he would have done it anyway, even if he had worked in the Premier League. He needed his players and if there was a rule to help him get them, he was happy to use it. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, he was obliged to use it.

The fact that Trapattoni's excellent approach to player release became snarled in a debate about James McCarthy's nationality meant that the Italian didn't get much credit for the way he did his business but he deserved it. It was the textbook way to deal with troublesome and self-centred club managers

Martin O'Neill knows all the managers in England and he has been very clear from the start that he would try to accommodate them but I cannot understand why he should take that path.

It is that very approach which gave Allardyce and McClaren licence to make noise. Club managers cannot be appeased because what they want is the player not to play.

It is the international manager's duty to insist on player release and these are unbridgeable positions.

So why bother. Why engage with club managers at all?

McClaren is a particularly annoying example, given that he was England boss but in the position he is in now, he would sell his soul for anything that will help him save his job.

This was an issue last week when Chris Coleman had a right go at Arsene Wenger over the release of Aaron Ramsey and he was backed up by Roy Hogdson.

But the answer to all of this is to simply invoke the UEFA rule for every game.

Make it the standard practice for all international teams and then managers know that they are wasting their time bleating about injuries, imaginary or otherwise.

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