herald

Tuesday 24 October 2017

bosses WILL USE break TO SUIT CLUBS

All managers will try and put pressure on a player not to travel and play for their country

I'M sure there were Ireland and England fans who were left scratching their heads when they saw Raheem Sterling, James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman in the pink of health for their clubs over the weekend.

The Club v Country battle has never really gone away and despite UEFA and FIFA's efforts to produce an international calendar designed to accommodate everyone's wishes, we now seem to have a situation in which club managers see the break as a fitness window.

Roberto Martinez (pictured right) said before the players flew off for their various qualifiers across the globe that he would use the two week break to get his players fit, specifically McCarthy and Coleman.

From his point of view, it's a gift from heaven. Before UEFA came up with the week long match day format , he might have had four five days to work with someone carrying an injury. Now he has at least ten days.

It was never intended that the break be used for such a purpose but I can see it becoming a bigger and bigger problem for international managers as each series of games unfolds. Put simply, it was too big a temptation for Martinez to resist.

It was notable that Diego Costa, who Jose Mourinho promised would not be released for international duty, was playing for Spain last week.

To me, that is a perfect example of the player saying 'sorry Gaffer, but I'm going'. Costa is Chelsea' main man and Mourinho didn't want him to go but he wanted to play for his country so he travelled.

From what I've heard and seen, Coleman had a troublesome injury and needed time. Could he have been right for Germany? Perhaps but Martinez had reasonable justification for wanting to give his player as much recovery time as possible, especially when the knock involved a hamstring or groin muscle.

McCarthy is less clear cut and Martinez can only blame himself for that. His assertion that the lad didn't have a "real" injury still hasn't been explained properly.

I know from own career, there were friendly games which I could have played in but I would have simply been perpetuating an existing injury and often making it worse.

I probably could have played in some of those games but it made no sense. Competitive games? Absolutely. You would walk the Irish Sea to play.

But when it was a Wednesday afternoon friendly in the middle of winter and the alternative was three days of needed rest or treatment, it was a bit of a no brainer. Some people would have a problem with that view, I know, but to me it was a balancing act and common sense usually provided the right guidance.

The problem I have with this set of circumstances is that the players themselves, certainly McCarthy and Sterling, seem to be following a script laid out by their managers.

All managers will try it on and apply pressure on a player not to travel if there is any injury scare and even if there is not.

ISSUE

In that scenario, the player must be strong. I wonder if McCarthy had insisted on going to Dublin, would he have been passed fit by Martin O'Neill's medical team?

We'll never know and the afterglow of Germany and the anticipation of an epic in Celtic Park next month means everyone will move on quickly.

But this is difficult issue and I suspect that O'Neill may have to call Martinez out on it before the end of this qualifying campaign.

Personally, I'd like to see McCarthy stand up for himself a bit more. Martinez has huge influence over him in much the same way Brendan Rodgers tries to steer Sterling's life.

Sterling was a key man in Liverpool's comeback against QPR yesterday. He looked completely fit but I do know that at Anfield, they follow a light warm-down regime on the day after a game and then a second day like the first.

Again, I know from my own days that there were times that I felt okay during the 24 hours after a tough game but on the second day, I could hardly get out of bed.

I know that Liverpool follow this formula with Daniel Sturridge but that Roy Hodgson insisted that he needed a full day's training. He shipped an injury and hasn't been seen since.

It looked like he could be available for the huge Champions League tussle with Real Madrid and it is a big blow that he has been ruled out by another knock..

Mario Balotelli hardly lifted a leg and Liverpool were very lucky to take three points away from QPR so I'll be watching the Real Madrid fixture very carefully indeed.

I want to see whether digging out a win in such frantic circumstances at Loftus Road was a bit of a fluke or a sign that Liverpool and Rodgers have again found the depth of spirit which carried them through so much last year and allowed them win games they would have lost a season earlier.

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