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Wednesday 18 October 2017

John Giles: Release rules are there for a reason

All international call-ups should check in and have a full medical exam

James mcCarthy
James mcCarthy

WHEN I read Roberto Martinez's comments about James McCarthy and Séamus Coleman's injury problems last week, my mind went back to the days when Ireland had to go cap in hand to clubs in England to get players released.

It was hand to mouth and often as not, Ireland lost the argument when it came to a fight with a club about a particular player.

From my own time in the Ireland job I can remember how hard it was. A club with two Irish payers might offer to release one or none - take it leave it.

Now, there are rules and the first one which all international managers should swear by is the requirement that a club claiming an injury for a player must release him to the national association's medical team for a check-up.

If the injury is very obvious and a few scans sent by courier or, these days, digitally confirm it, there is no need for anyone to travel but the onus is on the club to provide the correct medical evidence.

I'm confused about Coleman and McCarthy and mostly because of the things Martinez has been saying. It's not the first time he's managed to muddy the waters where Ireland is concerned.

I know that neither of them played against Manchester United, the most recent Premier League outing for Everton but from what I've heard, McCarthy, at least, could be right in time to play Germany on Tuesday.

I note that Martin O'Neill did say that both players have injuries and in McCarthy's case, it's a hamstring issue.

But I also remember what Martinez said. Asked about both players absence from the squad which travelled to Russia, he suggsted that the McCarthy was minor and that they had a chance to play against Manchester United. Before that, however, he expressed the hope that he could use the international break to help them clear up their knocks.

Around the same time as Martinez was putting in a provisional ball for, arguably, Ireland two most important players, Brendan Rodgers told Roy Hogdson to forget about Daniel Sturridge whether he is fit or not to play for England.

It amazed me to see Hodgson's response which was a clear attempt to be diplomatic and avoid conflict. No Sturridge in his squad.

I find this outrageous. I don't know what happened to Sturridge when he was away with England last and there appears to be two different versions of events. I do know that no club manager should be allowed to tell the international manager who he can pick and who he cannot pick.

The rule is there. Sturridge should have been named in the squad and then brought to England's training camp for a medical assessment and it doesn't matter what Rodgers thinks about that one way or the other.

The whole point of making the rule in the first place was to remove this very pressure from the shoulders of internationals managers.

Many international bosses find themselves dipping into the same pool they worked in as club managers for players and dealing with the same people but from a very different perspective.

They understand why club managers try everything they can to make sure they get the best out of the players they are paying big salaries to and O'Neill has admitted that he had that mindset himself when he was in a daily job.

So there is a natural reticence about causing a row with a big club or even a small club.

That's the reason for the rule. It takes the responsibility away from the manager and gives it to the national association.

O'Neill, if he wanted to, could ask for both Coleman and McCarthy to come in and have a full check-up but the asking would be done by the FAI and not him.

That's as it should be. Back in my day, the clubs didn't have to release anyone and it was a haggle every time a game came around. The biggest pressure was applied to the players and they were put in an impossible position.

The English FA realised that this wasn't working for them either even though they, essentially, owned the players and eventually, the football authorities came up with the right set of rules and insisted that players are released for international duty. The extra layer of protection was the medical assessment.

Giovanni Trapattoni, who had no relationship with English football at all and didn't care about club managers never hesitated in demanding that players should turn up in Dublin to be checked.

In fact, it was this very thing which brought Martinez into conflict with him and the FAI over McCarthy before.

Trapattoni took a principled stand and although his motivation often became lost in big headlines and loose talk, he was right to do it.

It could well be that Martin O'Neill is playing a careful game on this one and that before the weekend is out, he may get some good news about one of the Everton lads.

But I don't believe that there is a game to play here at all. Do what Trapattoni did and insist that rule is followed.

Every player comes to Dublin before a game and if he needs one, has a medical check. Based on that and further consultation with the club doctors, a decision is taken.

That's the obvious and common sense way to do this.

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