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Saturday 19 August 2017

Martinez minds his own business

Everton boss believes his own needs are more important than Ireland's

Roberto Martinez, pictured, was not impressed with the standard of Kevin Friend's refereeing at Old Trafford
Roberto Martinez, pictured, was not impressed with the standard of Kevin Friend's refereeing at Old Trafford

SO when is an injury 'real' and when is it not? Roberto Martinez should excuse the healthy dose of doubt about the nature of Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy's sick notes. After all, he has previous in this area.

When Martinez first fell out with Giovanni Trapattoni back in 2010, it was easy to grant him grace. The Italian was truculent, petulant and had little or no understanding of the sensibilities he was playing around with when he questioned McCarthy's loyalty to Ireland

It was much easier to accept Martinez's urbane and thoughtful explanations of injuries and tiredness when the comparison to be made was with a rabidly eccentric old Italian who sometimes remembered where he was and spoke the right language but sometimes did not.

However, Trapattoni was doggedly insistent that McCarthy had an issue about playing for Ireland and as the story unfolded over a couple of summers and many missed friendly games, doubts arose and these were seized upon by Martinez.

His entry into the debate about McCarthy's roots was disgraceful and completely inappropriate.

FANTASTIC

"I do not know if it is a decision for him to make now or not. We need to give him plenty of time. We need to respect him. He wants to help Wigan. For me that is fantastic. It is something he needs to think about with his family, with his friends. It is something very, very deep," said Martinez when quizzed about McCarthy's international allegiance and possibility that Scotland might still be an option.

Those words came in early February 2011 and were complete nonsense. They worried the FAI enough to tell Trapattoni to go and make peace with McCarthy but the major fault lay with Martinez.

There was never any question about McCarthy's loyalty. Martinez was manager of Wigan, knew how talented his player was and didn't want him playing any football which didn't involve Wigan.

Time healed the wound to some degree and McCarthy's involvement with Ireland has blossomed and grown in the last few years to the point where his absence is perceived as a bit of a disaster, with the World Champions on the menu next week.

But Martinez stepped back into the spotlight back in May when he told us again that McCarthy was tired and didn't need a clutch of international friendlies to be worrying about.

To be fair, those games were a big reach for someone at the scrag end of a very long season but at every opportunity and almost every international break, Martinez pops up like a bad penny with more bad news about one of his Irish players.

This has already been a quite remarkable run-in to the international break. Brendan Rodgers effectively told England boss Roy Hodgson to forget about Daniel Sturridge whether he was injured or not.

Okay, Rodgers seems to have some reason to feel aggrieved with the way England managed Sturridge during the last international break but his attitude to England's Euro 2016 campaign was, to say the least, dismissive.

Equally Martinez, who told us late last week that he would use the break to help both Coleman and McCarthy get over what he seemed fairly certain at the time were minor injuries.

Everton and Martinez are required to release players to the care of the national association medical team, even if they are injured, a point Trapattoni insisted on because he believed McCarthy and others were hiding behind their club doctors.

We will see over the next few days how this plays out and whether Martin O'Neill insists that his men turn up in Dublin for a full medical assessment.

There is one important point to be made here which, with hindsight, Trapattoni appeared to be focusing on.

What does James McCarthy want to do? In the past, he seemed happy to take a lead from Martinez who he must now have a very close relationship with indeed. It suited him but brought him into conflict with Trapattoni and indeed the FAI.

There was a time when players like Liam Brady, Frank Stapleton and more recently Robbie Keane had clauses in their contract which insisted that they be released for Ireland no matter what.

Clearly, Martinez was never going to leave both McCarthy and Coleman out for a huge game like a visit to Old Trafford if he could get them on the pitch so there is some problem.

But there is the sense that while the timing might not have been right to get them into boots for Old Trafford, McCarthy at least , should be fit to play against Germany and that Martinez is playing games with Ireland Euro 2016 future.

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