By Sean Creedon
DUBLIN — Blackburn Rovers manager Gr’me Souness has criticized Irish soccer manager Mick McCarthy for leaving Damien Duff on the pitch for nearly all of the 3-0 victory over Denmark at Lansdowne Road last Wednesday.
“There was absolutely no thought for Damien and no thought for Blackburn,” Souness said. “I was scared to phone up and ask if he could have only 45 minutes. I thought. I’ll just leave it, Mick will see common sense, but he obviously didn’t.
“Damien has got a history of hamstring problems and I hope Mick appreciates we have some hard games coming up. Now I will have to rotate my squad because Damien played 84 minutes of a Mickey Mouse friendly.”
Duff was Man of the Match in Dublin and could have secured a World Cup start ahead of Kevin Kilbane, so he is probably happy. But hard-man Souness afraid to make a phone call? Now I think that’s a bit of a joke. But it’s difficult to keep club and international managers happy at this time of year, mainly because of the pressure on players at club level. All of the Irish players play in England, so when you look at what England boss Sven Goran-Eriksson had to say following last week’s defeat by Italy, you realize the problems McCarthy
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Eriksson was short five regulars against Italy.
“No other country plays so many club games,” he said. “The Italians have a two-week break at Christmas, when England clubs play even more games. And still their season finishes a week before we do. There is always a conflict of interest between clubs and national teams. But if you want a good national team, you have to have players fit and available for friendlies.”
Incidentally, the English FA did ask the clubs to start the League program two weeks earlier than usual, but the request was turned down as Manchester United and Liverpool were both on money-making Far East tours.