Thursday 22 February 2018

O'Neill/Koeman war of words escalates as Everton boss tells James McCarthy to withdraw from Ireland squad

John Fallon

James McCarthy has been placed in a dilemma by his Everton manager after Ronald Koeman today advised the midfielder to ignore a call-up for Ireland’s World Cup qualifier in Austria on Saturday week.

In the latest twist of an ongoing spat between Koeman and Ireland boss Martin O’Neill, the Dutchman hit back at today’s press conference by claiming McCarthy should do what’s best for his club.

The 26-year-old has been sidelined since featuring as a substitute against Manchester City on 15 October, with Koeman insisting the hamstring injury was attributable to O’Neill “overloading” his player in the preceding international break.

A week earlier, McCarthy has started both of Ireland’s qualifiers against Georgia and Moldova after declaring himself fit, a view shared by O’Neill’s medical team.

Now, Koeman has placed the Glaswegian – whose future under the new manager is already doubtful - in a quandary by allowing him make the call on whether he travels to Dublin on Monday to link up with the Ireland squad.

"James is not fit - he is not involved in team sessions,” said Koeman today.

"We spoke to James. My advice to James is to stay here and train and be fit as soon as possible. But the final decision is with the player.

"We spoke about what is best, what we want and I think finally by himself the player the same likes to play for Everton and to play well for Everton.

“Then of course you get the call for the international team but it starts by playing for Everton.

"I think the player himself learned from what happened last time and how he was overloaded and he got another injury. It's best for everyone for him first to be fit and training with his club. Then you're ready for the national team and not vice versa.

“I think to have a call-up he needs to be close to being fit but it's a little bit the same story with what happened last time.

"It's always difficult because the player is between Ireland and Everton but I think first of all you need to do what is the best for your club," he said.

"If you are ready and fit of course you play for your nation but in his situation he needs to be fit first. If not he will struggle again."

O’Neill, when naming McCarthy in his squad on Wednesday, was adamant his playmaker had a chance of being fit in time for the crunch tie in Vienna.

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