Sport Soccer

Sunday 25 February 2018

Lay off McCarthy, urges Wigan team-mate

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

JAMES McCarthy's close friend and Wigan team-mate James McArthur has again urged the Irish camp to stop criticising the 20-year-old for his absence this week and appreciate how lucky they are to have him.

The manner in which the talented midfielder's unavailability was communicated has caused consternation, with Giovanni Trapattoni and Robbie Keane among those doubting the commitment of a number of absentees, including McCarthy.

However, McArthur -- who also came through the ranks at Hamilton with McCarthy -- has mounted a strong defence and admitted that he had tried extremely hard to change his pal's mind about opting for Ireland over Scotland.

"I don't want to say too much about Trapattoni because he's a great manager, but James has had a traumatic injury," said McArthur, in relation to the ankle problem that sidelined McCarthy for three months during the season; Wigan say he aggravated it last weekend and a rest is required.

"He still gets wee niggles and went for a scan and it showed some damage on the ligament.

"So I think it's very unfair for such a young boy to get so much criticism when he does have an injury. There's so much pressure put on him.

"James has committed himself to Ireland and they just need to give him space. They're lucky to have him. Scotland did everything they could to get him."

Indeed, McArthur was central to the recruitment strategy, along with another club colleague.

"Gary Caldwell and I tried to get him to change his mind before he played his first competitive game (in March). We made a lot of phone calls, but I don't think there was ever any doubt that he was going to stay with Ireland," he said. "To be fair, they were very good to him, looked after his family and gave him his chance as a teenager. We were gutted that he didn't choose Scotland, but, as a friend, I didn't want to put too much pressure on him.

"I told him that he'd love being with Scotland and that there were quite a few guys he knows in the squad. It's sad that he won't be playing for us -- I'm devastated, to be honest -- but it gives me a better opportunity to get a game!"

Irish Independent

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