O'Neill backs Stokes ahead of assault trial
Martin O'Neill is standing by Celtic striker Anthony Stokes, who is due to appear in court tomorrow week.
The 25-year-old has been accused of assault causing harm and his trial takes place two days before Ireland meet Italy in Craven Cottage. However, O'Neill named Stokes in his squad yesterday for the four games against Turkey, Italy, Costa Rica and Portugal and refuses to believe the saga will impact on his preparations.
"In these circumstances, I use the old maxim that someone is innocent until proved guilty. Secondly, Anthony Stokes also called me to say that hopefully he wouldn't be excluded from the squad because of this. And I said 'absolutely not'."
Of less drama and importance to O'Neill was the decision – taken in conjunction with Everton's manager, Roberto Martinez, to withdraw James McCarthy from his panel.
"He thought it best to leave him out because James didn't have much of a break this season and the start of next season is very important to both us and Everton."