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McCarthy facing 10 weeks on sidelines

ROBERTO MARTINEZ has expressed relief that teenage Irish midfielder James McCarthy will only be out for 8-10 weeks after a challenge he described as "a football crime".

The Wigan star will miss out on the opportunity to impress Giovanni Trapattoni in next month's friendly with Norway due to ankle ligament damage -- sustained when he was tackled by Bolton's Fabrice Muamba in last Saturday's Premier League draw.

Martinez initially feared that the player's right ankle was broken, which would have resulted in a lengthier absence.

However, while he remains angry about the manner in which McCarthy picked up the injury, Martinez is happy that the 19-year-old will miss just a few months of action, believing he can come back even stronger.

"It was an unnecessary challenge," said Wigan boss Martinez yesterday. "It was not malicious, but it was reckless.

"One of the most creative young players in the league is going to be out for up to 10 weeks. That is a football crime.

"It is a little bit better than we thought at first but it is obviously ligament damage in the right ankle. When it is swollen, it is sometimes difficult to assess but there is no fracture, we hope," added Martinez, who is still waiting for the final results of some scans.

He has paid tribute to the consistency of the Glasgow-born midfielder this term, and hopes that he can build up strength in the rest of his body as a result of the setback.

"When I saw him stretchered off, I feared for the worst," he continued. "I think the level of performance from James this season has been so consistent for a young man.

"I know it's a long time off for him now, but we'll use that period to try and refresh him and regenerate his body to work in other areas.

"When he comes back, he'll probably be stronger."

Meanwhile, the FAI have secured the services of another talented youngster, after Belfast-born Paul George declared to play for the Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland had included the Celtic striker in their U-17 squad for European qualifiers this week, but he withdrew after deciding to switch allegiance.

Irish Independent