Roy Keane has had a little dig at Newcastle United boss Steve McClaren after questioning club managers ruling out injured players for up to a fortnight during international breaks.
Keane, No 2 to Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill, suggested it was “ironic” that players are often conveniently adjudged to be 10-14 days away from a return by their employers when they are due to meet up with their countries.
His comments came as he and O’Neill awaited news on five players, most notably Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot, Sunderland defender John O’Shea and Southampton striker Shane Long, ahead of Ireland’s Euro 2016 play-off against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Keane had no qualms about the clubs’ stances on the respective injuries, but admitted his surprise in general terms about the attitude of clubs to fitness problems.
The former Sunderland and Ipswich manager said: “You ask any of the players who worked under me, I never had a problem with players going away for internationals, never.
“I never ruled them out for 10-14 days every time there was an international match, I know that. If players were fit, they would go away. But if players aren’t fit, you have got to respect the clubs. If the players aren’t fit, then of course they stay at their clubs.
It’s ironic that they all seem to get ruled out for 10-14 days...it’s happened with a few other club managers who have been international managers themselves
“But it’s ironic that they all seem to get ruled out for 10-14 days. And again, not just the managers you have mentioned, it’s happened with a few other club managers who have been international managers themselves.”
That appeared to be reference to McClaren, who was England manager for two years. The Newcastle boss had suggested after the game against Bournemouth, in which Elliot was man of the match, that the goalkeeper wouldn’t link up with Ireland because of a thigh problem.
Keane and O’Neill are waiting on updates on Elliot, O’Shea – who has not played since October 25 because of a hamstring injury – and Long, who had an injection in the foot he damaged in Poland last month on Monday, over the next 48 hours.
However, the assistant manager admitted he had all but ruled out the trio some time ago because of the nature of their injuries.
Keane said: “It’s part of the game. With the injuries we’ve had over the last two or three weeks, I kind of ruled the boys out anyway.
“If they become available in the next day or two, particularly for the second leg, it will be a fantastic bonus because with the injuries they had, they were sore ones.
“The boring answer is that’s just all part of sport, part of football and whatever happens, the lads who start on Friday night will give it everything they’ve got, and that’s all we can hope for.”