PREMIER LEAGUE: Sunderland v Arsenal
Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill has criticised international managers who encourage their players to change clubs — effectively placing Giovanni Trapattoni in his line of fire.
That’s despite O’Neill diplomatically allowing that the Italian’s recent comments about Keiren Westwood — when the Ireland manager revealed he’d advised the goalkeeper that a change of club would be good for his international career — might have been “lost in translation”.
In fact, speaking to the Irish media, Trapattoni had mentioned his recommendation to Westwood in the context of explaining his decision to replace him with David Forde as Ireland’s No 1, which the manager said he did on the grounds that the Galwegian netminder was getting regular football with Millwall.
By contrast, Westwood, previously regarded as the successor to Shay Given in the Ireland goal, has found himself relegated to the bench at the Stadium of Light.
“An international manager wants every player to be playing in the team but it is the prerogative of the club manager to pick who he wants,” said O’Neill. “Maybe things were lost in translation and I don’t even say it was Mr Trapattoni who said this, but you can’t tell players they should be leaving clubs just to get international games.”
O’Neill went on to deny that Westwood has asked to leave Sunderland for good.
“Certainly his [Westwood’s] agent was asking about him going out on loan but the teams that wanted him, wanted him not just for the month but for a sizeable time, and we have only one other keeper,” said the manager.
“While it is unfortunate for Keiren at the moment, he would admit that Simon Mignolet is playing brilliantly for us and he wants to continue that. From that viewpoint, it was news to me he wanted to leave permanently. It is something at the end of the season we can have a look at.”
Meanwhile, it has emerged that James McClean is a major doubt for the Black Cats against Arsenal today after the winger had to receive treatment on an ankle injury he shipped in the first half of Ireland’s game against Poland on Wednesday night.
However, O’Neill was not holding anyone culpable for the fact that McClean continued playing well into the second half in Dublin.
“I don’t think he complained about the injury so no blame attached,” he said.
“He played 80 minutes and only after did the ankle start to really swell.”
Asked if McClean was maturing, O’Neill quipped: “No, he has gone back on Twitter, even against the advice of the club. But as long as he doesn’t start to talk about the football club and use derogatory comments, then fine, and as long as he doesn’t swear. These are the things I would take exception to. You might say it is the kettle calling the pot black, I know. I am not so sure what we can do. Has he learned? We will see.”
And in response to a further question about the former Derry City man, which referenced Ian Harte’s Twitter attack on Trapattoni, the Sunderland manager raised laughter when he said: “Do I expect to get a tweet calling me a clown? I wouldn’t be surprised. I dare him to do it.”
For his part, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has warned Jack Wilshere runs the risk of burnout if his duties for both club and country are not carefully managed in the years ahead.
Wilshere, 21, returned from more than a year out injured in October but is already being heralded as an integral part of England’s future following his man-of-the-match display in the 2-1 win over Brazil at Wembley on Wednesday night.
Wenger knows the progress of the combative midfielder must be carefully handled if both Arsenal and England are to see the best of the player over the long term.
“It is not just the physical aspect, but the mental pressure every time he plays. We will have to manage him well physically to make sure he doesn’t face that burnout,” Wenger said.
“He will have to be managed like everyone else.
“Let’s not forget that he is only 21 now, and he starts his career really because he was out for 17 months.”
Picture: HAND SIGNALS: Keiren Westwood has been relegated to the bench at the Stadium of Light, while his Ireland team-mate David Forde is playing regularly with Millwall. Picture: INPHO
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