Everton chairman Bill Kenwright has hit back at Roy Keane for “saying some stupid things” following the Republic of Ireland assistant’s comments about Toffees boss Roberto Martinez over the management of his international players.
Keane took Martinez to task over his handling of injuries to key Ireland players Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy, who both missed last month’s qualifiers with McCarthy also sitting out this time around after reporting with a hamstring problem.
Keane said: ”You always get the impression from Everton that Seamus and James are both barely able to walk, that type of thing. So when they actually turn up and they are walking through the reception, ’Praise the Lord, it’s a miracle’.”
Responding to that, Kenwright told Sky Sports News HQ: “I’m a big fan of Roy Keane’s but he does say some stupid things.
“That is just totally totally unfair, we absolutely love our players going on international duty and we never ever get in the way of them and Roberto Martinez will be as shocked as everyone at Everton.”
Keane and Republic manager Martin O'Neill are hoping Everton trio Coleman, McCarthy and Darron Gibson can help them qualify for Euro 2016.
Midfielder McCarthy has missed the last three qualifiers through injury, though, including Friday’s loss to Scotland, while Coleman also missed last month’s draw with Germany.
Coleman and McCarthy both played for Everton four days after the clash with the world champions and Keane, concerned that pressure may be being put on players by their clubs, has called for talks between the Republic and Everton coaching staffs.
Keane added: “’I worry that he (McCarthy) is under lots of pressure, particularly from Everton’s point of view.
”Because every time there is an international match it does seem to be Seamus and James under lots of pressure. They’re turning up or they mightn’t turn up, or they’re struggling.“
Everton have Europa League commitments this season and Keane knows of the difficulties of staying fresh from his own career, but he hopes Martinez understands the importance of international football.
”There has to be, I think, some sort of sit-down conversation and say, ’listen, I think Martin’s been more than good enough here, particularly the friendlies but these are big qualifying matches now’,“ the former Manchester United midfielder said.
”Roberto Martinez has to look after his club and he is probably thinking they have European games. Roberto, I don’t think, has ever played senior level at international level and maybe he doesn’t appreciate how big it is for us and how big the games are for us.
”We talk about the manager here and the manager there but there’s a player in between all that, and I can speak from experience, he’s under lots of pressure too. There is a guarantee that when the player turns up (for internationals) they are getting phone calls left, right and centre from their 15 physios at the club.
”You’re also hoping the player can make the decision and say, ’I’ll give it a go’ or whatever it might be’.”
However, Republic boss O'Neill was more conciliatory as he was forced to plunge himself into yet another Keane controversy at his pre-match press conference ahead of Tuesday night's friendly against the United States.
Asked about the comments of both his assistant and Kenwright, O’Neill said: “Well first of all, I haven’t picked up on Roy’s comments. I don’t follow him around. I haven’t had the chance to read what he has said.
“From my own perspective, regardless of what Roy has said, I think the situation was this: way back, let me put it this way, the two lads were not fit for the game against Gibraltar and Germany, and obviously played [for Everton] a couple of days later. That is understandable.
“I had spoken to Seamus and Seamus just wasn’t right. I didn’t speak to James at the time, but there was a thought that he might have played against Manchester United then, but didn’t do so.
“I hadn’t really a problem with that at all, it was just that this particular time, James does have a muscle injury. He came here, he was wanting to try it and really wanted to give it a go.
“We always thought that time would be against us and I think he will be perfectly all right to play at the weekend for his club, and really there isn’t much more I can say about it.”
Asked further if he would now look at Keane’s comments, O’Neill said: “It is not my job to read the newspapers every single morning, it’s not, honestly. I have other things to do at this minute.
“I’m not saying they are more important, but they are issues I have to address. I might get a chance to go down and find out what was said on both sides, and then I will take a view.”