Everton manager Roberto Martinez claims Roy Keane has "an agenda" against the Toffees following his "ridiculous" criticism about the club’s Republic of Ireland contingent.
Assistant Ireland boss Keane suggested Everton exaggerate the extent of injuries carried by James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman to prevent them joining up for international duty.
Keane said earlier this week that Everton often give the impression “James and Seamus are both barely able to walk”.
But Martinez hit back and accused Keane of a being disrespectful to Everton and reckons there is another reason behind the ex-Manchester United midfielder’s attack on Toffees.
“I think we have a relationship with a lot of people and if you want to speak about anything, you just contact the person,” Martinez said. “Here, that hasn’t been the case. Everything is through the media. I’m sure there is an agenda. I’m sure there is something behind it. If there is an issue, it should be treated with respect and privately to try to get to the bottom of it.
“To come out and make things public could put some of the Irish fans thinking that the players don’t want to play or that Everton have stopped some players from playing. That’s nonsense. That’s ridiculous.”
As a player Keane was famously involved in the Saipan incident which saw him have a bust-up with the then Ireland boss Mick McCarthy before the 2002 World Cup and leave the squad. Martinez refused to directly cite that incident or name Keane, but between the lines, the Spaniard appeared to infer that Keane’s attack on Everton is somewhat hypocritical.
“Everyone has a past, you can look into it,” Martinez said, half cryptically. “Does that person do it as an ex-player? Does he do it as a fan? Does he do it in his position? I don’t know the agenda that that person has behind that.
“Because if the two managers talk, it doesn’t make much sense for him to do it because of his position. As an ex-player, we all know what happened. Our players are desperate to play for their country and it’s wrong and unfair to suggest the players could be having second thoughts about representing their country.”
Martinez believes relations between Goodison Park and the FAI, and specifically boss Martin O’Neill, remain cordial.
And the Spaniard insists that the manner in which the players are medically assessed means that there are no grey areas concerning their fitness.
“Our relationship with the Republic of Ireland is very good,” Martinez added.
“My relationship is with Martin O’Neill and our contact is frequent. We share information and that’s how it’s going to carry on. We are in an age in football in which when injuries happen players get a scan for everything and it’s not a subjective opinion where I think someone is carrying a problem; that’s gone out of the game.
“Now it’s very much down to the medical department and they tell you if someone is carrying an injury or not.
“No-one has mentioned that Seamus Coleman played against Scotland with five stitches in his foot. No-one is mentioning that when everyone is aware of it.
“James picked up a grade one hamstring problem against Sunderland. Normally with these injuries they clear between eight and 10 days but in that period, you are injured. I don’t think it is an issue at all.”
In earlier press interviews yesterday, Martinez added: “A lot has been said — a lot is nonsense. The reality is the conversation between managers of the associations and ourselves has been good and will continue to be.
“The only thing I care about is the players, and we had four players in the Republic of Ireland squad who are incredible characters who just love to play for their country.
“It is disappointing when you see some ‘news’ that could put that in doubt.
“All the fans in the Republic of Ireland and other nations should know these players will give their lives to represent their countries and that is something we are very proud of.
“Seamus, Darron (Gibson), James and Aiden (McGeady) have been extreme professionals and that is something we will carry on seeing.”
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