Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has delivered a scathing response to Everton boss Ronald Koeman over an injury to James McCarthy as the war of words between the two managers escalates.
In what is becoming a tit-for-tat row between the Ireland and Everton managers, O’Neill called Koeman a “master tactician of the blame game” in a statement this evening.
The Everton manager has accused his Irish counterpart O’Neill of “not protecting” McCarthy after the player returned to his club with a hamstring injury from international duty.
After going into the international break having missed Everton’s last two games because of a hamstring complaint, McCarthy was named in Ireland’s starting line-up for their World Cup qualifier against Wales last Friday, only to then be forced to withdraw having pulled up just before kick-off.
Earlier today Koeman read out a prepared statement about the injury in which he criticised the way O’Neill handled McCarthy’s injury.
“James had an injury when he reported for Ireland duty last week.
“Our medical team made the Ireland medical team aware of this, of course. Everton’s medical team advised extreme caution, not only due to the current injury but due to previous injuries too, and the assessment by the Ireland medical team was that it would be a high risk for James to play against Wales.
“But, of course, James has a strong desire to play for his country. So, when asked if he was fit to play, he said he felt he was fit, and he was selected to start the game by the Ireland manager who, in my opinion, in this instance was not protecting the player.
“Clearly James was not fit to play. He had trained only for two days with Ireland and he broke down during the warming up.
“He played only one game from the start in 2017, and he did not play for three weeks before the Wales game.
“In my opinion, he would need at least one full week of training sessions with the team to be declared fit.
“I spoke to James, and he needs to take responsibility of this. But it is not the first time.”
Tonight the Irish boss has responded in kind.
In a statement released on the FAI website, O’Neill pulled no punches and blamed McCarthy’s injury problems on Everton’s pre-season programme and hinted that Koeman was ‘overloading’ the player.
The statement read: “Once again the Everton manager, master tactician of the blame game, has struck out in his comments today, criticising both myself and James McCarthy.
“Perhaps a review of Everton’s pre-season programme might provide some enlightenment.
“James had a magnificent tournament for the Republic of Ireland last summer during UEFA EURO 2016, playing his last game in very late June.
“He then returned to Everton after a very short break, but only 11 days later, he played his first of three games, all within an eight-day period, against Real Betis, Manchester United and Espanyol. Overloading?
“It should be added that James last played for his country on the October 9, 2016 – almost half a year ago. Since that time he has been totally under Everton’s supervision.
“James is diligent and conscientious in his professional preparation.
“Perhaps, in this instance, quiet introspection may serve the Everton manager and his medical staff better.”