It’s nothing new to see a club manager criticising the timing of friendly internationals, or even question why they take place at all. Martin O’Neill is clearly seething after bidding his players farewell earlier in the week, only to find one return with a recurrence of an Achilles injury that could threaten Aston Villa’s chances of Champions League football next term.
Let’s just say that Fabio Capello isn’t on the Northern Irishman’s Christmas card list after playing Emile Heskey for 45 minutes against Spain on Wednesday. Although the striker was withdrawn just after the interval, Setanta reports that O’Neill is unhappy that the former Liverpool and Wigan forward featured at all against Spain.
“Luke Young went away and came back because of his sore toe and we thought the same might also apply to Emile. As it turns out, it didn’t and he played the game.
“Now he is very, very sore from the same injury he had against Blackburn. I am perturbed, surprised and disappointed.
“It’s a problem for us now because he is touch and go for the game on Sunday. In my opinion, he shouldn’t have played in the game.
“Generally speaking, I can understand the situation for an international manager wanting to try some players out. But from a club point of view it’s particularly hopeless – and always has been. The friendlies from a club perspective are an absolute waste of time.”
You can understand the Aston Villa manager’s frustration, especially as the club enter a critical point in the season, with cup games coming up against Everton and CSKA Moscow. Are supporters equally as angry that their season is being jeopardised by an ill-timed friendly?