Stephen Robinson uses Fifa rule to strengthen side
Stephen Robinson has used Fifa regulations to help ensure that his Northern Ireland under-21 side is fully prepared for Friday afternoon's European Championship qualifier against Belgium at Mourneview Park.
Seven members of the 21-man squad were wanted by their League One and League Two clubs for matches in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy last night, but Robinson stepped in and insisted that they flew to Belfast instead.
Oldham pair Kirk Millar and Carl Winchester, Greg Tempest of Notts County, Southend United's Adam Thompson, Johnny Gorman, who is now playing for Leyton Orient and Ryan Brobbell and Josh Carson, who are with former international boss Nigel Worthington at York City, would all have been left facing three games in eight days, with a trip to Serbia to come next Tuesday. Robinson, however, has envoked the five-day rule, which prevents players from turning out for their clubs prior to international fixtures.
"It is good for us that our players are getting first-team experience at their clubs and that can only help them," said Robinson.
"We had been affected by some players playing in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, but we put the Fifa five-day rule in place and got all the players released.
"Anyone pulling out of the squad won't be able to play for their clubs in the next two games either and while we don't want to be at loggerheads with clubs the importance of international football has to be recognised."
Bristol Rovers midfielder Seanan Clucas is in-line to take his total of under-21 caps into double figures in Friday's game after overcoming a long-term injury.
The Dungannon-born 20-year-old has only just returned to action with his club, but Robinson was keen to have him in the squad given his previous experience.
"Seanan Clucas has been out for nine months with injury, but he is back in at Bristol Rovers and he will add something to our squad," said Robinson.
"He has first-team experience and we are looking to others with league games under their belt, like Josh Carson, Adam Thompson, Rory McKeown and Ryan Brobbell our leaders and help the younger lads in the squad who are still eligible in the next campaign.
"We played very well out in Belgium and were very disappointed not to get something out of the game. We had more shots than they did, but they were clinical in taking their chance when it came and they also have players in their squad who are valued at £20m."
NORTHERN IRELAND under-21 squad: Ross Glendinning (Linfield), Connor Brennan (Kilmarnock), Luke McCullough (Doncaster Rovers), Rhys Sharpe (Derby County), Adam Thompson (Southend United – on-loan), Rory McKeown (Kilmarnock), Jamie Sendles-White (QPR), Liam Donnelly (Fulham – suspended for Belgium game), Carl Winchester (Oldham Athletic), Josh Carson (York City), David Morgan (Nottingham Forest), Greg Tempest (Notts County), Kirk Millar (Oldham Athletic), Ryan Brobbell (York City – on-loan), Jonny Gorman (Leyton Orient), Paul McElroy (Hull City), Seanan Clucas (Bristol Rovers), Shay McCartan (Burnley), James Gray (Accrington Stanley), Jamie Reid (Exeter City), Michael Duffy (Derry City).