Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Martin O'Neill: Premier League managers oppose winter World Cup due to selfishness

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill believes Premier League managers will always be principally opposed to the idea of a winter World Cup due to "selfishness".

After concerns were raised by various national associations, FIFA president Sepp Blatter is now considering bringing the 2022 tournament in Qatar forward by several months to avoid subjecting players and fans to searing summer temperatures.

Former Celtic, Aston Villa and Sunderland manager O'Neill, who remains out of work after leaving Wearside in March, may not be coaching in the English top flight in nine years time but he can sympathise with the bosses who would expect to lose their players for two months of the 2021-22 season.

O'Neill knows from bitter experience how managers can end up paying the price for allowing stars to leave their clubs on international duty during the domestic calendar, with the Northern Irishman reflecting on the circumstances which led to striker Steven Fletcher becoming unavailable for the last few games of his unhappy tenure at the Stadium of Light.

Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live, O'Neill said: "In truth, you have to admit there's a great deal of selfishness about it.

"As a Premiership manager, your only concern is your team and while it's great to see the national team doing well, in truth, it's not going to help you a great deal.

"For what it's worth, in my last few games at Sunderland we had our centre-forward Fletcher go off to Scotland and we never saw him again because he got injured playing for Scotland.

"It causes you plenty of problems so in essence there's a selfishness attached to it and you have to concern yourself with your team.

"It's great if England do very well, but then you're out of a job simply because you've paid some sort of attention to the national outlook."

O'Neill, 61, also threw his support behind the introduction of a foreign player quota in the Barclays Premier League, following comments from Football Association chairman Greg Dyke, who last week bemoaned the "frightening trend" of the reduction in the number of England-qualified players working in the top flight.

England manager Roy Hodgson recently opted to suffer multiple withdrawals from his squad to face Moldova and Ukraine in vital World Cup qualifiers, rather than call up replacements, and O'Neill believes that decision was due to a lack of "quality" alternatives.

The former Leicester and Wycombe boss said: "It has become a very big issue.

"If you are talking about statistics then Greg Dyke made the point that somewhere in the region of 30 per cent of players starting in matches are English, whereas the Spanish league - being equally as good - has a percentage of somewhere between 75 and 80 per cent [of Spanish players].

"If you just deal on statistics alone that's going to give you a better chance and you're going to have more to choose from.

"There have been times when Roy Hodgson has been missing five or six key players and hasn't been able to replace them with the quality that he would want.

"That has become an issue and that is where Dyke is making his point."

ends

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