Roy Keane has told Everton boss Ronald Koeman he is lucky to have James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman after wading into a festering club versus country row.
McCarthy was withdrawn from the Republic of Ireland squad for Saturday’s World Cup qualifier in Austria on Monday night because of a hamstring problem, with Koeman still unhappy that he started both last month’s games against Georgia and Moldova despite only just recovering from groin surgery.
Ireland boss Martin O’Neill delivered a withering response to the Dutchman’s claims when he announced his squad last week, and his assistant Keane was equally scathing when he was asked about the difference of opinion on Tuesday.
Asked if it was important for Ireland to have a good relationship with Everton, he replied: “No, not really, no. Why? Why do we need a good relationship with Everton?
“Listen, they’re lucky to have the Irish lads they’ve got there. Everton traditionally have always had brilliant Irish players doing well for the football club, so they shouldn’t be so quick to stop Irish players coming to play for Ireland.
“I have experienced that myself. I can understand it a little bit, but if a player is fit to travel and feels he can play the game particularly in a qualifying game – I think there’s always a bit more understanding when there are friendlies going on – then they should get their heads around that.
“Seamus and James, particularly if you look at Seamus Coleman – what a player he has been for Everton, so why would they try to begrudge Ireland having these players available to us?
“Darron Gibson is Irish and Gibbo misses lots of games for Everton, a hell of a lot of games. He seems to get injured a lot at Everton, so maybe they need to look at their own training schedule.
“Koeman opinions, there are no issues with me. I couldn’t care less, to be honest with you.”
Koeman claimed Ireland were “massively overloading” McCarthy, who suffered his latest injury in training with Everton, and was accused of “bleating” by O’Neill in response.
There is history between the two parties – the Ireland camp were less than happy with Koeman’s predecessor Roberto Martinez’s attitude to players carrying knocks, and Keane aimed another blow.
He said: “We have had a problem previously with Martinez – I think he was slightly over the top. Every time, we felt, the Everton players were turning up – and this is not a criticism of the players, this is more from Everton and their staff – they were always carrying knocks.
“I always felt the Everton players were going to turn up on crutches or crawling in the hotel door, and now it looks like we are probably going to have that issue again with Koeman. I hope not.
“Everton as a football club – I’m not sure when was the last time they won a trophy, I think it was a good number of years ago. Maybe overloading players and players playing lots of games is a good thing. That means your club has been successful and lads are playing week in, week out, playing midweek games.
“But Everton, they don’t play European football, I think they’re out of the League Cup – I think Norwich beat them at Goodison. Maybe Everton as a club need to – and it’s a brilliant football club – maybe their players need to toughen up a little bit.”
O’Neill and Keane worked with their players for the first time at a rain-swept Abbotstown on Tuesday morning ahead of Saturday’s game at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna.
Colorado Rapids striker Kevin Doyle was rested after his late arrival and Sunderland defender John O’Shea, who has been nursing a hamstring injury, was due to arrive later in the day.
West Brom winger James McClean was also absent after undergoing a scan on a back problem and he is being assessed, while Leeds midfielder Eunan O’Kane sat out with a groin injury.