Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson has called on the authorities to help sides like his out if they’ve had a number of players involved in international fixtures.
It was a great week for the Steelmen’s representatives on the national scene. Captain Declan Gallagher and Stephen O’Donnell shone for Scotland, Trevor Carson made his first Northern Ireland appearance in 23 months whilst Barry Maguire and Allan Campbell featured for Scotland U21s.
But it was a testing week for these men, particularly Gallagher and O’Donnell. They played just about every minute as Steve Clarke’s side took on a grueling three matches in six days, the last of which came on Wednesday.
Carson also featured on Wednesday for Northern Ireland, leaving those players very little recovery time for Saturday’s Premiership fixture with St Mirren. Robinson reckons his players and others need support, O’Donnell now a ‘concern’ ahead of the Buddies clash.
“It’s credit to the boys to have so many players involved at international level,” said Robinson. “We get feedback and it’s that they are a credit to the football club, the staff and themselves.
“They got what they deserved. I’m delighted for both countries, Scotland and Northern Ireland now one game away from Euro 2020. So there’s a lot of positivity around the place.
“We’re looking forward to getting back, it’s been a long three weeks with the Kilmarnock game being cancelled. What we have to weigh up now is the boys coming back, playing three games in six days.
“Declan will be fine because of the position he plays, there’s not loads of running. Stephen is a concern for me because of the amount of minutes he’s had and that’s not a criticism of anyone. That’s just the way the football world is at the minute.
“But maybe the authorities could give us an extra day to allow those international boys to recover. Why are we not playing on a Sunday to give them an extra day? We did that with Scotland, getting games on a Friday to give them an extra chance.
“You would hope that is replicated on the next occasion in November as we are all learning as we go. I’m delighted for the boys but it’s a decision of whether they can go again for us on Saturday.”
A helping hand
It’s a tough predicament for Robinson but he’s not willing to tell his players not to go on international duty. As a former Northern Ireland coach himself, he sees both sides of the story.
“I understand from an international manager’s point of view you have to put your best players out,” said Robinson. “I think Declan and Stephen were two of the four players to have started every game.
“You’ll have no complaints from me. It’s the pinnacle of their careers playing for their countries. Perhaps we need a bit more help from the authorities, which would be great.
“If we move the game for 24 hours we give everyone a bit more breathing space and time to recover. This is new, it’s not a criticism, we’re living with a pandemic. Maybe in November we can look at that.”
There’s also some unfortunate news injury-wise for Robinson. After returning from a training camp with Uganda, in-form centre-back Bevis Mugabi dislocated his shoulder in training.
It’s a blow for Motherwell and Robinson to lose Mugabi for four to six weeks, the international defender in good form this term: “Bevis got injured in training. He got injured when he came back.
“He just seems to be unfortunate that when he gets a run of games, he suffers an injury. He’s been brilliant for us this season.
“It’s an unfortunate one and one that people will have to step up and replace him.”