Stayaway international stars sometimes fake it
It is time for another international break, with the Premier League and Championship teams not having a game for two weeks. Us club physios relish this time as it allows the staff to get some well-earned days off and try to clear out the medical room without anyone getting injured during matches.
The relationship between club medical teams and the national team varies enormously. The league’s home nation, England, are all over us in the days leading up to an international period, with regular texts and forms to fill in asking if their players are fully fit or carrying minor issues. Other national squads have no communication with us whatsoever. This always surprises me as much as it pleases me.
Other sports, such as rugby union, have superb club-country relationships. Not only do they regularly communicate throughout the entire season as to their players’ well-being but they are highly respected, clinically excellent medics who get actively involved in their care, spending time at the club offering their expertise. Many football national medics just do not have this quality and respect.
Ironically, it is quite common that selected players don’t want to go on international duty, anyway. During the last break in September, one of our players (a high profile one at that) faked an injury towards the end of the previous league game and came off. By exaggerating the pain he was experiencing, he avoided being involved with his national squad. You may have suspected this happens, but it genuinely does!
Even when the player is asked to attend the initial meeting for assessment, the medics have so little information, as the national team haven’t liaised with the club, and they are not clinically proficient enough to see that the injury is not significant. So the player is sent back home, as was the case in this situation.
These are usually players who would definitely be selected in the nation’s starting XI and not playing minor friendlies or unimportant qualifiers does not affect their future selection. Unfortunately, some players are treated much more leniently than others – they seem to be able to pick and choose when they want to play! To a proud member of any given nation, I accept this is hard to take, but footballers in my experience do not.
It becomes a decision between spending ten days in an hotel anywhere in the world, with facilities frequently far inferior to what they are used to at the higher level in this country, or having five or six days off with their families.
But I wouldn’t want to pigeon hole all players, national pride and respect for ones country is still prevalent. To some players, the international period may be an inconvenience but to others, it is an opportunity. The vast majority of players are desperate to get into their national team, which provides us with different challenges. Mostly, this involves the player carrying a relatively minor issue that would ideally benefit from two weeks’ treatment at their club rather than playing two extra games and potentially suffering further damage.
The level of training with national squads is notoriously light so players who haven’t featured for their club then do not get the necessary intensity in training in order to maintain or improve their fitness. If they don’t play, they come back in much poorer shape. It is us that has to pick up the slack from such lackadaisical medical management.
I will spend the next week hoping that my phone doesn’t ring and watching the media closely as to who has been substituted and why. The medical room on a Wednesday afternoon, when many players return from international duty, is like your local A&E department. Sometimes busy, sometimes quiet … and you never know who or what is going to come through the door!