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Anthony Stokes the International vs League fire where Arsenal blew and hot

May 27, 2011

“It’s a 11 month holiday” was Trapattoni’s damning verdict after Anthony Stokes pulled out of Ireland’s squad for the Carling Nations Cup. Gio couldn’t understand Stokes’ reason for not playing and for him ‘fatigue’ didn’t count as a valid reason.

Much the same way, England and more specifically Stuart Pearce couldn’t understand that Wilshere playing his first full season as a top flight footballer in the Premiership could also be tired. There were the stats that revealed that he was on the verge of sustaining an injury. I’m glad we have these stats because they have been so useful in preventing injuries for us in the past…

Side stepping that last jibe, I can see where both sides are coming from. Living in the UK, I’m used to around 22 days of paid holiday. And as much as I appreciate the benefits of full time working now which also explains the long hiatus, absence of my musings on here, working is not a 11 month holiday – give or take-. I also know that even though I suck at playing football myself and I can’t do the amazing things that professional footballers do I do not consider playing a laborious, unenjoyable task. So if I was any good at it, I’d want to play and milk every opportunity I could. Or so is the thought held in certain quarters of the football echelon. Besides it’s just a game or two so how much harm could it do when they do have a few weeks off, basically putting their feet up so to speak.

However, what these old school thinkers fail to realize is that although professional footballers can put aside physical fatigue, mental fatigue is a much more complex. Jack for instance, has had enormous responsibility, a lot of it unwanted in his first season. That he excelled for last parts of it, is a blessing and we’re all glad for it. But towards the end of the season it was clear to see that his performances were a reflection of the toll his body took mentally and physically. The same could be said of Stokes, whose side was involved in a last day title battle with Rangers. Stokes also had to work for a manager who received constant threats to his safety, something which should have no place for football.

As much as I love International football (not too keen on the glorified friendlies today though, if ever) Wilshere not featuring this summer for the England under 21 represents a small success for us. Too often we have let our players go freely without making too much of a fuss about it. Too often have they come back from international duty, injured. Van Persie injured playing a ‘friendly’ against Italy? How often have we seen Giggs time after time pull out of numerous friendlies for Wales? Indeed if you look at Utd’s squad, Giggs, Scholes, Van der Sar, Berbatov, Park-ji-Sung – retired. That doesn’t include a few others who haven’t featured prominently at International level. These players benefit from being able to switch off football temporarily – physically and mentally.

I’m not asking for our players to reject playing for their national countries, but they have to think deeper about these things. I’m also asking for managers to think about the footballers in not so black and white terms. As for our club, like I said a small victory and one that we should build on, but perhaps given the season just gone it doesn’t appear too likely that will.

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