Football: Curbishley's fixture fury

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The Independent Online
ALAN CURBISHLEY, the Charlton Athletic manager, yesterday launched a scathing attack on the Premier League for refusing to cancel next weekend's fixtures after resigning himself to losing two key players due to international call-ups.

Curbishley will be without his captain, Mark Kinsella, and the goalkeeper Sasa Ilic for next Saturday's Premiership game with Middlesbrough after the pair were called up for the Republic of Ireland's rescheduled Euro 2000 qualifier against Yugoslavia. Both countries have invoked the five- day rule - and the Irish manager, Mick McCarthy, insists he will not release Kinsella to play for his club.

Charlton and a number of other similarly affected clubs approached the Premier League five weeks ago with their concerns but were told the League fixtures could not be rearranged. Although the matter has now been passed to Uefa, European football's ruling body, who can decide not to invoke the five-day rule, the Charlton manager remains livid that the Premier League have failed to act.

"I find it quite ludicrous that we will go into Saturday's game against Middlesbrough losing two players, 'Boro losing none, and it could have been avoided," Curbishley said. "We contacted the Premiership five weeks ago with our fears. We spoke to Jim Smith, Joe Kinnear, Gordon Strachan, Alex Ferguson, Roy Hodgson, Roy Evans and Ruud Gullit because we're all going to be penalised.

"The Premiership prides itself on being the strongest League in the world but next Saturday it's not going to be because it's going to be deprived of players and I think it's well within the Premiership's powers to postpone those games and play them in the new year.

"We thought it was Charlton not getting anywhere but apparently the bigger clubs have also expressed their fears but I don't hold out much hope. Our fans are going to turn up next week deprived of seeing two of their players and that's not what they pay their season tickets for.

"What if I lose two more players with injury this weekend? I've got to go into next week's game without four players. It's poor thinking from the Premiership. They could have avoided this. You might say clubs like Manchester United could cope without Roy Keane and Denis Irwin - but why should they have to?"

Charlton's managing director, Peter Varney, added: "It is a completely ridiculous situation. Middlesbrough will have a full side and it looks like we won't, despite the fact that we were originally given a blank weekend to accommodate the international fixtures."

The decision now rests with Uefa - but it has so far given no indication as to when it will make a decision. All Curbishley can do is moan and wait.