Football: Dalglish's threat does not impress authorities

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The Independent Online
Kenny Dalglish and his fellow Premiership managers cannot dictate the English domestic calendar to suit their own needs, if they clash with those of the national team.

That was the combined message from the the Football Association and the Premier League yesterday, following Dalglish's objection to a refusal by the ruling bodies of the English game to put back Newcastle's fixture with Tottenham this weekend from Saturday to Sunday.

Dalglish, incensed that his players would have to turn out so quickly after the midweek challenge of European competition against Dynamo Kiev last night, has threatened in protest to restrict his players' availability to prepare with England for all international friendlies in future.

But the FA, unhappy about moving the Spurs game because it would have spoilt preparations for England's crucial World Cup qualifier against Italy in Rome on 11 October, is believed to have advised the Premier League to ignore Dalglish and keep to the original fixture date.

That way, the Newcastle players Robert Lee and David Batty, plus the Spurs pair Sol Campbell and Les Ferdinand, will be available for Sunday's first Bisham Abbey training session for Glenn Hoddle's squad.

A spokesman for the Premier League, which also received an objection from Spurs to any plans to put the fixture back, said: "We were in a difficult position. We understood what Newcastle wanted, but we had some feedback from the FA's international people that they wanted the Newcastle and Spurs players to be available to join up with the England squad on Sunday.

"Frankly we couldn't win. Spurs objected, and that was the main reason, because rival clubs rarely agree to changes that will help their opponents in any way. But the England situation was made known to us by the FA."

An FA spokesman, meanwhile, sought to play down the part his organisation had played in the saga. "The decision on whether a game in the Premiership is delayed is not ours. It is their Premier League's decision. The FA does not control fixtures."

Dalglish had reopened the club versus country debate, as he and his team headed off to Kiev for their Champions' League match. The Magpies' manager threatened: "If the FA can't help the club sides, then I don't see why the club sides should help the international side.

"We can't even get our game with Spurs put back 24 hours. We will now consider our position when it comes to releasing players for international matches."

Alex Ferguson also had his say on the subject. The Manchester United manager, who had pleaded in vain for an extension to the season last term to ease the fixtures pile-up that threatened United's quest for honours, said: "We do not help ourselves. I see that Kenny was complaining about that and I think it's a valid case. But I got criticised for mentioning it last year and had to get on with it.

"But some clubs in Europe this year are going to start complaining about the same things I complained about.

"For my part, it's about, if you want to prepare someone for a key moment, you can't do it with interruptions.

"Unfortunately the English League does not allow for really good preparation. You are interrupted by league games and it is not the same as in a lot of other countries."

National managers can have their players five days before a Word Cup fixture, but for a friendly - and England will probably have six before next summer - clubs are required to release players only two days beforehand.

If Dalglish carries out his threat, it means that the England captain Alan Shearer - when he is fit - plus the likes of Lee and Batty, would be denied to Hoddle until just 48 hours before build-up matches, wrecking his preparation.

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