Football: Francis calls for weekend internationals

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The Independent Online
Gerry Francis, the Tottenham manager, has called for international matches to be played at weekends to avoid players returning late for League games.

Francis believes that midweek internationals leave clubs at a disadvantage when players report back for domestic duty - often only 24 hours before weekend league fixtures. But he also feels playing World Cup or European Championship ties on Saturdays would also allow the England coach, Glenn Hoddle, to have the extra time he is seeking with his players the day after an international.

"I believe players could play for their club on a Saturday, meet up with their country on a Sunday, have virtually the same preparation time as now and play the international the following Saturday," Francis said. "Then, in England's case, Glenn Hoddle could have his day with the squad on Sunday to analyse things and then the players would report back to their clubs on the Monday with a full week to prepare for the following weekend's fixtures.

"But as things stand club managers often have players reporting back on the Friday before the Saturday game, possibly after a long flight which has taken the edge off them, with no time to prepare properly - and yet you are judged all the time be results.

"Tottenham played Arsenal a fortnight ago on a Saturday and then the international players left to go to their various countries and we didn't have the chance to work again with them until last Friday - 24 hours before the game at Leicester.

"If one or two players are away with their club then it is not a problem but when, as in our case, there were 14 players away for two weeks, it doesn't give me - or any manager in the same boat - a lot of time.

"It also gives little niggles and knocks little time to recover whereas having a full week after the international before playing again would enable problems to clear up and leave players not feeling jaded.

"You have got to try and be fair to club and international managers whose interests cut across each other now and create a level playing field for both which I think having the internationals at the weekend would help to create."

Kenny Dalglish, the Newcastle manager, expressed similar concerns after Faustino Asprilla turned up just an hour before the game against Bolton last Saturday after being on World Cup duty for Colombia.

"Internationals should be played on Saturdays. The European Championships could be the right time to do it. Everyone throughout Europe, I believe, will think the same way," he said. "At the moment countries have players for five or seven days and we sometimes get 24 hours with them - sometimes not even that."

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