Wish they were here: The emptiness of a Premiership club in international week

Over 200 players have been away from their English clubs with their countries. Nick Harris looks at what happens in their absence
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While 210 footballers from the Premiership have been racking up around one million air miles between them on international duty over the past 10 days - in service to 46 different nations - the mood among those left behind has varied from positive to positively miserable.

While 210 footballers from the Premiership have been racking up around one million air miles between them on international duty over the past 10 days - in service to 46 different nations - the mood among those left behind has varied from positive to positively miserable.

At eight clubs, including Liverpool, who have had 17 players absent, training, albeit depleted, has continued "as normal" under the attendant gaze of the managers. As well as Rafael Benitez, the other managers staying at the helm were Everton's David Moyes (who had only four players away), West Brom's Gary Megson (seven away), Crystal Palace's Iain Dowie (nine), Fulham's Chris Coleman, Newcastle's Graeme Souness and Tottenham's Jacques Santini (10 each) and Southampton's Steve Wigley (11).

At another eight clubs, the managers took at least a short break and left their players, some of whom had a few extra days off, in the charge of their coaching staff, following otherwise normal routines.

Alex Ferguson, whose Manchester United who had 21 players away - and England installed at their Carrington training ground - went on holiday to South Africa, leaving Carlos Queiroz holding the fort.

Arsène Wenger, with 15 Arsenal players away, attended a stadium naming launch, went to a conference on European integration in Brussels and went to watch some international football - for fun.

Manchester City's Kevin Keegan went to watch the home nations. Birmingham's Steve Bruce, Charlton's Alan Curbishley, Aston Villa's David O'Leary and Norwich's Nigel Worthington took a few days off in destinations unknown. Harry Redknapp, according to a Portsmouth spokesman, was intending to "go and look at a couple of players" but would "mainly be at home with the missus".

At Chelsea, Jose Mourinho emphasised that he was certainly not going on holiday. "I have to do other things that I cannot do so much when I have people to train," he said. "I was two days away to have a meeting with Mr Abramovich and Mr Kenyon, and I am more involved with the medical department, trying to know how things go and trying to push the players in their recovery process. I do other things."

Mourinho also planned to go to Baku on Wednesday to watch England. Three of his players were in Sven Goran Eriksson's England squad, although a fourth, Wayne Bridge, missed out due to injury. "I'd say he wasn't exactly in the mood for talking," was how Bridge's agent, Jonathan Barnett, described his client's mindset during the international break.

At the remaining clubs, Mark Hughes and Steve McClaren left their assistants at Blackburn and Middlesbrough respectively to oversee training as they went away managing and coaching with Wales and England. Sam Allardyce, meanwhile, took his Bolton players - minus the 10 away on international duty - to Portugal for a spot of warm-weather training.

At Newcastle, where 10 players were absent, the atmosphere was fairly typical of a club during international week, aside from having the academy taken over by Sky TV for the reality show, The Match. As Steve Harper, the No 2 goalkeeper, said: "It's hard for the lads who are left behind. I'm more used to it than most, but for the rest of the lads, unless you're Alan Shearer and have retired, you want to be playing international football, at whatever level. When you're left behind it can be slightly depressing.

"There are very few people left here at Newcastle and that can be hard for the coaches to put on a meaningful session. But it's not a holiday, by any means. The lads away on international duty will be working hard and the coaches expect us to do the same here."

Other players testified to the mixed blessings of the enforced break. Bolton's Kevin Nolan has taken the chance to have minor ankle surgery, from which he has almost recovered already. But at Liverpool, the goalkeeper Chris Kirkland is champing at the bit. He made his first start after eight months injured on 3 October. Having been promised at least five games to prove himself as Anfield's No 1, he is desperate to play again. "The break's come at a bad time, to be honest," he said. "I just want to play as many games as I can, as quickly as I can. I can't wait for Saturday's game at Fulham."

If Chris Coleman is to be believed, Liverpool will face a Fulham side who have benefited from the "bonus" of a break that has allowed him "to take stock of things and regroup", even with 10 players away. "They'll know what we're doing on the training ground, I'll make sure of that," he said.

Quite how much contact he has had with the likes of Pape Bouba Diop, who scored for Senegal against Liberia in Monrovia last weekend, or Brian McBride, who has been to San Salvador with the US, is not known. But at least as they and the 208 others return - from as far afield as Quito, the Caribbean, Cardiff, Lagos, Helsinki, Beijing and Sydney - the Premiership can get back to "business as usual" for real.

Absent with leave the elite players missing when duty called


(15 players away)

Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira (all France), Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole (both England), Edu (Brazil), Jens Lehmann (Germany), Fredrik Ljungberg (Sweden), Jose Antonio Reyes (Spain), Kolo Touré (Ivory Coast), Gäel Clichy (France, U-21), Jermaine Pennant (England, U-21), Robin van Persie (Netherlands, U-21), Philippe Senderos (Switzerland, U-21), Olafur-Ingi Skulason (Iceland, U-21).


(13 players away)

Juan Pablo Angel (Colombia), Ulises De la Cruz (Ecuador), Steven Davies (N Irl), Mark Delaney (Wales), Thomas Hitzlsperger (Germany), Olof Mellberg (Sweden), Nolberto Solano (Peru), Thomas Sorenson (Denmark), Darius Vassell (England), Carlton Cole, Peter Whittingham (both England, U-21), Gary Cahill (England, U-20), Luke Moore (England, U-19).


(Six players away)

Damien Johnson, Maik Taylor (both N Irl), Kenny Cunningham, Clinton Morrison (both Rep Irl), Jesper Gronkjaer (Denmark), Robbie Savage (Wales).


(10 players away)

Brett Emerton (Australia), Lucas Neill (Australia), Paul Dickov, Barry Ferguson (both Scotland), Peter Enckelman (Finland), Vratislav Gresko (Slovakia), Morten Pedersen (Norway), John Fitzgerald (Rep Irl, U-21), Jonathan Stead (England, U-21), Andrew Taylor (England, U-19).


(10 players away)

El-Hadji Diouf (Senegal), Ricardo Gardner (Jamaica), Stelios Giannakopoulos (Greece), Ben Haim (Israel), Jussi Jaaskelainen (Finland), Rahdi Jaidi (Tunisia), Blessing Kaku (Nigeria), Henrik Pedersen (Denmark), Gary Speed (Wales), Nicky Hunt (England, U-21).


(10 players away)

Jason Euell, Kevin Lisbie (both Jamaica), Matt Netherlands (Rep Irl), Hermann Hreidarsson (Iceland), Jonatan Johansson (Finland), Talal El Karkouri (Morocco), Radostin Kishishev (Bulgaria), Dennis Rommedahl (Denmark), Stacy Long (England, U-20), Osei Sankofa (England, U-20).


(17 players away)

Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, John Terry (all England), Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira, Tiago Mendes (all Portugal), Petr Cech (Czech Republic), Damien Duff (Rep Irl), William Gallas (France), Geremi (Cameroon), Eidur Gudjonsen (Iceland), Robert Huth (Germany), Adrian Mutu (Romania)**, Aleksei Smertin (Russia), Nuno Morais, Felipe Oliveira (both Portugal, U-21), Glen Johnson (England, U-21).

**Mutu joined up with Romanian squad against Chelsea's instructions that he is injured and unavailable for international selection.


(Nine players away)

Joonas Kolkka, Aki Riihilahti (both Finland), Gabor Kiraly, Sandor Torghelle (both Hungary), Ivan Kaviedes (Ecuador), Vassilis Lakis (Greece), Tony Popovic (Australia), Gary Borrowdale, Wayne Routledge (both England, U-20).


(Four players away)

James McFadden, Gary Naysmith (both Scotland), Thomas Gravesen (Denmark), Kevin Kilbane (Rep Irl).


(10 players away)

Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride (both US), Mark Crossley, Mark Pembridge (both Wales), Pape Bouba Diop (Senegal), Luis Boa Morte (Portugal), Tomasz Radzinski (Canada), Edwin Van der Sar (Netherlands), Collins John (Netherlands, U-21), Moritz Volz (Germany, U-21).


(17 players away)

Xabi Alonso (Spain), Milan Baros (Czech Republic), Jamie Carragher (England), Djibril Cissé (France), Salif Diao (Senegal), Jerzy Dudek (Poland), Steve Finnan (Rep Irl), Stephane Henchoz (Switzerland), Sami Hyypia (Finland), Harry Kewell (Australia), John Arne Riise (Norway), Florent Sinama Pongolle (France, U-21), Darren Potter (Rep Irl, U-21), John Welsh (England, U-21), Danny Mannix, David Raven, Mark Smyth (all England, U-20).


(Eight players away)

David James, Shaun Wright-Phillips (both England), Richard Dunne (Rep Irl), Sun Jihai (China), Ben Thatcher (Wales), Willo Flood, Patrick McCarthy (both Rep Irl, U-21), Kevin Stuhr-Ellegaard (Denmark, U-21).


(21 players away)

Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Wayne Rooney, Alan Smith (all England), Roy Keane, Liam Miller, John O'Shea (all Rep Irl), Roy Carroll (N Irl), Eric Djemba-Djemba (Cameroon), Darren Fletcher (Scotland), Quinton Fortune (South Africa), Ryan Giggs (Wales), Gabriel Heinze (Argentina), Tim Howard (US), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Mikaël Silvestre (France), Chris Eagles (England, U-20), Tom Heaton, Richard Jones (both England, U-19).


(Seven players away)

Joseph-Desiré Job (Cameroon), Szilard Nemeth (Slovakia), Mark Schwarzer (Australia), Stewart Downing (England, U-21), Mathew Bates, James Morrison, Andrew Taylor (all England, U-19).


(10 players away)

Stephen Carr, Shay Given, Andy O'Brien (all Rep Irl), Nicky Butt, Jermaine Jenas (both England), Craig Bellamy (Wales), Aaron Hughes (N Irl), James Milner, Steven Taylor (both England, U-21), Lewis Guy (England, U-20).


(10 players away)

Gary Doherty (Rep Irl), Robert Green (England), Thomas Helveg (Denmark), Gary Holt (Scotland), Mattias Jonson (Sweden), Paul McVeigh (N Irl), Darren Ward (Wales), David Bentley (England, U-21), Ian Henderson (England, U-20), Ryan Jarvis (England, U-19).


(Five players away) Richard Hughes, Nigel Quashie (both Scotland), Amdy Faye (Senegal), Ricardo Fuller (Jamaica), Shaka Hislop (Trinidad and Tobago).


(11 players away)

Mikael Nilsson, Anders Svensson (both Sweden), Chris Baird (N Irl), Kenwyne Jones (Trinidad and Tobago), Claus Lundekvam (Norway), Antti Niemi (Finland), Alledine Yahia (Tunisia), Jelle Van Damme (Belgium, U-21), Aaron Davies (England, U-21), Martin Craine (England, U-20), Matthew Mills (England, U-19).


(10 players away)

Jermaine Defoe, Ledley King, Paul Robinson (all England), Thimothee Atouba (Cameroon), Simon Davies (Wales), Frédéric Kanouté (Mali), Robbie Keane (Rep Irl), Noureddine Naybet (Morocco), Stephen Kelly (Rep Irl, U-21), Phil Ifil (England, U-19).


(Seven players away)

Robert Earnshaw, Jason Koumas (both Wales), Zoltan Gera (Hungary), Bernt Haas (Switzerland), Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria), Tomasz Kuszczak (Poland), Artim Sakiri (Macedonia).

Research: Matt Denver, Claire Turvey, Sam Clark.