Hamilton anger at Ukraine officials

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The Independent Online
The Northern Ireland manager Bryan Hamilton has criticised the Ukrainian authorities for keeping him in the dark during the build-up to the World Cup qualifying match between the sides in Belfast next week.

Hamilton is furious that the Irish Football Association were not informed about a warm-up match the Ukraine played against Lithuania in Kiev last week - they won it 5-2 - from which he could have sized up the Windsor Park opposition.

It leaves Hamilton with only eight minutes on video of the Ukraine in action. But he remains hopeful that the players in his 18-man squad named yesterday may yet go into the Group Nine match a week on Saturday with more detailed knowledge of their rivals.

"They were supposed to notify us about any matches they were playing before they came to Belfast. That's the customary procedure and I'm very disappointed they didn't stick to it," Hamilton said.

"We could have had someone at last week's match and at present I know very little about the Ukrainians. An eight-minute tape of highlights doesn't reveal all that much.

"But I'm not giving up. I think I'm close to finding another source who can come up with more extensive coverage of the Ukraine in action. I am bringing my squad together next Tuesday and I'd like to have more material on the Ukraine to show them."

Hamilton has recalled Leicester's Neil Lennon, French-based striker Phil Gray and Coventry's close-season signing Michael O'Neill to join up with the players who held European champions Germany to a 1-1 draw in Belfast in May.

Lennon did not play in that game as he was involved in Leicester's Premiership play-off final at Wembley a few days earlier, while Gray was in hospital for knee surgery.

O'Neill is back having been left out of the Germany fixture as Hamilton felt he was not in the best shape psychologically due to being in dispute with his former club, Hibernian. But there is no place for established internationals Alan McDonald, Steve Morrow and Gerry Taggart.

"We've widened our squad over the last year," Hamilton said. "There are now 24 players in contention so everyone is looking over his shoulder."

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