On The Trot: The Horror of International Breaks

Michael Steele - Getty Images

It's not just 14 days without club football, which is scary enough, but there is also a very real chance that one of your important players will get seriously injured in a meaningless friendly.

When we were known as the United Nations of Bolton, international breaks terrified me. Every time one came along Big Sam Allardyce's crew of foreign stars would fan out across the globe in search of World Cup Glory. Whether it was Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha, Nicolas Anelka or Idan Tal (OK, maybe not Idan Tal), I was always convinced someone was going to pick up a major injury and our entire season was going to be destroyed because some good from the Liberian National Team was going to lunge in, studs flying, and break one of our lads in two.

Truth is, these fears are mostly unfounded, unless the Dutch are involved. There was a period where Arsenal and Chelsea must have been ready to raise an army and invade the Netherlands, as it seemed that Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie got injured at every international break. For the most part, Bolton Wanderers did not have that problem. El-Hadj Diouf sometimes got lost (This was before GPS/Sat Nav came to be widely used) on his way back and returned to Bolton a day or two late, but otherwise there were very few problems. Don't get me wrong, this didn't stop Big Sam whinging about it, but that is part of his charm (or was, before he became West Ham manager).

Two regions have always been of particular concern: Africa and Asia.

Why these two? Well, they are really far away for most Europe-based players. They are going to get back late and be really tired, even if the nightclubs of Dakar don't delay them a bit. Chung-Yong Lee famously fell asleep on the subs bench after one such flight from South Korea. Fortunately, he was awake enough to come on and score a winning goal for Bolton, but if he hadn't done so the anecdote would be far less amusing.

Most of this is irrelevant for Owen Coyle's Bolton Wanderers side. We no longer seem to attract that level of talent. We no longer seem interested in signing African players (I don't know whether that is a conscious decision or not, but it is troubling either way). In fact, if we have a player getting a call-up for his national team these days, particularly a young player, it is probably bad news, because it means that he will be generating offers from bigger clubs.

What this means is, currently, very few players leave Bolton during the break.

Lee is pretty much an automatic call-up for South Korea, although this could change if he doesn't work his way back into the starting XI.

Keith Andrews is one of the first names on the team sheet for the Republic of Ireland, at least when he is not serving a suspension.

Marvin Sordell gets called by the England under-21's, and Gregg Wylde by the Scotland under-21's.

Adam Bogdan is Hungary's top goalkeeper, and looks like he will continue to be so for the next decade.

Samuel Ricketts is usually in the Wales squad, although he ha snot been starting recently for club or country.

May they all return to Lancashire healthy and rejuvenated, and ready to help Bolton Wanderers move up the table.

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