Apart from the Euro 2024 Championship play-offs, the rest of the international friendlies during the just-ended break were an unmitigated nuisance.

I can’t for the life of me understand why FIFA would schedule international friendlies at the business end of domestic seasons.

Clubs are trying to manage their playing resources for that final push in finely poised title races. Others are seized with promotion and survival priorities.

Enter FIFA. The inopportune scheduling disrupts domestic momentum and has club managers in a permanent state of anxiety worrying about the well-being of their star players away on international duty, because invariably key players at club level form the nucleus of international squads.

Player withdrawals

The uselessness of these friendlies is demonstrated by the amount of player withdrawals for minor niggles. Had these matches been competitive, the same players would be given time to prove their fitness or play through the pain barrier.

You can, therefore, understand fans’ cynicism when players carrying minor knocks are sent back to their clubs as a precaution or to continue their recovery under their clubs’ medical staff.

For fans of clubs involved in title and promotion races, the biggest fear is that rivals can emerge from international break with an advantage they otherwise did not have before the break.

Half the time players sent back from international camp, having used the break to recover and recharge their batteries, are  immediately available for their clubs when domestic action resumes.

Keeping tabs on stars

I followed England’s two friendlies against Brazil and Belgium on TV while keeping a cursory eye on fan comments on various social media platforms. I realised that many fans watch not for enjoyment,  but to keep tabs on their and rival clubs’ players on duty.

Man City fans had their hearts in mouths when Kyle Walker hobbled off with an injury against Brazil. Then John Stones limped off against Belgium.

As Sunday’s blockbuster between the two title rivals looms, Arsenal fans noted that it would be a massive boon for their side if both Walker and Stones failed to recover in time for the clash.

Fans are also not enamoured of international managers who appear to use players from rival clubs sparingly while stars from their club are made to play for extended spells. You should hear the conspiracy theories!

I have never seen fans so excited about their club players’ omission from international friendly duty or being given very few minutes to play. It’s because fans want all their key players fighting fit for the season run-in.

The jury is still out on whether international breaks inadvertently hand some clubs an advantage in the title or promotion races.

Eye on Euros

For national team managers, however, these friendlies are a welcome opportunity to broaden their selection pool. The ties allow managers to run the rule over new players while trying different formations suited to the resources at their disposal.

The friendlies also offer international hopefuls the chance to play themselves into managers’ long-term plans. Although players are selected on the strength of their club form, nothing beats the actual audition with the national team.

Ahead of the Euros in Germany later this year, the chatter after the international break is about whether the likes of Kobbie Mainoo and Joe Gomez, for example, have played themselves into the selection reckoning for the tournament.

Poor Dan James

I was gutted for Leeds United teammates Dan James and Joe Rodon when Wales missed out on Euro 2024 qualification in cruel fashion.

Spare a thought for Dan James, who missed the crucial penalty as The Dragons lost to Poland on penalties.

The miss will haunt him for quite sometime, but I have no doubt James has the temperament to get over it sooner rather than later.

The best way for James and Rodon to cure their heartache is by focusing on helping Leeds United secure promotion back to the Premier League. That would be the perfect tonic.

Chin up boys!


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

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