Robbie Keane has blasted the stayaways who have put their summer holidays before Ireland’s vital European Championship qualifier in Macedonia on Saturday.
The Irish captain is furious that so many players will be missing when his team takes to the field in Skopje for their biggest Euro test yet.
Currently third behind Russia and Slovakia at the top of the Group B table, Giovanni Trapattoni’s side cannot afford to lose on Saturday night.
The Republic warmed up for the crunch game with a 1-0 win over Scotland to lift the Carling Nations Cup on Sunday when Keane matched Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 goals for a British or Irish striker.
The Tallaght native wants to set a new standard with the winner in Macedonia but he knows it won’t be easy with a squad ravaged by injury, suspension and no-shows by James McCarthy, Anthony Stokes and Marc Wilson.
Celtic striker Stokes claimed he was ‘tired’ when he withdrew, Wigan say McCarthy has an ankle injury and Wilson simply hasn’t been in touch with the FAI though his club Stoke say he has a knock.
“It is unacceptable – they can’t all be injured,” blasted Keane after his first-half goal inspired Ireland to their first trophy since the Icelandic Triangular tournament in 1986.
“This is their country. This is their national team. To play for your country is a great honour - it should be the greatest honour.
“I still have the same enthusiasm going into Saturday’s match as I had the day I got my first cap. Nothing has changed for me so why has it changed for them?
“If anyone has a right not to play it is Shay Given, who has a hundred plus caps. If anyone should pick and choose his games it is Damien Duff yet he has been busting a gut to get fit for this game and is devastated that it looks like he is going to miss it.
“And then you have these people who just don’t want to play. Well, if you don’t want to play for Ireland then don’t declare for us.”
Wilson and McCarthy fall into the category of players who have declared for Ireland ahead of their birth countries of Northern Ireland and Scotland respectively and they are sure to get a taste of Keane’s anger next time they appear – if they appear again.
The captain was positively bristling as he questioned their commitment then revealed he had called a meeting of the Irish players who did turn up this week to vent his anger.
“I can’t understand these guys and I told the other players that at our meeting when they were as angry about this as I am,” insisted Keane who won his 107th cap on Sunday.
“It would be easy to say it is because they are young and things are different with this generation when it comes to international football but that is making excuses for them.
“There are no excuses. These players have let themselves down and they have put our manager in a bad situation now.
“In the future he has to decide between the players who have turned up this week and those who just want to pick and choose their games.
“Do some people just turn for the Macedonia match because it is competitive? It doesn’t work like that.”
Keane believes the Scotland win, on the back of Tuesday’s victory over Northern Ireland, will serve the Republic well in Macedonia this weekend.
He added: “The most important thing, like in any international game, is to get a win and get the confidence up, all you want to do is come into a camp and get that confidence, two wins in a week will do that.”