Why I Hate International Friendlies: Steven Gerrard Limps Off Against France

Jon FeatonbyCorrespondent INovember 18, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17:  Steven Gerrard of England reacts during the international friendly match between England and France at Wembley Stadium on November 17, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

To be honest, I should say that I struggle to truly care about England even when they're playing in competitive matches. So you can imagine how little notice I took of England's friendly with France yesterday.

What I have taken notice of is the fact that Steven Gerrard will now miss three-to-four weeks after suffering a hamstring strain in the 85th minute of the match.

So now his clubwho pay his wageswill be without the services of its captain and best player for the best part of a month, all because he was involved in a meaningless international.

This incident highlights a few things wrong with these matches.

Firstly, what the hell was Gerrard doing on the pitch after 85 minutes?

If they have one positive, then friendlies give international managers the opportunity to try out new players that might not get the chance in a competitive fixture. But Fabio Capello knows exactly what Gerrard is capable of. Heck, everyone knows what Gerrard is capable of. 

Bottom-line, Capello was learning nothing from keeping Gerrard involved for that long.

It then turned out that Liverpool had made a deal with England that Gerrard wouldn't play longer than 60 minutes in the match.

A "tweet" by Liverpool fitness coach Darren Burgess read: "Unbelievable from all associated with England and English FA with regard to SGs [Steven Gerrard's] injury. Completely ignored agreement and past history."

Liverpool will now be without both Gerrard and Lucas for this weekends clash with West Ham. The Brazilian Lucas is suspended after getting sent-off in the closing moments of the loss to Stoke.

Hardly what manager Roy Hodgson and his squad need after their disastrous start to the campaign.

A more general point is that these friendlies are completely pointless.

I know why FIFA and The FA like them: money (although the public's interest in the tie was reflected by the number of empty seats at Wembley).

However, I question just what Capello gets out of them. Sure, it might be good for him to have the players for a few days, but what real use are the games themselves? 

Additionally, we are always hearing these days that top players are playing more and more games for their clubs. Do we really need to add an additional fixture in the middle of a busy Premier League period?

I'm sure that players want to play for their countrieswitness Andy Carroll making his England debut despite Newcastle requesting he miss the tieand I know that Gerrard will not say anything negative about Capello's decision to still have him on the pitch when the game was lost. Yet there is no loss to England when Gerrard misses a month of football after getting injured on their watch.

If Capello feels that he needs to get his players together, then fine. Get 25 or so players for a few training sessions, a practice match, just nothing too intensive. We've witnessed club-country relationships getting increasingly more tense over past years and this incident will do nothing to reverse that trend.

This isn't the first time a Liverpool midfielder has been injured during an England friendly. Back in 1999, Jamie Redknapp broke his ankle playing in a meaningless match against South Africa, causing him to miss five months of action. In fact, Redknapp stretchered was off three times in an all-too-brief England career. 

The FA and FIFA need to seriously think again about when they plan these friendlies, as well as their obligations to the clubs that pay the wages. It does no one any good, especially not that fans, if the game is denied its top players after incidents that so easily could have been avoided.


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