Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough has called on UEFA and FIFA to find a solution to the international football schedule or risk harming the health of players.
Baraclough, who is without nine senior players for the upcoming Nations League games against Greece, Cyprus and Kosovo, took aim at European football’s governing body for scheduling four fixtures in June.
Corry Evans, Josh Magennis and Craig Cathcart are among those who Baraclough says are burnt out and require rest to rid themselves of injury.
The former Motherwell boss agrees with recent comments from PFA chief executive Maheta Molango who said football was “sleep-walking into a crisis” with the demands from the schedule.
Baraclough told Sky Sports News: “Back-to-back seasons as it was through the Covid period – people are forgetting that there was very little time from the end of last season and the start of the season that’s just gone.
“For players, the demands on them are just more and more. Whether it’s UEFA or FIFA, they have to look at the situation. By asking players to go on a 12-month cycle, it’s just not possible and you’re finding a lot of these injuries are fatigue injuries.
“I know the chief executive of the PFA has come out and said we need to look after these players because they can’t keep going on without having a rest period.
“There have been studies into this by FIFPRO as well and club managers quite rightly are concerned about their players who are then going on international duty after a big workload throughout the season.”
Baraclough highlighted Jordan Henderson’s omission from the England squad and says smaller nations like Northern Ireland suffer more. He also believes it’s wrong that the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are touching on 70 games for the season.
He added: “The likes of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane at Liverpool for instance, could be getting close to 70 games and it’s not just the top, top players who are being asked to play a lot of games, it’s at all levels now.
“Four Nations League games in June was always going to be a tough ask for us. You want to be calling on your biggest and best players as well. We’ve got nine absentees we’ve got to cope with who could potentially be in this squad. We’ve not got that and quite a few are fatigued injuries.”
Promising Man City youngster Shea Charles is one of four players to be included in the senior squad for the first time along with Rangers midfielder Charlie McCann, Huddersfield’s Brodie Spencer and Glentoran winger Conor McMenamin.
Thirteen of the 28-man squad have five caps or less but they are boosted by the inclusion of experienced duo Steven Davis and Jonny Evans, along with the return of Kyle Lafferty.
Meanwhile, Baraclough has spoken to Leeds boss Jesse Marsch about inviting “popular” Stuart Dallas to be part of upcoming squads to help educate the younger players.
He also endorsed the quality of Davis and urged Rangers to offer his captain a new contract.