Thursday, 13 September 2007

Rakes On A Plane

The international break is usually quite dull as far as domestic matters are concerned so it was quite exciting to read that one of our players was involved in a 'fight' on the flight back from a European Championship qualifier in Iceland. The Belfast Telegraph reports that the incident involving Keith Gillespie and George McCartney happened on the plane as the Northern Ireland party were preparing to fly home from Reykjavik following last night's 2-1 defeat to Iceland. In astonishing scenes, eye witnesses told the paper that the players became involved in a flare-up to the amazement of fellow passengers on the Iceland Air flight from Reykjavik to Heathrow. It is understood that the row was over a passport.

The witness said: "Initially, Keith Gillespie and George McCartney had words and then punches were thrown. It was amazing. David Healy, Warren Feeney and Steve Davis did a great job in separating them but it was still an unsavoury incident." The Irish FA admitted that an incident had taken place. In a statement, the association said: "An incident occurred today between team members of the senior Northern Ireland squad of which the president (Raymond Kennedy) and chief executive (Howard Wells) are aware of. Both the president and the chief executive will investigate the situation and take appropriate action. There will be no further comment at this stage."

Sheffield United star Gillespie is the most experienced Northern Ireland player in the squad while West Ham's McCartney has only just returned to the international squad after refusing to play for the team when previous manager Lawrie Sanchez was in charge. Later reports subsequently exonerated the West Ham defender from any blame. It is claimed that Gillispie boarded the plane drunk and within seconds lashed out at McCartney landing a number of punches to the player's face and body. Gillespie slept for the rest of the flight home and was said to be dishevelled and disorientated when the plane landed three hours later. Gillespie, of course, has a history of drunken and violent behaviour. He was once famously floored by Alan Shearer in a fight during his days at Newcastle United.

Elsewhere, Alan Curbishley has welcomed back all the West Ham players who have been away on international duty. "I think they've all come through fine, we've had no calls to say otherwise," said the manager. "The Welsh boys don't land until five o'clock tonight so we'll see them tomorrow. In some respects you fear the international break a bit, but all our players have come through it well. It wouldn't be such a bad idea if we played on the Sunday after internationals, rather than the Saturday, but I'm sure a few traditionalists would have something to say about that! We've had Jonathan Spector playing in Chicago, Nolberto Solano out in Bolivia and Lucas Neill playing in Australia. To then come back and play on Saturday is a big ask. The break has given other players an opportunity to regain fitness and focus on training. Dean Ashton has played two reserve games since Reading, Scott Parker has had 80 minutes for the reserves and Freddie Ljungberg is back in full training, so we're clearing up a bit. Craig had a great night with Wales. He desperately wanted to play for them after missing out on Saturday. He wants to play all the time. We were going to rest him for the Bristol Rovers game but he wanted to play. He is always raring to go."

John Toshack has hailed Craig Bellamy's performance against Slovakia. "Normally, there are 22 football players on a field battling it out but tonight there was 21 and one player who gave an unbelievable individual performance," said Toshack. "Bellamy was scintillating this evening. It's a long time since I have seen an individual display and one player influence a result like he did." Bellamy scored twice for Wales, set up two other goals and was unlucky not to get a hat trick, with another effort hitting the post.

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