The explosive feud between Martin O’Neill and Ronald Koeman shows no sign of easing with the Republic of Ireland manager tonight accusing the Everton coach of being a ‘master tactician of the blame game’.
At his press conference on Friday, Koeman read from prepared notes accusing O’Neill of failing to protect James McCarthy when the midfielder was injured in the warm-up ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Wales.
It was the latest in a series of tit-for-tat accusations between club and country due to McCarthy's ongoing fitness problems.
Now O’Neill has fired back with all guns blazing issuing an extraordinary statement including a personal attack on Koeman.
"Once again the Everton manager, master tactician of the blame game, has struck out in his comments today, criticising both myself and James McCarthy", O'Neill said.
"Perhaps a review of Everton's pre-season programme might provide some enlightenment.
"James had a magnificent tournament for the Republic of Ireland last summer during Uefa EURO 2016, playing his last game in very late June. He then returned to Everton after a very short break, but only 11 days later, he played his first of three games, all within an eight-day period, against Real Betis, Manchester United and Espanyol. Overloading?"
"It should be added that James last played for his country on the October 9, 2016 - almost half a year ago. Since that time he has been totally under Everton's supervision."
"James is diligent and conscientious in his professional preparation.
"Perhaps, in this instance, quiet introspection may serve the Everton manager and his medical staff better."
Earlier, Koeman chose his words carefully but was visibly furious with the handling of the McCarthy affair.
“James had an injury when he reported for Ireland duty last week. Our medical team made the Ireland medical team aware of this, of course,” said Koeman.
“Everton’s medical team advised extreme caution, not only due to the current injury but due to previous injuries, too.
“And the assessment by the Ireland medical team was that it would be high risk for James to play against Wales.
“But, of course, James has a strong desire to play for his country, so when asked if he was fit to play he said he felt he was fit.
Perhaps a review of Everton's pre-season programme might provide some enlightenment
“And he was selected to start the game by the Ireland manager who, in my opinion, in this instance was not protecting the player.
“Clearly, James was not fit to play.
“He had trained for only two days with Ireland and he broke down during the warm-up.
“Given the circumstances, given that he has started only one game in the whole of 2017, given that he had not been able to play for almost three weeks before the game against Wales - in my opinion he would need at least one full week of training before he could possibly be declared fit to play.
“James must take responsibility, too, and we have spoken about this.
“This is not the first time this has happened when James has joined up with Ireland, and it is really frustrating that James will now miss our game against Liverpool tomorrow, our game against Manchester United on Tuesday and will not be fit again for several weeks.”