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Page last updated at 17:10 GMT, Wednesday, 2 June 2010 18:10 UK

World Cup 2010: Strachan rejects Pim Verbeek claim

Australia coach Pim Verbeek, Boro defender Rhys Williams and manager Gordon Strachan
Verbeek (left) accused Strachan (right) of failing to prepare Williams for the World Cup

Middlesbrough manager Gordon Strachan has reacted strongly to comments from Australia coach Pim Verbeek relating to the fitness of defender Rhys Williams.

Williams, 21, was left out of Verbeek's World Cup squad, with the Australia coach criticising Strachan for his handling of the player's condition.

"We as a club and I personally strongly object to being made scapegoats," Strachan said.

"I know it's a stressful time for him but he needs to get his facts right."

In an interview with Australian newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald, Verbeek had claimed that Williams's condition going into the World Cup had been affected by his involvement in Middlesbrough's league campaign.

"Gordon Strachan let him play for weeks with an injury. Gordon Strachan let him play with an injection every game. If you do that with a 20-year-old player you take a risk," Verbeek said.

"I'm 100% sure if they [Middlesbrough] had given him the normal treatment for a player, he should be in the World Cup."

However, Strachan was quick to dispel Verbeek's comments, claiming the player's best interests were always a priority.

"I should point out that decisions over injuries are made by the club's medical staff, not me, but it is nonsense to suggest Rhys was receiving injections for every game," Strachan told the club website.

We were always conscious of the World Cup and the fact that Rhys would want to be involved. We gave him every opportunity to recover from his injury in mid-season.

Middlesbrough boss Gordon Strachan

"The truth of the matter is we only ever did what we believed was right for the player's long-term future and he only played when he and our medical team agreed he was fit to do so.

"We were advised by a consultant in mid-season that he needed four or five weeks' rest. We actually gave him 10 as he didn't play between 6 December and 6 March.

"He only ever had two injections into the problem area, both of which were taken on the advice of a surgeon for the player's long-term benefit. On each occasion, he was given adequate rest afterwards.

"We were always conscious of the World Cup and the fact that Rhys would want to be involved. We gave him every opportunity to recover from his injury in mid-season. After that, each time Rhys played it was because he himself was happy to play.

"Mr Verbeek told us he was happy with the player's performances for the club and the Australia physio guaranteed me Rhys would be fit for their first game.

"We are all disappointed for Rhys that he has missed out but he is a talented lad and I'm sure there will be other opportunities in future. The fact he isn't fully fit is very unfortunate but it's simply wrong to try to lay the blame at our door."

Middlesbrough's head of medical Grant Downie was fully involved in Williams's rehabilitation from a hip injury after the club's 1-0 defeat by Manchester City in January, and argued there had been lots of collaboration between club and country during the season.

Neither Middlesbrough Football Club nor the medical department that I lead would ever do anything to endanger a player's health

Middlesbrough head of medical Grant Downie

"I can only support the manager's comments and say there is no foundation to the suggestion that Rhys had injections to get him through games every week," he said.

"During the management of Rhys's pelvic problem, we consulted three separate specialists and at all times the information was shared with the medical staff of the Australian national squad.

"I'm a little surprised that the Australia coach has got his facts confused as the Australian staff regularly accepted our invitation to come to Middlesbrough's training ground and assisted in some of the stages of Rhys's rehabilitation.

"He received two injections into the pelvic area, one in late January when he wasn't playing, and the other towards the end of the season. Both were to help the problem settle down, not to allow Rhys to play in the next game.

"He also received two pre-match anti-inflammatory injections that were the equivalent of taking an oral anti-inflammatory tablet. Such injections are very common for footballers to receive.

"Neither Middlesbrough Football Club nor the medical department that I lead would ever do anything to endanger a player's health. We have always taken the best actions for the player and will continue do so as Rhys moves back to full fitness.

"At present, he continues to suffer from the ongoing problem and this will now need a further period of rest and rehabilitation."

Williams has three caps for Australia, having previously appeared for Wales Under-21s, and made 32 appearances for Middlesbrough last season, scoring twice.



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