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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 10:59 GMT
Lundekvam backs friendlies

Southampton defender Claus Lundekvam
Lundekvam has been impressive all season

Norwegian international Claus Lundekvam is on the horns of a dilemma when it comes to friendly internationals.

Southampton defender Lundekvam added his weight to the club-versus-country debate by admitting that he understands why club managers loathe friendlies, but international coaches regard them as vital.

Lundekvam has forced his way back into Norway coach Nils Johan Sembs' squad on the back of a superb season at the heart of Southampton's defence.

Both he and Saints team-mate Jo Tessem featured in Norway's 1-0 friendly international defeat against Greece in Heraklion in midweek.

Lundekvam played the whole 90 minutes, and faced the long flight back from Greece to join up with his Southampton team-mates on Thursday afternoon.

Lundekvam had further to travel than team-mate James Beattie, who made his debut for England at Upton Park, but admitted that the travelling was "tiring".

Sometimes you have to wonder why they are played, especially when they come before important games

Claus Lundekvam
on friendlies

"Not so much playing the game, because if you're fit enough, you should be able to play two games a week, although you wouldn't want to do it regularly.

"But the travelling is the tiring part, not that you can use that as an excuse.

"I can perfectly understand why managers get annoyed by friendly internationals. Sometimes you have to wonder why they are played, especially when they come before important games.

"But for guys like me, they are important. I have managed to get myself back into the Norwegian squad, and friendly internationals give me the chance to show the coach what I can do.

"He doesn't get the chance to see me regularly in action for my club, so I have got to use friendly internationals as best I can.

"It's important for me to play for my country. I want to help us qualify for big tournaments and the only way we can build a good squad is in friendlies.

"The coaches of national squads see them as vital, club managers see them as an inconvenience.

"Players like me are stuck in the middle."

Lundekvam was one of eight Southampton players on midweek international duty.

Saints boss Gordon Strachan was left with five first-team squad players on Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for Saturday's FA Cup match with Norwich.

He wasn't at his best for us. He knows that and sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind

Gordon Strachan
on James Beattie

Among those on international duty was striker Beattie, who made his England debut against Australia.

It may have been no coincidence that a below-par Beattie was substituted after 71 minutes against Norwich.

"I don't know whether the occasion and everything else in midweek all got a bit too much for him," said Strachan.

"He wasn't at his best for us. He knows that and sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

"He would have liked to have played better, but it was one of those days where it just wasn't happening for him."

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