By Alex Stevens
Ronald Koeman took to Twitter on Friday night to hit back at Martin O’Neill for getting his facts wrong over James McCarthy’s pre-season programme at Everton.
Toffees manager Koeman delivered an emphatic and quick-fire response to Republic of Ireland boss O’Neill as the row over McCarthy’s fitness took a new twist.
The Dutch all-time great was left fuming after McCarthy picked up a hamstring problem during the international break when he was away with the national team.
O’Neill responded to the Everton man’s criticism with a statement on Friday night in which he insisted that “master tactician of the game” Koeman should also take some of the flack for McCarthy’s fitness by sanctioning his playing return just 11 days after Euro 2016.
But Koeman hit back on Twitter immediately afterwards and just hours before the Merseyside derby, pointing out that O’Neill had got his dates completely wrong.
“James McCarthy began his pre-season three and a half weeks after Ireland were knocked out of the Euros. From the master tactician,” Koeman wrote on the social media site.
James McCarthy began his pre-season three and a half weeks after Ireland were knocked out of the Euros. From the master tactician
— Ronald Koeman (@RonaldKoeman) March 31, 2017
McCarthy, 26, is expected to be out of action for a lengthy spell and Koeman has criticised both O’Neill and McCarthy for defying medical advice.
But O’Neill refused to bear the full brunt of his rival’s anger, saying that some of the blame for the midfielder’s problems lie with his club.
In a statement on the FAI website on Friday evening, O’Neill said: “Once again the Everton manager, master tactician of the blame game, has struck out in his comments today, criticising both myself and James McCarthy.
“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.”
There may be some concern at Everton that Koeman is caught up in a row with a rival manager just hours before his side’s Saturday lunchtime clash against Liverpool at Anfield.
The derby kicks off at 12.30pm as Everton attempt to narrow the six-point gap on Jurgen Klopp’s side to keep their hopes of a top-four finish alive.
In other Everton news, the club have terminated the contract of a forward.