'We're not going to put anybody at risk' - Jim Crawford responds to Millwall boss's Troy Parrott comments

Gary Rowett had previously suggested he was less than pleased with the youngster going away on international duty.

Jim Crawford pictured during today's Ireland U21 press conference.
Jim Crawford pictured during today's Ireland U21 press conference.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND U21 BOSS Jim Crawford has played down concerns regarding Troy Parrott’s fitness, after naming him in the squad for upcoming European Championship qualifiers against Iceland and Luxembourg.

The 18-year-old forward, who joined Millwall on loan from Tottenham at the beginning of the season, has so far made just a single EFL Cup appearance this season for the Lions back in September, with an ankle injury keeping him out since then.

However, Parrott is now on the verge of a return and could feature in the Championship match away to Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow.

Nevertheless, Millwall boss Gary Rowett earlier this week expressed reservations about Parrott going on international duty, saying: “Possibly he’ll go away with Ireland, although I don’t think that’s necessarily the best course of action.”

In response to these comments, Crawford said he had not spoken with Rowett, but insisted that the Irish set-up would do all they could to protect the Dublin-born youngster.

“I don’t think there are many [club] managers who are happy with players going away on international duty,” the former Newcastle player explained. “And that’s just the nature of the beast.

I spoke to Troy. Troy’s keen and he’s here to represent us. He’s available for selection at Millwall for their game tomorrow. He’s been training well and it’s about us and the Millwall medical team coming up with some agreement with regards to what will suit the player as regards minutes. He hasn’t played competitively since the ankle injury, so we all understand that and we’re not going to put anybody at risk.”

Parrott could be key for the Irish team’s final two games of the campaign.

With the senior men’s team missing out on the Euros and the Irish women’s team’s hopes of reaching their equivalent competition slim, the U21 side appear to be the best hope for an Irish team reaching a tournament this year.

Nevertheless, it won’t be easy. The Irish side are currently second on goal difference to group leaders Italy, though the Italians have a game in hand. Sweden and Iceland trail them by just a point, and the latter also have a match extra to play.

Consequently, the Irish side will likely need six points from the final two games to keep their hopes alive. The Italians look strong candidates for top spot, but should the Azzurri win their remaining fixtures, the Irish side will still hope to qualify in one of the five best runners-up spots.

“If we get six points from two games, who knows?” Crawford says. “We might top the group, because Italy play Iceland in Iceland next Thursday. That in itself is a really challenging game for Italy. If Iceland win that, then our game becomes something different.

“All we’re concentrating on is six points — it’s in our control at the minute. We’re not relying on anyone else. Six points, two games. And we’ll see where that takes us.”

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On the two upcoming fixtures, Crawford added: “Iceland are a well-structured team. There are a lot of very good individual players — strong, athletic and a real counter-attacking team. That’s going to be a test.

The second game in Luxembourg, it’s their last game of the campaign. I’ve no doubt about it, they’ll make it as difficult as possible and be getting numbers behind the ball. It’s probably trying to spoil our party if we beat Iceland.”

Coronavirus-related restrictions have made it difficult for Crawford and his staff to attend games abroad in person, but the Ireland U21 boss has been keeping busy, recently doing a coaching stint with the Shels U19s team.

“I love coaching, I really do. It’s always been a passion of mine. It’s a two-way thing where it’s a little bit of giving back to League of Ireland clubs. You’re constantly looking and assessing players within our league.

“But as well as that, it’s an opportunity to keep me coaching, because I love it and you’re not too long getting rusty when you’re away from the grass. So it’s important for me in both ways. But more importantly, it’s nice to give back. It’s something that I’ve always done since I’ve retired as a player.”

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Paul Fennessy

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