OPINION: Was Stags boss right in club versus country stance?

Adam Murray.
Adam Murray.

It is an age-old conflict of interest that has divided fans, players, managers, owners and football in general for many years - and probably always will.

Who would you rather win - your country or your favourite team? And following on the discussion, would managers rather their players didn’t play for their countries and instead devoted themselves 100% to their clubs - the ones who pay their wages.

I raise the issue after listening to Mansfield Town manager Adam Murray explain the issues surrounding the departure of Stags winger Reggie Lambe a couple of weeks ago.

Lambe rejected a new contract offer to stay at One Call Stadium in favour of a move to fellow League Two side Carlisle United - and, of course, former Mansfield boss Keith Curle.

The deal on the table to head north was financially better for Lambe and Murray stressed that he had no problems with the player’s decision, saying: “He’s been brilliant for me, Reg, but he’s chosen to take a better offer at Carlisle and we don’t hold that against him, we wish him all the best.”

But Murray, who has also stressed all summer that he is determined to get the best-possible value from players’ deals for the club, went on to highlight one issue that seemed to affect the size of the offer made to Lambe to stay - the fact that the winger left the Stags in the past two seasons to play for Bermuda.

In other words, playing for his country cost Lambe when it came to the terms of his proposed contract to stay at One Call Stadium.

Murray said: “A little bit of our conversation was obviously getting the value for the player and the output that we got from Reggie in terms of assists and goals, but also balancing that up [with] the fact that we lose Reggie for a few weeks every season [on international duty], which is a bit of a pain in the backside.

“He’s chosen to go away in two seasons now when we’ve come to the ‘nitty-gritty’ part of the season, so that was all weighed up in the contract we offered.”

For me, surely it is better for a player to be happy, to develop his skills and experience on the international front, and come back a better player?

That way the club benefits from having an improved player and possibly, in the future, a higher-valued commodity to sell on.

Of course, some clubs and managers, who have to survive on small resources, think differently. They see the loss of a body for a few matches, the added injury risk and the fact they are paying out money for an employee not to go to work.

It has also been pointed out to me that the standard Bermuda and Tanzania - for whom Stags striker Adi Yussuf has been called up - mostly play at would not necessarily improve them as players.

Internationals for those two countries would also probably involve long trips than playing for England, for example.

It is a hard balancing act, but if players are not encouraged to play for their countries where would international football be?