Grant tells Wales: Look after Earnie

CHRIS LAKEY Peter Grant has told Wales to look after striker Robert Earnshaw this summer - or he will be withdrawn from John Toshack's international set-up.


Peter Grant has told Wales to look after striker Robert Earnshaw this summer - or he will be withdrawn from John Toshack's international set-up.

The City boss is concerned that Earnshaw, who made a surprise return to the City fold at Leicester on Saturday after three months out with a groin injury, will miss out on the work programme he has set his players for the summer months.

Earnshaw's return is bound to be a boost for Toshack, whose side face a friendly against New Zealand on May 26 before a European Championship qualifier against the Czech Republic on June 22.

However, Grant is clearly concerned on the effect it could have on his 18-goal striker and insists he doesn't want a repeat of the Michael Owen situation in which Newcastle are at loggerheads with the FA over the striker's injury at last year's World Cup.

“It is a concern for us,” said Grant, already feeling the consequences of more injury problems ahead of tonight's trip to Burnley.

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“But we will be in contact with Wales and we will make sure he has to stick to this work plan, there is no doubt of that.

“If he doesn't do that, he won't be going. I don't care what anybody says, he will not be going if they don't stick to the work plan that we are going to give him.

“You see the Michael Owen scenario - and he is as important to us as Michael Owen is to England.

“It's great for him if he is available and fit for that, but the biggest thing for us is we will be working through the summer to make sure he keeps where he is. There will be a lot of boys working right through the summer.

“I know what international football is like; you go away and sit in hotels and you say, 'oh, I'll do it tomorrow', because everyone else is switched off. Earnie has just come back from injury and it's a different sort of scenario.”

Grant has always insisted that the Championship table would have been very different had Earnshaw been fit for selection, but while he was delighted to see him make a scoring return at the weekend it's now a matter of holding him back.

The hitman is unlikely to start at Burnley tonight, although he is likely to feature at kick-off before the end of the season.

“He is too valuable as a person and he has worked too hard to get where he is,” Grant added. “You know what adrenalin does with you, adrenalin gives you that pump that you feel everything is great.

“The first 25 minutes is alright for him, but it's trying to get that actual fitness. I have been there myself, you come back and feel brilliant and over the next six games you can hardly move.

“He will be monitored very, very closely. We don't want a setback. He is ahead of schedule after the way he has worked his socks off, along with the staff. He has done exceptionally well to get there and now we have to make sure we don't ruin all that good work. That's very, very important for us.”

City's attack is probably the one area where Grant doesn't have major injury worries, which is why Earnshaw will be restricted to another cameo appearance at best tonight.

“Ideally I wouldn't even have him on the bench,” said Grant. “I'd still probably say he is two weeks away - I was looking at Southampton, probably even Sheffield Wednesday as maybe getting him a period in the game just for the psychological effect, for himself more than anything else, so having to put him on with 25 to go at the weekend wasn't ideal.

“He is still well short and we know that and we have got to be very, very careful with that.”

However, match fit or otherwise, Grant says simply calling Earnshaw to travel at the weekend was a boost.

“It is great he is back going on the bus, round about the group again because that is vital for him,” he said. “When you are in the gymnasium by yourself, working your socks off, there is no end to it. When you are back in amongst the team you start to feel as if you are getting closer and closer.”