'There’s a lesson there': Portsmouth winger's surprise international absence explained - but decision could have consequences

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Paddy Lane’s absence from the latest Northern Ireland squad has been explained. 

Boss Michael O’Neill has revealed the Pompey winger declined the opportunity to be involved in the forthcoming games against Spain and Andorra as ‘he felt he’d benefit from not being involved’.

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Lane’s omission from the 26-man party that will travel to Mallorca and Murcia for the friendlies next month came as a surprise given the role he played in the BluesLeague One title success this term.

The 23-year-old was a mainstay of the team that secured the league crown and promotion back to the Championship as he contributed 12 goals and seven assists from 42 third-tier appearances.

That earned Lane his first cap for Northern Ireland in 19 months when he started the 1-1 draw with Romania in Bucharest in March. But the chances of the Fratton favourite adding to his four international caps in the future could now be in jeopardy following his decision to opt out of the games scheduled for June 8 and 11 respectively.

Revealing the stance of Lane and the potential consequences of that decision, O’Neill told the Belfast Telegraph: ‘I only had one player, Paddy Lane, who said he felt he’d benefit from not being involved,’ said O’Neill.

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‘My argument to that was “Well, that won’t benefit you going forward because you need to commit to international football. You have to be part of the group, come into the squad and establish yourself in the squad, then try to establish yourself in the team.” We’re looking for that commitment from the players.

‘I recently went out to Belgium to watch Isaac Price (at Standard Liege) and he said “I can’t wait to come and join up in June”. That’s the attitude that you want from players coming into the squad.’

Lane’s last game for Pompey was on April 27, when he scored in the final-game-of-the-season win at Lincoln. Six weeks will have passed by the time Northern Ireland take on Spain on June 8. Meanwhile, that’s more than eight weeks after the Blues clinched promotion back to the Championship with victory against Barnsley on April 16.

That kick-started the now famous ‘Pompey promotion party’ that Lane enjoyed and included a near week-long trip to Las Vegas by the players as the Fratton Park first team let off some steam following a pressurised season.

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According to O’Neill, though, readjusting both physically and mentally for June matches on the international front is something all top players accommodate in their lifestyles.

When asked about the demands put on players, O’Neill responded: ‘I understand that – but if we were preparing to go to the Euro finals in Germany we wouldn’t be discussing this and that’s what I’ve been saying to the players: “Ideally you’ll be playing in June because you’re going to a major finals”.

‘Come June 2025 we’ll have two World Cup qualifying games so we’ll have to be committed to play and be used to playing.

‘These are young lads, most of them – if Jonny Evans can come at his age and Corry Evans and Josh Magennis and look forward to coming…Jonny Evans has over 100 caps and Corry has over 70, Josh is touching somewhere in that region as well. You only get that number if you turn up, no-one gives you them. There’s a lesson there for all the players.

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‘The fact they are involved in the squad means the younger players really have little to grumble about and should look forward to these opportunities.

‘We’re asking them to play in a good climate in a good camp and the players are well-managed.

‘Really now international football is part of your lifestyle as a footballer. You have to make sure you prepare and cater for it appropriately.

‘Besides, we have some lads who haven’t played for a while. Take League One, it finished on April 29th, so if they weren’t in the play-offs they’ve had a break. It’s not like they don’t get a break, they’ve had that opportunity, so hopefully they come in fresh and ready to do themselves justice.’

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