Paul Mystified

Paul Goddard admits that the timing of international week could have been better just ahead of the Premiership's busy Easter programme.

"We have seven away playing internationals and we obviously hope they all return in one piece, but it is a very strange time of the year to be playing internationals - especially friendlies," he says.

"We have got bad memories of friendlies after losing David James for several weeks and fingers crossed that nothing like that happens again.

"Obviously there is the World Cup to prepare for but it just does seem such a strange time to be playing a friendly when we have got such a run of vital games coming up in quick succession.

"On top of that the big clubs have got the Champions' League games as well. Sven-Goran Eriksson is using his men for 45 minutes but it is still another game they have got to play, and as we say we just hope they all do well and return fit for the weekend."

The club v country debate is heightened in World Cup year of course, and Paul adds: "I'm sure they look at it constantly and Glenn told me the other day that they are fitting another one in towards the end of the season, so the mind boggles.

If you take us for example we have three or four that are desperately trying to get into that World Cup environment, but our concern is West Ham United and we want to make sure they are totally focused and approaching every game we have got properly.

"It is very difficult - a fine balancing act."

Meanwhile, one player who was involved on international duty - albeit briefly - in midweek is Steve Bywater, who played for 10 minutes as a sub for England under-21s against Italy.

Explaining the thinking behind allowing him to go to Cardiff City on loan, Paul says: "What with David Forde and Sven we have got quite a few goalkeepers, and Glenn has decided that it would be good for Steven to get some experience of first team football.

"He has had a nasty injury this year for a goalkeeper - not nasty as in career threatening but time-wise it takes a long time to heal, so we are looking for him to play some football.

"Whenever we can the staff will try to get to look at him."

Paul shares Glenn Roeder's frustration, however, that there will be no incomings ahead of the deadline, and he says: "We have talked about a lot of things but I don't think there is going to be a lot happening.

"We would have liked to have made that squad a little bit stronger for the last run-in, but if it is not to be, it is not to be, and we have to just get on with things."

With the uncertainty surrounding the ITV Digital deal with the Nationwide clubs now that the TV company has gone into administration, even loan deals amongst or to those clubs has been reduced dramatically this week compared to other weeks of transfer deadline day.

It is therefore unlikely that there will be anyone following Steve out the door to gain first team experience elsewhere.

Comments Paul: "If they end up pulling out or negotiating a new deal then there are bound to be severe consequences for clubs. Like any business you cut your cloth accordingly and if they do not get that money now there are going to be problems.

"For each club it will have its own consequences - very serious in some cases."