Republic of Ireland and Charlton skipper Matt Holland has backed his team-mate Mark Fish's selection for the South African squad to play in the forthcoming Nokia African nations Cup in Tunisia.
Holland, scorer of that priceless goal for the Rep of Ireland against Cameroon at the 2002 World Cup told our partner website, Shibobo Football in London, that Charlton will miss Fish (in the event that he does decide to go to Tunisia) but thinks that it's still good for him to be selected.
Thapelo Moloantoa of Shibobo Football spoke to him and several other players at Charlton after their 0-0 drawn game against Newcastle.
Shibobo : Mark Fish has been selected for the South African squad to play in the Nokia African Cup of Nations in Tunisia January. What are your feelings about that?
Holland: I think its great for Fish; it's a terrific honour for him. He's played for South Africa before, but for us it's a blow because he might be away for up to 6 weeks. For him to be away for that long is a disappointment for the team overall, but I think it's good news for him.
Shibobo : Shaun Bartlett was in a similar situation and has now finally retired.
Holland: His contract is up end of the season, he is playing for a new contract,and he wants to get another contract at Charlton. Plus it is doubtful he would've played in the Nations Cup anyway because he has faced a spate of injuries, so he wouldn't have been fit to play.
Shibobo : How much do you miss Fish in defence?
Holland: In the last two games we've been pleased with our defence's performance but Fish is a tremendous player and you are definitely going to miss a defender of his quality.
Shibobo : I am sure you are missing Bartlett upfront as well.
Holland: We definitely miss Shaun - he scored a few goals early in the season for us. He is our target man, very good in the air so we would be glad to have him back again soon.
Shibobo : What do you think about South Africa's prospects in Tunisia?
Holland: I've played against South Africa and they are a good team with some exciting players. They are in a tough group with Nigeria, but they should do well.
Carlton Cole, 23 year old English international who moved on a season's loan to Charlton after Chelsea signed Hernan Crespo and Adrian Mutu in the summer, had the following to say:
Shibobo : Your teammate Fish is in the South African squad for the African Nations Cup.
Carlton Cole: Yes Fish has done very well to earn a recall. He has to decide whether he plays for his club or his country and hopefully he will make the right decision at the end of the day and good luck to him.
Charlton defender Jonathan Fortune, who received special praise from Sir Bobby Robson for marking Newcastle's deadly Alan Shearer out of the game on Saturday, had the following to say:
Shibobo : What do you think of Mark Fish's selection for the African Nations Cup Tunisia 2004.
Fortune: It's a great honour for him, he's a tremendous player and deserves to go out there and play for his country.
Shibobo : Do you think the club will be happy with his call-up?
Fortune: I don't know what the club's position is with Fish but Bartlett was under a bit of pressure. The disadvantage with the tournament is that it is held at such a vital time of the Premiership season.
Shibobo : Do you know much about South African football?
Fortune: Yeah, well not that much, I only tune in when Fish and Bartlett have played and I think it's a squad with good potential.
Bartlett and Fish have introduced a new warm up that they used to do in the SA team but since they not playing that much in the last few games we haven't been doing it that much, but everybody likes it.