Warnock angry about international load for one of his stars ahead of City clash

Boro midfielder in action for Northern Ireland against Romania on Wednesday night Picture: Niall Car

Boro midfielder in action for Northern Ireland against Romania on Wednesday night Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock is fuming with the Northern Ireland coaching staff after seeing one of his top performers start all three games during the international break, ahead of Saturday’s clash with Norwich City.

Boro midfielder Paddy McNair played 104 minutes of a 2-1 defeat to Slovakia in Belfast last Thursday, as Ian Baraclough’s team lost their European Championship qualification play-off final after extra-time.

Two Uefa Nations League games followed and, despite Northern Ireland having no chance of promotion from Group B1, the 25-year-old played all of a 2-1 loss in Austria on Sunday and a 1-1 home draw with Romania on Wednesday.

Warnock, speaking to Teesside Live earlier this month, had heaped praise on McNair, saying: “For me, he’s 10 out of 10 every week - I can’t see a better player in this division.”

But now he’s unhappy to see one of his best players being flogged unnecessarily, telling Boro’s website: “Paddy McNair has played three of the toughest games you could wish for and he has played almost every minute.

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“I don’t understand how him and (Leeds winger) Stuart Dallas can do that. There’s something wrong when that happens. You’ve also got to think of the players.

“We helped him up to the first game, but after that, I can’t accept that, when there’s nothing else to play for.”

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The Manchester United academy product has rebuilt his career after a serious knee ligament injury suffered in November 2016 kept him out of action for a year, with Sunderland relegated from the Premier League while he was out.

After the Black Cats dropped straight through the Championship, with McNair making 16 appearances as he recovered fitness, Norwich were among the clubs linked with interest in keeping him in the second tier.

It was Boro who signed him though, in a deal reportedly worth up to £5million. He was on the fringes during his first season but scored six goals in 41 games during 2019-20 and has played every minute of 11 Championship games for Warnock so far this season, assisting two goals.

WhoScored.com rate McNair at an average of 7.25 for his performances so far this season, the highest of any Boro player, who sit seventh and just a point outside the play-off places ahead of third-placed Norwich arriving at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday - with Warnock having won Manager of the Month for October with his team unbeaten in 10 games.

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