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Burnley FC blog: Leave McDonald out for one game, and one game only
SOME say freeze him out for the rest of the season, others say play him on Saturday and he will respond. But Burnley might like to follow the example of Martin O'Neill when they address the thorny issue of Kevin McDonald.
If McDonald will always be remembered at Turf Moor for his two goals against Arsenal in the Carling Cup, then Saturday’s events will also feature heavily in the summary of his Burnley career.
McDonald was the player who visited a local bar at the weekend while his team were losing 6-1 at home to Manchester City, having been substituted at half time, and notoriety like that can be pretty hard to shake off.
On the plus side, the 110 Club has rarely had such publicity.
McDonald was always likely to be one of the hardest hit when Owen Coyle left for Bolton Wanderers in January, such was the close relationship the shy 21-year-old appeared to have with his boss and fellow Scot.
Coyle had won McDonald over from the start, driving up to Scotland and meeting the midfielder’s parents face to face in a successful attempt to persuade them Turf Moor was the place for their son.
We cannot know all the circumstances behind his early departure on Saturday, but the fact that the club confirmed it was without permission suggests a worrying disrespect towards new boss Brian Laws.
Laws has dealt with the incident and a fine has been issued.
So what to do now?
The Clarets face a game of paramount importance at Hull on Saturday and one would like to think McDonald is ready to reaffirm his commitment to the club with a determined performance.
Such is the difficulty of the decision, it would be hard to blame Laws no matter what he opts to do.
The O'Neill solution may be the best.
When Nigel Reo-Coker clashed with the Aston Villa boss on the training ground in September, the former England under 21 midfielder was dropped for one game and one game only.
“Nigel did not train this morning and obviously will not play tomorrow,” said O’Neill at the time.
“But I have dealt with the issue as I see fit and that’s the end of it. Monday we are back to normal.”
The logic is obvious, the compromise sensible.
To play McDonald on Saturday could send out a dangerous message to the rest of the squad.
At a time when Laws’ authority is coming under rather more scrutiny than he would like, dropping McDonald from the 18 should make it clear that flouting discipline is not without its consequences.
And if the Scot is ready to respond, then surely every other player in the Clarets squad will feel the same after the embarrassment of that City defeat.
But nor should McDonald be banished completely. That would be cutting your nose off to spite your face, as the phrase goes.
Despite a dip in form, McDonald clearly has talent and could still have a lot to offer if Burnley are to revive their hopes of staying in the Premier League.
But for one game they can manage without him.
* Should Burnley select Kevin McDonald for their match at Hull City on Saturday?