Irish Premiership: Players should be asked about fixture schedule - Herron

John Herron and Lloyd Anderson challenge for the ball
John Herron has previously played full-time football at Celtic and Blackpool

Larne midfielder John Herron has said players should be consulted about fixtures and their wellbeing amid a packed local football schedule.

Clubs have been playing three matches a week in a bid to complete the 38-game Irish Premiership season.

The Irish Cup is also scheduled to start on 27 April.

"The welfare of the players should come first, if you have to cut the league short then that is what you do," said Herron.

"There are obviously different rumours about 38 games and the Irish Cup and playing 'X' number of games between now and the end of the season twice a week - do I think it is necessary or sensible? No, I don't.

"I think the managers and clubs should be consulted. We are like you, we see the rumours on social media but we don't know what is going on. I think they should ask us the question as well, not just those who are on the board or at NIFL, they aren't the ones putting their bodies through it.

"You can do whatever you want with the leagues and the cups in terms of sponsorship but it's the players you have to look after first. Do I think it's sensible? Not at all but it's not me in charge and I just do as I'm told."

Former Scotland youth international Herron, who played for Celtic and Blackpool before moving to Glentoran and then Larne, says it is unfair to compare the schedules in England and Northern Ireland.

Larne and Glentoran are full-time clubs in the Irish Premiership along with Linfield, who earlier this week unveiled their plans for a full-time model, while Crusaders are three-quarters professional. The other eight clubs are all part-time.

"It's a lot different over here, especially with coronavirus which means you can't properly train," said Herron, who missed eight games earlier in the season with a knee injury.

"We are lucky in the sense that we are a full-time club, it's the other clubs I feel sorry for who are part-time. They are working around their jobs as well.

"I am one of the fortunate ones where I'm full time and it is our sole focus but you have to think about the part-time clubs, playing two games a week is hard for them and hard for their families. Wellbeing is more important than any cup game or whatever is it.

"At the end of the day football is football. I love it and it is my life but I am a people person and I think people should come first more than anything."

Players are being flogged

Glentoran defender Bobby Burns, who is sidelined with a serious injury, believes that fixture scheduling "is definitely something that needs looked at."

The 21-year-old feels the introduced of a Professional Footballers' Association would give the players in the Irish League a platform to voice their concerns.

"It's a crazy schedule when you look at the games left in the league, then the Irish Cup and some teams are going to fall straight into Europe by the time the play-offs finish," said Burns, who was a summariser for Sportsound's coverage of Larne's draw with Cliftonville on Saturday.

"Although we are lucky to be playing we need to remember that we are playing with players' careers.

"It's getting to the stage where the players, even from the full-time clubs, are really struggling. I would be very surprised if there isn't a PFA formed very soon."

Bobby Burns is on loan at Glentoran from Barrow
Bobby Burns is on loan at Glentoran from League two side Barrow

Northern Ireland under-21 international Burns adds that he sympathises with managers given the competitive nature of the Irish Premiership.

"We need to look at ways we can protect the players both this year and coming into next season and it so important we give them a proper break in the summer," he said.

"It's difficult for the managers, people may ask why don't they rest their best players but such is the nature of the league and how tight it is, plus their jobs are on the line, they have to keep playing their best players.

"It's a tough challenge for the players and as fans watching games we want high-level performances but the more we play the players, we are flogging them which means the games are going to become slower and there will be injuries.

"The product has still been superb this season and the players have to given credit. When I was watching Cheltenham you don't see the horses go out two or three times in a day yet we expect our players to play Tuesday-Friday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday.

"It is ok to do that once every few weeks but when it is continuous like this it is very difficult."

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