Grigg will get break to avoid burn-out - Joyce

Will Grigg
Will Grigg

Warren Joyce readily admits Will Grigg ‘needs a little bit of a break’ after watching Wigan Athletic’s star striker jet out for international duty with Northern Ireland.

Grigg is back in the Northern Ireland fold for Friday’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan and next Tuesday’s friendly against Croatia, both at Windsor Park, Belfast.

He’d been left out of the previous two squad gatherings due to personal reasons after becoming a new dad.

Grigg’s commitments at Euro 2016 – despite him not kicking a ball in the competition – meant his off-season was virtually non-existent, leading Joyce to worry about player burn-out unless the situation is carefully managed.

“It is a real frustration,” acknowledged the Latics boss.

“Talking to Will, he’s had a long summer, where he maybe only had 10 days off between seasons, and he almost needs a little bit of a break.

“I know from my experience at Manchester United, the players always had at least a four-week break (over the summer) because the body needs that.

“It’s something we’ll be looking at with Will, to try to give him a chance to recharge his batteries and go again for the rest of the year.”

Grigg has scored six times this season from 17 appearances, but only once – the last-minute winner against Wolves – in the last 10 matches.

He was left on the bench at the weekend against Reading, coming on after 70 minutes with the game already long gone.

For his part, Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill – the former Latics midfielder – insists he had no hesitation in bringing back Grigg to add to his attacking options.

“He’s a player that still has to prove himself at this level,” recognised O’Neill.

“Unfortunately for personal reasons he wasn’t able to be part of the squad for the first three games, but he is playing on a regular basis in the championship, scoring goals.

“It’s been difficult recently with Wigan not getting the results they hoped.

“But a player playing at that level, playing regularly for his club, is someone we can’t ignore.

“He has to come here and force his way into the team and if given the opportunity, take the opportunity.”

Without Grigg, Northern Ireland picked up four points from their opening three games in the group.

They currently lie third in Group C, three points behind Azerbaijan, who have made a better-than-expected start to the campaign.

However, victory for Northern Ireland would see them sign off for 2016 in second place.

Shaun MacDonald is also away on international duty, having joined up with the rest of the Wales squad for Saturday’s World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Cardiff.

The Welsh are looking to bounce back from the blow of dropping two points in their last outing, a 1-1 home draw with Georgia last month.