James McArthur says criticism of James McCarthy 'unfair'

IT HAS sometimes seemed as if James McArthur has been twinned with James McCarthy, the friend he grew up with at Hamilton and then followed to a Wigan side both are fresh from helping secure Premier League status in unlikely circumstances.

Now, though, the pair could be about to become distant relations.

McArthur's career is all about quietly establishing himself with the Lancashire team and Scotland. McCarthy's, meanwhile, seems all about making headlines outside of his club and country of birth.

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The 20-year-old has been linked to Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, for a fee mooted to be around the 12 million mark. His summer break began, meanwhile, with a tongue-lashing from Republic of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni and captain Robbie Keane over the withdrawal from his adopted country's squad for the Carling Nations Cup and their Euro 2012 qualifier against Macedonia on Saturday.

McArthur considers the talk about his buddy being worth a mammoth sum never before paid for a Scottish-born player completely justified; the chat about him being a malingerer absolutely not.

"James has had an outstanding season," said McArthur, who had a promising one with nine starts and 15 substitute appearances that placed put him "ahead of schedule", but wanting more.

"He has taken his game on to new levels and that's why he is being linked with such massive clubs. For a boy from Hamilton to be linked with clubs like that is extraordinary, at the age of 20.

"He is running games sometimes in the Premiership, at that age, and that shows you his talent. I think there will be bids for him, but I don't know if he'll go. He wants to play first-team football and he has a very good chance of that at Wigan.

"The temptation to go to big clubs like that is obviously there. It's weighing up your options and seeing what is there for you. I don't know if Wigan would accept 12m for him because he is an outstanding player and only 20.

"I don't want to say too much about Trapattoni because he's a great manager, but James has had a traumatic injury. He'd been out for about three months and everyone was thinking: 'Maybe he isn't going to come back and do as well as he'd been doing.' So I think it's very unfair for such a young boy to get so much criticism when he does have an injury."

McArthur admitted he was "devastated" that his midfield mucker chose the land of his grandparents when it came to declaring for a national side. There seemed questions over whether he would go with the Republic earlier this year, but his former Hamilton confrere never doubted he would turn out in a competitive international for them.

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"We were gutted that he didn't choose Scotland, but, as a friend, I didn't want to put too much pressure on him." McArthur said. "I told him that he'd love being with Scotland and that there were quite a few guys he knows in the squad. It's sad that he won't be playing for us. I'm devastated, to be honest but it gives me a better opportunity to get a game." Why also, McArthur joked, that he has told McCarthy he would love playing for Liverpool.