By Jon Couch
In a build-up to World Cup year, one thing it seems is inevitable – it’s time for the now-familiar club-versus-country row to rear its ugly head again.
But while the top-flight stars stand by to be used as a pawn in a tug-of-war between national and club bosses ahead of Russia 2018 next summer, there’s one player plying his trade in the National League who knows, unreservedly, where his priorities lie.
Harry Panayiotou is one of St Kitts & Nevis’ top young stars having scored seven goals in 13 international appearances for his country to date.
But the 23-year-old has revealed he has turned down the opportunity to play for his country on more than one occasion this season in order to help turn around the fortunes of Barrow AFC at the wrong end of the National League table.
Panayiotou has started the last five matches for the Bluebirds under new manager Ady Pennock, and that’s where the former Leicester City youngster’s focus will remain until his side have secured their National League safety after a disappointing start to the campaign.
“There was a tournament in India and I was called up for it, but it wasn’t an international break,” said Panayiotou. “I spoke with the [St Kitts] manager and he asked if I wanted to come. I said I would love to but it’s not an international break, and my main focus is Barrow.
“We had a game on December 12 against Grenada but I’d already said to them I won’t be coming because it’s not an international window. I need to be here; the team needs me, we all need each other right now to get better.
“The next FIFA date is in March but if I’m still playing for Barrow then I’m not going to leave. I can’t do that because it’s a big season with trying to get into the play-offs. I’ll have to wait until the summer to go to St Kitts.”