THERE is no greater honour in football than to be selected to represent your country.
It should be the pinnacle of any player's career - the ultimate achievement. But when you look at the number of players who have pulled out of this weekend's Euro 2008 qualifiers through injury, you have to wonder how seriously some modern-day footballers take international football.
I don't doubt for a second that some are genuinely injured, but I think others simply take the easy option and decide they don't fancy playing for their country.
John Toshack, the Wales manager, had a lot to say about the club v country row on Tuesday after Danny Collins - a player Chester fans know well from his time at the Deva - pulled out of the Wales squad so he could rest an ankle injury. From reading John's quotes on the subject, it is clear he is less than impressed with the Sunderland defender's decision.
If I was Danny's club manager, I'd have been encour-aging him to go along to get a game and keep the momentum going.
If you've been selected for your country, it means you are one of the best 11 players in the nation. When you go back to your club, there is a bit of status there and it should lift you. It should give you more pride, more encouragement and more confidence.
That's why I find it disappointing when players react in the way Danny Collins has.
John Toshack has made his feelings clear on the matter and it looks like Danny's international career could now be over. That's John's call but I would never say never. In football, you never know what is around the corner and should always keep your options open.
I would never stand in a player's way if he wanted to represent his country. But when I was at Hibernian, I had a player who didn't enjoy going away with his national under 21s team. I knew on a Saturday that if he went, he'd be back by the Monday. He'd come back with an excuse that he had a sore head or sore something... I just couldn't get my head round it. He had the opportunity to play for his country at a high level, and yet he kept coming back. I found it disappointing.
I don't think that the passion is there as much as it was years ago when players were called up.
But times change and, these days, international players come under more pressure from the press than ever before. They are scrutinised and they get 'slaughtered' by the media if they don't play well.
Some of the words used against play-ers in the press are scandalous and it takes a bit of desire out of them.
They don't want to represent their country because their neck is on the line every time they turn out. They get a hard time. I think it's to the detriment of everybody involved - to the player, his country and to the fans.
* Bobby Williamson does not receive a fee for this column. Instead, The Chronicle makes a monthly donation to the Countess of Chester Hospital, which has teamed up with Chester City to raise £15,000 to pay for an incubator.