Monday, October 22, 2018

Managers mustn’t be criticised for making wholesale changes to their line-up

Ashley Randall in Editorial, English Championship 7 May 2017

Huddersfield boss David Wagner

Huddersfield boss David Wagner

Huddersfield Town of the Championship are facing a fine from the EFL after making 10 changes for their league game against Birmingham City.

The Terriers had already achieved a play-off position and manager David Wagner felt his players needed a rest after a hard-fought season in which they had already played 44 games.

However, Birmingham were firmly in a relegation scrap and sat just one place above the drop zone before the game had taken place.

The Blues won the game 2-0, much to the annoyance of their rivals Nottingham Forest who lodged a complaint and believed that Huddersfield were wrong in fielding an unusual starting eleven.

But was Wagner in his own right to play whatever team he felt would be beneficial to the Yorkshire club?

Strongest side

EFL rules state that all clubs are subject to a requirement to play their strongest side in all Sky Bet League matches unless some satisfactory reason is given.

But how is it possible to determine what a team’s strongest side is? There are no objective ratings given to players like on FIFA, and any football fan’s views on who should be in the starting line-up would vary quite dramatically.

Squad rotation

The only reason Wagner has managed to achieve such a lofty position in the Championship is by clever squad rotation.

Quite regularly the manager has swapped up to six players from the previous match, probably because he felt his side needed fresh legs in order to get the result.

So why would he suddenly change his tactics at the end of a successful season just because other teams are fighting for their lives at the wrong end of the table and could go down?

There are 46 games in the Championship and if one team happens to be relegated on the final game of the season because of changes their opposition makes, then it is their own making, and no one else’s.

Huddersfield deserve opportunity for rest

The Championship is one of the most demanding leagues in the world in terms of the sheer matches that must be played throughout the year.

Wagner and his players have deservedly made it to the play-offs through hard work and determination with two games to spare, so who can blame him if he wants to give his players a much-needed rest before three games worth £100 million to the club?

Wagner is employed by the club to do whatever is best for their success and evidently he feels that resting his players will give them the best chance of reaching the Premier League.

Managers will quite often rest players

It’s very common that teams across the world will rest players in order to prioritise league games or cup competitions.

Back in 2009, Mick McCarthy made ten changes while in charge of Wolverhampton Wanderers for a match against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Wolves were due to play Burnley just four days later and the manager decided that that game was more winnable and his players had a better chance if they were rested for the United match.

McCarthy’s men lost against the Red Devils but managed to beat Burnley, however the club was still fined £25,000.

Most importantly, the Wolves manager justified his actions by winning the match he had prioritised and he was completely in his own right to do so.

Football is now a squad game

Gone are the days when teams would have a first-team that they would stick to and only call upon the subs when there was an injury.

The football authorities need to realise that the modern day game is relied upon heavy squad rotation.

A manager should have the ability to do whatever he feels necessary for the benefit of the football club, without the fear of punishment.


Ashley Randall

Ash is a freelance football writer who lives, breathes and dreams the beautiful game. A lifelong Wolverhampton Wanderers season ticket holder, if he isn't at Molineux then he will be watching any game on television that he can set his eyes on. Producing work for various football websites and publications, Ash has also written for regional newspapers and global magazines.



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