Why Mick McCarthy’s Weakened Wolves Team Might Be a Bizarre Moral Victory for Smaller ClubsBy: Daryl | December 16th, 2009
I had vowed not to write about my team, Wolves, here on the front page this year. We already have one Wolves Offside and don’t need another. But Mick McCarthy has forced my hand with his team selection against Man Utd last night.
Mick McCarthy sent out a severely weakened Wolves team to face Man Utd at Old Trafford. How weakened you ask? Well, from the starting XI that beat Spurs 1-0 on Saturday, McCarthy made 10 changes. That’s every single player, except for goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann. The severely second string line-up featured a right back playing centre midfield, and three left backs.
Unsurprisingly, Wolves lost 3-0. Equally unsurprisingly, McCarthy’s team selection was the subject of many many more headlines than the result. Headlines like the outraged Mick McCarthy cheated football and Wolves fans in the Daily Telegraph’s football blog and the obvious but brilliant Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing on the Castrol Rankings blog.
But there’s also an argument to be made for fielding a weakened team, if that’s what McCarthy thinks is best. Because if the big clubs can field weakened teams, then why not the smaller clubs?
Depending on where you stand, here’s Mick McCarthy’s explanation/excuse for his plan to fight fire with very inexperienced fire.
“I read an article somehow where (Chelsea manager) Carlo Ancelotti had said that the risk of injury in one game is 10%. And then that goes up to 30% or 40% if another intensive game follows in three or four days. We believe that anyway, but that came from the Milan Lab research centre set up by AC Milan.
“That was the best team available to me because it was fresh legs and I thought we were as competitive as we were against Chelsea and Arsenal.
“I can understand why people might not be too happy. But I’ve got a squad of players to pick from and they are all first team players. I hope supporters can understand why but it’s my job to make those decisions. If we do stay up then maybe everyone will look back and say they were all good decisions.
“It’s my job to keep this club in the Premier League and I’m making decisions which I believe are right. I took the decision knowing full well the questions that would be asked and what has happened that we’ve come out without any more injuries.
“I’m here to look after this club and I make decisions which I believe are for the good of this club.”
It’s not a bad argument, and in many ways you’ve got to admire the balls on the man. Remember, this is Mick McCarthy. The manager who took on an angry Roy Keane at the 2002 World Cup and had the courage to not back down.
But there’s also an argument that Mick McCarthy didn’t make, which is that he just did what Ferguson at Man Utd, Wenger at Arsenal and Benitez at Liverpool have been doing for years, and selected a weakened team based on where his priorities lie.
When Man Utd’s priority in May 2009 was the Champions League, Fergie sent a weakened Premier League team out to face Hull in May 2009. The big difference of course is that Man Utd still won that game 1-0. But the principle is basically the same. Ferguson deliberately lowered Man Utd’s chances of winning that game because he had other priorities. Just like McCarthy deliberately lowered Wolves chances of getting a result at Old Trafford because he had other priorities.
Wolves priority is survival, which means beating teams like Burnley this Sunday, not chasing teams like Man Utd around at Old Trafford.
If you agree with this link of thinking (and I’m sure not everyone will) then Mick McCarthy’s team selection is actually a sort of bizarre moral victory for the Premier League’s smaller teams. If the big boys are allowed to field weakened teams for whatever reason, then the smaller teams should be allowed to exactly the same thing.