“Taking the Mick or expecting the inevitable?” That was the name of the piece I wrote after Mick McCarthy fielded a weakened team against Manchester United at Old Trafford on December 15th. Today, Wolves have been fined £25,000 for fielding that weakened team, but the question is what really constitutes a weakened team?
In the run up to the game the former Ireland manager made 10 changes from the side which had won 1-0 at Tottenham three days before, Wolves went on to lose to Manchester United 3-0 at Old Trafford. Subsequently nine of the players who had been in action at that victory White Hart Lane and were rested at Old Trafford were recalled as Wolves faced fellow strugglers Burnley a game in which they went on to win 2-0.
In my original piece I argued that McCarthy was right to put out an under strength team, why, because they had this important game coming up at Burnley the following Sunday which was a must win game. However, I also said that was a cop out by Mick McCarthy, almost similar to holding up a white flag and waving it in the air.
Speaking after today’s announcement he said: “I accept the Premier League’s decision. It was never my intention to break any of the Premier League’s rules, only to pick a team that was in the best position to get a result. I’m pleased the matter is now closed.”
The club has been found guilty of breaching two rules, Rule E20 which states “In every League match each participating club shall field a full strength team.” And also Rule B.13 – “In all matters and transactions relating to the League each club shall behave towards each other club and the League with the utmost good faith.”
Wolves were not the first team to field an under strength side in a Premier League tie, Manchester United have done it on occasions, so have Liverpool, albeit they have usually been in dead rubber end of season games.
But, had Manchester United had fielded a second string side against Wolves would anyone have batted any eye? Possibly not, but now that Wolves have been fined it will lead to wider discussions about squad rotations.
Just because Wolves’ and indeed other team’s reserve players are not as well know as others does not mean that they are not good enough to go out and play in the first team.
Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey said: ‘We are obviously disappointed but we respect the Premier League’s ruling especially as they have now used our case as a clear warning to all other clubs, some of whom have made similar changes to their teams in Premier League matches in the past, that this is not acceptable in the future.
Football is a cruel game and I am afraid in the Premier League there is no parity between clubs that is really the main issue this. Wolves have been unfairly charged in my opinion, rules or no rules. All these proposed changes in the league mean nothing because it is one rule for the top clubs and another for all the rest.
What are your thoughts? Who will be the next club to field a weakened team? Will it be Chelsea at the aforementioned Wolves on Saturday?