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No white flag for Burnley's Coyle

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Phil McNulty | 07:30 UK time, Thursday, 17 December 2009

Owen Coyle is not in the business of hoisting the white flag as Burnley's response to facing the Premier League's biggest names.

As a result of this approach (some might even call it unorthodox in the light of recent events), Coyle found himself facing a searching inquisition on the subject of Wolverhampton Wanderers after his side took a deserved point off Arsenal.

Wolves boss Mick McCarthy's decision to effectively concede defeat when he wrote out his team-sheet at Manchester United was still a hot topic at Turf Moor after another meeting between the top flight's haves and have-nots.

Burnley's method of taking on Arsenal - "standing toe-to-toe" in the words of Coyle - could not have been further removed from the surrender that so angered the Wolves fans who shelled out to watch their reserves meet an inevitable end at Old Trafford.

Ironically, the bold manner in which Burnley set about Arsenal, even after gifting Cesc Fabregas an early goal, offered support for both sides of McCarthy's argument.

Owen Coyle shouts to his players from the touchline at Turf MoorCoyle's Burnley have made themselves very difficult to beat at Turf Moor

There is a new vulnerability about the Premier League's top teams this season, an opportunity to claim points that were not on offer in previous seasons. So the route forward has to be the way outlined by Coyle after this thrilling draw when he said: "I always feel we can win any game and that's the way we go about it."

On the other side of the debate, Burnley played with such vibrant freedom and desire that you almost saw the logic in McCarthy saving his best for the meeting of the two teams at Molineux on Sunday - until you came to your senses that is.

How did the Wolves players who sweated to win at Spurs feel about being left out at Old Trafford? What has happened to the momentum built up by that outstanding victory at White Hart Lane?

Yes, the hectic fixture list can be questioned, but Burnley also played at the weekend and where is the concrete evidence that they put less effort into a draw against Fulham than Wolves did in winning at Spurs?

The judgement on McCarthy's actions will start when Burnley come to town and the final reckoning will follow when Wolves either stay up or go down at the end of the season. One thing is for sure: if Wolves do not beat Burnley he will have some explaining to do.

As a general principle, though, give me the manager who thinks he can win every game rather than the one who limply accepts there are times when his team have no chance. In other words, Owen Coyle.

Burnley's record once the team coach gets 30 yards away from Turf Moor is atrocious, but do not expect their fans to be making vocal demands for their cash back because Coyle has sent out a team designed to get what he regards as an inevitable defeat out of the way. It is not in the Scot's psyche.

Coyle knew what was coming when the subject of Wolves was raised and dealt with it in a dignified manner, offering support for McCarthy the man and manager.

"Mick is an outstanding manager and a fantastic man. He has done a fantastic job and does what he sees fit for Wolves," said Coyle.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was less forthcoming in his praise of McCarthy, although he did question fixtures being played this week.

"It is sad but what can I do? We will have to compete with Manchester United over 37 games instead of 38," he said.

"It's a problem for the international credibility of the Premier League for sure, but it's not my problem, it's a Premier League problem."

Sad indeed - but if fortune favours the brave then Burnley and Coyle's approach will be rewarded and they showed what they are all about on another fevered night at Turf Moor.

The one and only Stuart Hall, in between revealing in the match programme that he was once banned from Burnley's press box for making fun of the chairman's wife's hat ("an upturned chamber pot decorated with outsized floribunda"), waxed typically lyrical about Coyle's approach.

"To feet, to space, to attack. Football is tribal. To most teams it's win at all costs. To Owen and his superb team it's win in style."

Coyle's team drew in style against Arsenal and provided a resounding answer to those who may be tempted to copy the McCarthy theory that states, in football terms, that there are days when you might as well just hand over your pocket money to the biggest boys in the playground.

Wenger wrongly claimed Arsenal were "dominating" after the interval - unless I actually left Turf Moor and attended an entirely different game after half-time that is.

Burnley celebrate their equaliserBurnley's Graham Alexander grabbed the equaliser from the spot

Burnley were Arsenal's match and more besides once Graham Alexander scored from the spot, as he always does, to equalise. They passed and probed and created the more dangerous openings as Man-of-the-Match Chris Eagles hit a post and Steven Fletcher had a goal ruled out.

For Arsenal, this was two points lost but it was no hard luck story. And a hamstring injury suffered by Cesc Fabregas will not have improved Wenger's mood on the return journey to London.

Another worry for Arsenal, and England, is the current form of Theo Walcott. This gifted youngster, who carries so much expectation ahead of the World Cup, is currently a shadow of his true self.

He was confined to the edges of a game that ebbed and flowed, and never seriously troubled Burnley defender Stephen Jordan. Walcott lacked sharpness and confidence - a player struggling for his best form after injury.

It was an ignominious moment when he was taken off just after the hour, not long after wasting an attacking opportunity for Arsenal with a woeful cross into the visiting fans when under no pressure.

Wenger and Capello must hope more games will see Walcott come out of his shell. He was not an influence at Burnley.

This was an uncomfortable night for Arsenal, who failed to build on a win at Liverpool that had Wenger announcing they were "mentally and mathematically" back in the title race.

And the reason for their discomfort was that Burnley's first-choice team, inspired by their manager's example, had the guts, heart and belief to take on opponents even they would admit are superior in most aspects of the game.

Burnley got the reward of a point that could prove vital at the end of the season. There might just be a lesson there.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Good blog as usual, great point for Burnley also and they actually should of won considering there perfectly good goal was disallowed.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think you covered this concept in the last blog! ;)

  • Comment number 3.

    Burnely and Superb is a bit of a strange juxtaposition in light of the league table. I completely agree with the points raised about being brave and how dropped players feel. What is bizarre in all this is that Wolves actually put up a very very good show against United even if loosing 3 : 0 , it will probably cause selection headaches for McCarthy, but whatever little esteem I had for him is dried up and left.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comparision was allways going to come today, but i'm afraid it is not as direct as you might wish Phil.

    For a start Burnley had an extra day to recover from fixture the barely partook in losing 2-0 to a relegation candidate, we had a day less to recover from 90 mins defending at White Heart Lane (have you ever played football without the ball? It is quite taxing).

    Burnley had a home fixture vs Arsenal, which I would suggest is at least twice as winnable as a game vs Man Utd at Old Trafford, certainly for Burnley who have an excellent record at home this year.

    The truth is, we could have picked a first XI and played within our abilities due to the exertions of White Hart Lane and the nessecity not to have picked up any injuries ahead of the Sunday game and we would have got beaten in much the same manner as the line up at Old Trafford, 7 of whom have all been first choice this season at some stage but whose counting?

    But no, I get it, in doing what clubs have big four clubs have done for years we have ruined everything. And you'll get a thousand comments on your blog today saying 'nice one Phil!', 'man of the people Phil!', 'I hope Burnley smash Wolves on saturday and they get relegated Phil!', 'this sure sounds like the tripe we were spouting down the pub last night Phil, lets be friends?'.

    I cannot remember a similiar article when Man Utd changed there entire side vs Hull last season, or are you only allowed to do it if you have afford to spend £20m on a substitute?

  • Comment number 5.

    While I take your point that Burnley have made a net gain of a point over Wolves in the last couple of days, I dont think its necessarily fair to compare Manchester United away, to Arsenal at home in terms of difficulty. One usually results in a comprehensive home win regardless of the opposition, and the other has a long track record of coming unstuck in the northwest.

    If you looked at these two fixtures at the start of the season and were asked to make a prediction of the outcome, with no additional knowledge of who would be picked to play, then not many people would predict wins for Burnley or Wolves.

    On balance Mick McCarthy wont be too unhappy with the outcome, though as you say, he is going to have a decent supply of egg on his face should they fail to beat Burnley. A loss after this strategy doesn't bear thinking about.

  • Comment number 6.

    Just want to congratulate Burnley on the result last night, I don't think Arsenal should be too downhearted about it though it is quite clear that Turf Moor is a very difficult place to get a result (much like the Brittania) there will be many more teams drop points there over the course of the season so come on Gunners lets look forward to Saturday when we can tonk Hull at home (unlike last year!!!!)

  • Comment number 7.

    Good blog Phil, I was at the match last night and totally agree that Burnley were the better side for long periods of the second half. What is Arsene Wenger thinking when he makes comments like "dominating" the second half. Owen Coyle conducts himself in an exemplary manner and epitomises how football should be respected and played. He is a shining example to any player who has an ambition to be a manager. His skills in motivating players, giving them belief and aiming to win every match (even if it means getting hammered every now and again - pay attention Mick!) He has not put a foot wrong in 2 years at Burnley.
    The atmosphere at Burnley does appear to be the '12th man'. Almunia looked rattled on a number of occasions, in particluar when being put under pressure to kick the ball up field, only keeping 2 clearances on the pitch all evening. Burnley's back 4 had their best game of the season with Carlisle and Mears being outstanding.
    Phil, what do you think we need to do to replicate this form away from Turf Moor?

  • Comment number 8.

    Good to see you concentrating on the so-called lesser lights of the Premier league for a change Phil.
    As a Wolves fan, I was deeply disappointed by McCarthy's approach on Tuesday and the integrity of the Club and its reputation has no doubt suffered as a result - at least for a while. He has left himself no option but to win on Sunday and I wonder if the increased pressure that this puts on the team (and the fact that they were kicking their heels in midweek instead of building on the momentum gained from back-to-back wins ) may backfire on Sunday.
    I am full of admiration for Burnley's attitude and how they play the game and they have been a great example (at home at least) to the less fancied teams of how to take on the big boys. Fingers crossed for a Wolves win on Sunday and the quick restoration of their reputation, but I also hope that Burnley as well as Wolves stay up.

  • Comment number 9.

    To The Serbian Gary Breen...Manchester United fielded a side that was good enough to win at Hull City - and promptly did, so I do not accept that comparison.

    There was no way (barring a miracle maybe) that Wolves were going to win at Old Trafford on Tuesday with the team they put out. And how can you work out that a home game against Arsenal is "a least twice as winnable as a game vs Man Utd at Old Trafford"?

    I have heard all sorts of nonsense justifying what Wolves did by going on about how the Premier League is no longer a "level playing field". When was it last a truly level playing field anyway? It is competitive.

    If Wolves - or any other club for that matter - wish to have a level playing field then why not simply stay in the Championship where they can win more games?

    And if the Premier League is that uneven, how come Burnley beat Manchester United at Turf Moor and drew at Manchester City? This season has proved points can be taken from the top teams by those quite a way below them - so there is no defence, in my opinion of course, for what Wolves did.

    I am surprised that any Wolves fan would be satisfied in any way with their manager sending out a team that looked to be designed simply to get an inevitable defeat out of the way.

    Owen Coyle had it right when he said he goes into every game believing he can win it. If he thinks that, why can't Mick McCarthy?

    By the way, I should add that I do not disagree that McCarthy has done a fine job at Wolves, but I believe he got this one wrong on many levels.

    And if I had paid for the "privilege" on Tuesday, without knowing in advance that this was going to be such a depleted team, then I would have been even more angry.

  • Comment number 10.

    Phil this is a pretty provocative post, which I note your taking the side of generally all of the Premier League.

    Which is fine, your paid to provoke debate in your blog (well written by the way) but I think you need to pay more attention to the facts.

    The team selection Tuesday night was perplexing to me, I was disappointed when I saw the team sheet, but you mention we fielded a team of reserves?

    How often have you watched Wolves this season?

    Hahnemann 1st choice keeper.
    Elokobi 1st choice LB
    Zubar has played RB in a few games solid player
    Hill OK not a regular
    Mancienne England U21, played a few games
    Friend Same as Hill
    Foley Our player of the year last year
    Surman England U21 top quality player
    Halford Played a number of games this season
    Castillo Played a number of games this season
    Maierhofer Started a few games and sub appearances

    I can see what your getting at but at the end of the day we have a squad for a reason, and f your sadly to naive to accept that, thats your problem, where are you when the 'big 4' do this? Quiet I expect.

    You say you would choose Coyle, and thats your will, but come May if Wolves are safe and Burnley relegated, would you still make that decision? I dont think you would, though I am sure you would argue otherwise.

    If this decision gives Wolves a siege mentality for the rest of the season, then great, I welcome it, I think some people need to get a grip.

  • Comment number 11.

    Please, please Burnley, for the sake of football, beat Wolves at the weekend.

  • Comment number 12.

    Phil many times i have questioned your blogs this time i just simply want to say your post Nr9 is spot on!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    If it's true that 7 first team players were on the pitch on Tuesday then the story is grossly distorted and journos and commentators alike need to be hauled over the coals for causing strife and unrest, IF it's true. From what I saw of the game, if Wolves had played their first 11 they could have drawn or won had they gone for it. United are dodgy in defence and the goalkeeper got away with one or two howlers.

  • Comment number 14.

    What is this?

    1. Wolves have a squad of players. They can play ANY of them. And it is their gaffers choice as to who is played and when.

    2. Since when did the media make a fuss like this about ManU playing a weakened team? Or Chelsea? Or Arsenal? Is it OK for those big teams to do it but not for smaller teams?

    McCarthy made a decision. He is the Wolves boss. HE has that right.

  • Comment number 15.

    I think this sort of tactic always comes back to haunt teams, especially relegation candidates.

    While McCarthy's logic behind the decision to drop 10 players is reasonable, in the long-term, the club needs points and it doesn't matter where they come from.

    You get as many points from beating Burnley or Man Utd, and with all due respect, I don't think Wolves are in a position to be picking and choosing which games they want to win. They need to maximise every opportunity, and a weakened Man Utd was definitely a chance to at least get a draw.

    Also, resting the players won't give them an advantage over Burnley, the game is on Sunday. Burnley have 3 days to recover, it won't make any difference, they're professional footballers at the peak of fitness.

    From a psychological point of view, the pressure will now be on Wolves to win because everyone knows the reason they rested players was to beat a supposedly easier team. I think Burnley will get at least a point against Wolves, and the latter will end up with proverbial egg on face.

    As for Burnley, great result last night and a thoroughly deserved point, which should have been 3 with the disallowed goal. I hope they keep their home form going, as their away form is woeful.

  • Comment number 16.

    All well and good Phil but all too predictable and a little romanticised imho. Playing away at OT is not comparable to a home game against a frequently frail Arsenal team. Burnley v Arsenal was always going to be a 40/60 game and Burnley did indeed do well but MU v Wolves was at least 80/20 whichever team the hapless McArthy put out. I feel that you've just jumped on a rather easy bandwagon here mate.

  • Comment number 17.

    I was there at Old Trafford and I cannot I was satisfied with forking out a small fortune to go and watch a team with 10 changes, I am also unhappy with the pressure McCarthy has now piled on the game with Burnley on the weekend.

    However, what I am sick of is the reaction in the press and by other fans.

    You cannot say that the Man Utd side that faced Hull is different because they won, winning is immaterial in this matter, it is the gesture of making several or more changes. So when we can afford to have accumulated several extremely expensive stand-in players, it will then be ok for us to rest our entire first team?

    I put it to you that comparitively Wolves 1st and 2nd XI are closer in quality to that of Man Utd's 1st and 2nd anyway, and that when going out to play a defensive game at Old Trafford (no shame in that), several of the players in our system were interchangable anyway.

    I would have thought we would have been out of the news cycle now I have to admit.

    "Please, please Burnley, for the sake of football, beat Wolves at the weekend."

    Because that will solve diving, foul play, money laundering, exploitation etc etc etc.

    Will someone please think of the children.

  • Comment number 18.

    If Wolves are relegated on goal difference or by the odd point then they can point to Tuesday's game at Old Trafford. Every team has the right to rotate their starting eleven but to surrendour the points in this manner does not show the required respect to the league and every other team participating in it. There are many examples of players who play week in week out for their teams without injury; and how do Championship teams manage with more fixtures and smaller squads?

    Surely Phil is correct to say that he would prefer a manager who tries to win every match. If Wolves can win at Spurs surely they must have fancied their chances against the champions and their improvised back four? What a week for them that would have been for their supporters.

    Arsenal proove again that they "don't like it up 'em" but, I would suggest, that a point away at Burnley is a good point. In some ways I hope that Arsenal do win a trophy this year, or their supporters will only be able to remember it as the year Mr Wenger took moaning to the highest level.

  • Comment number 19.

    In response "The Serbian Gary Breen" who wrote (first time around):

    "For a start Burnley had an extra day to recover from fixture the barely partook in losing 2-0 to a relegation candidate, we had a day less to recover from 90 mins defending at White Heart Lane (have you ever played football without the ball? It is quite taxing)."

    Not sure I understand the relevance - Burnley played Fulham and drew 1-1 at the weekend as I recall? Also, Burnley now have 1 day less than Wolves for the next game. Does that mean Coyle will put out the reserves (not that he has 11 to choose from)? I think not.

  • Comment number 20.

    Phil, a good article which has very much provoked debate....

    One thing though, did your reply to the Serbian Gary Breen come after an arguement with the dog? You have gone from voicing your opinion in a articulated way to just attacking Wolves and telling Wolves fans what to think.

    Mick's decision on Tuesday has split the fans from around the country, including Wolves fans, but it seems to me that the media are fanning the flames a little.

    The team we put out was not a reserve side, players in this side have started this season. We do not have the luxury of having a reserve side capable of finishing in the top half of the Premier League, unlike Man United or Arsenal, Chelsea or Man City. We dont have a first team capable of finishing in the top half!! Therefore, although we did pretty much surrender the game on Tuesday, I think it was valuable playing time for some of the 'fringe' players we have, new players to the club, and players coming back from injury.

    Players like Surman, Maierhofer, Mancienne, Castillo, Foley will all be valuable reasons why we hopefully stay in the Premier League.

    It is sad that due to a decision made by a manager, that to me, makes some sense, has turned so much of the media, and football fanbase, against Wolves.

    I enjoy reading your articles, and you make many good points, but can you not at least entertain the notion that there was some sense in what McCarthy did?

  • Comment number 21.

    Walcott is a shadow of his true self Phil? Yeah? What exactly is this true self??

    One hat trick against good, but not top class opposition in Croatia and... well that's probably it. Not much for a player who Joined arsenal over 3 years ago. Maybe you'll point out a half the pitch surge he made against Liverpool in the 2008 Champions league, that is the sign of one individual moment of brilliance, not a brilliant player.

    He is falling short for me i'm afraid and I do not see what he adds internationally that Aaron Lennon won't. Which is why I would like to see Beckham in ahead of Walcott. I don't even believe if Arsenal were full strength that he would warrant a starting place there.

    "But he has loads of pace" i'm afraid pace with no power is useless. Stuart Barlow being an excellent product of this theory. MAradona on the other hand who combined a short burst of speed with supreme power opposes this.

    Phil you disappoint

  • Comment number 22.

    Spot on with post 9 Phil and a great blog.

    Can I also point out for the ill informed Serbian Gary Breen that Burnley did not "barely [partake] in losing 2-0 to a relegation candidate" on Saturday. I think you're a week behind the times there mate, we drew 1-1 with an in form Fulham side in a hard fought game.

    Maybe check your 'facts' next time out, eh? So your comments have a shred of credibility.

  • Comment number 23.

    Sorry Phil, i normally like your blogs, but this one is a shocker. You simply don't tell the true story.

    Burnleys home record is now 5 - 3 - 1
    Arsenals away record is now 4 - 2 - 3

    So im sorry but looking at form Burnley could well have been expected to take at least a point from last nights game. Thats why Coyle played a full strength team.

    Man Utds home record is now 7 - 1 - 1
    Wolves away record is now 2 - 2 - 5

    So Utd were odds on to win at home, regardless of the 11 men Wolves put out. Wolves game was also a far tougher encounter at the weekend, playing away at Spurs, whilst Burnley had a home game. Lets not forget the Wolves players defended superbly there AND had to make the journey to these two games, which also takes it out of players to some degree.

    What happened if McCarthy played his best 11 they get beat 3-0, get 2 injuries and then lose to Burnley 3-0 and get 2 more injuries?

    As it is, he has a fit and fresh team to choose from to play a FAR more important game at the weekend. Its a six pointer. Yes, they could still lose, BUT he has increased the chances of winning. Thus, its a very clever move. Better they take 3 points from these 2 games than 0 from 2 and have your players burned out or injured.

    When Liverpool rest Torres, or Man Utd rest Rooney, no-one blinks an eye lid because they have a SQUAD. Thats what Wolves have too and McCarthy gave his squad players a game. Sometimes this could even bring a better performance as players are fighting to be in the first 11. Sadly it didnt work that way for them, maybe it would have had the poor penalty not been conceded.

    Then your blog would marvel at how clever McCarthy was. Thats football you never know.

    I just hope to god Wolves tonk Burnley and make you eat your words.

    By the way i dont support Wolves, but find this blog inaccurate and misleading.

  • Comment number 24.

    Okay so a fair playing field ?? So how come liverpool can rest there best two players gerrard and torres for say agaisnt burnley and then play them the following sunday against united ?? ..

    How can chelsea put the reserves out agaisnt west brom last season because they had barcelona the week after ?? ..

  • Comment number 25.

    I have to repost, it seems that since the live football comment of McCarthy making 10 changes to his first team, the beeb have lost the plot. In fact from the above comments Wolves have not put out a reserve side, it probably explains why they played so well. I saw the match they had chances.
    There is one thing causing a scandal for being outraged at unfairness, there is another thing in causing a scandal simply because it's your job and your facts are wrong.
    I still think McCarthy should have gone for it, I still think, like Martin O Neils capitulation in the Europa cup last year it will have a knock on effect on their season but it clearly isn't what Phil et al are cracking it up to be.

  • Comment number 26.

    Mick Mc'Carthy is taking a whole load of flack for fielding a weak team at Old Trafford, and if I was a Wolves I would probably feel a bit disgruntled. When the two teams in the Carling Cup, - the roles were reveresed United fielded about 3 regulars, and Wolves played virtually a full team, - with exception of Doyle who was on the bench. United played an hour with 10 men, and still edged the game 1-0.

    I think the way Mick mc'Carthy would have looked at this fixture is we've just played Spurs at WHL, and now we've got a game at Old Trafford. before these fixtures probably the best Mick could have hoped for is 1, maybe 2 points. To have bagged 3 points already is a massive bonus, and he would probably have thought we are likely to get beat whatever side I select, - especially after such a draining performance at Tottenham, - so why not give some fringe players a run out and see how they get on, - and they did ok. Another factor that would be in his mind is the weekend fixture against Burnley, - a team that they would fancy their chances taking points off, - especially at Molineux.

    Now to Burnley, didn't see the game against Arsenal, but it sounds like they put in a very courageous performance, - especially after the early setback. It's always disheartening when a team starts off all-guns blazing, - as Burnley did, only to concede a goal completely against the run of play, - Champions league final ring a bell. Burnley showed immense courage to come back from that, and earn a point, and there was even talk they could have edged the game.

    Now to Arsenal, I think this result typifies, why they probably won't mount a serious title challenge this year, they might as well have drawn at Anfield and won at Turf Moor, - same points total, - 4. You just can't get away with throwing away points like this, obviously United lost there early on the season, but that is a collectors item, they rarely lose/ draw for that matter, to teams home or away in the bottom half, - and rightly so, however Arsenal just can't seem to do this.

    Anyway well done Burnley, a great point!

  • Comment number 27.

    A weekened manchester united ?? WHAT ??

    da leat

    bench -

    fletcher ....

    Oh yes thats weakend for sure , i think you should acutally lok at the team that played spurs in the cup ?? thats a weekened team and they trampelled over spurs ...

  • Comment number 28.

    Dear Mr McNulty,

    Firstly thank you, and the rest of the national media, for noticing that Wolves are in the Premier league. Its good of you largely unspectacular I know but honest we have been in the league since August.

    Secondly, the Wolves team that played on Tuesday night didn't disgrace themselves, they didn't win but they didn't get hammered and potetentially one or two have give MM something to think about for his next team selection.

    Third and most importantly the largely unspectacular start to the season that Wolves have made has been made with this now fabled wonder first XI that we have. Who you may have note if you have access to Wolves results pre-Tuesday evening lost 0-4 to both Arsenal and Chelsea... So maybe the '2nd XI' wasn't that bad after all.

  • Comment number 29.

    Good post. What Wolves did cannot be justified whatsover as it is unfair to other teams in the league.

    However, I think you cannot compare the two matches. Burnley at home are hard to beat and they could have beaten Arsenal. They have one of the best home records at the moment having lost just once at Turf Moor.

    Having said that they have got the worst away record and maybe that is what makes McCarthy think they have the best chance to get three points against a team that has only picked a point away from Turf Moor - that point against Man City.

    The Premier League must send a strong signal so that Wolves or any other team for that matter do not repeat the same thing again this season.

    Full time analysis

  • Comment number 30.

    “It is not in the Scot's psyche”. First things first Mr Mc Nulty, Owen Coyle is infact Irish, having been capped for ROI on a couple of occasions! Surely the chief sports writer for the BBC would know this???

    With regards to Mick Mc McCarthy throwing in the towel on Tuesday night at OT, had Wolves been at home to United I would hardly have expected them to have played their reserves. Burnley were at home last night, Wolves were away…….Completely different situation I feel! Yes, no manager should concede defeat before a ball is kicked but as Owen Coyle said himself, Mick did what he thought was best for Wolves! I feel if Wolves do get all three points against Burnley his decision will be justified and the majority of the clubs fans will be singing his praises.

    Mr Wenger had to have a go didn’t he!!?? I have a huge amount respect for the man and think he is an outstanding manager, but I seem to remember Portsmouth, under the management of Harry Redknapp going to Arsenal in the league a few years back for a midweek fixture and making wholesale changes because they had a more winnable match on the following Saturday at home. Arsenal inevitably stuffed Pompey and I’m sure we didn’t hear Mr Wenger have a moan that night!

    Finally I believe the manager of any football club has the right to pick any 11 he wants. We as football fans should acknowledge this.

  • Comment number 31.

    the serbian Gary Breen,if your going to make comparisons lets at least have a little fact in your argument,you state that you cannot compare Wolves exertions at the weekend to Burnleys,because you were defending a 1 goal lead and Burnley "barely partook in a 2-0 defeat against fellow relegation candidates"
    for a start we played Fulham who are ninth,hardly relegation fodder,and we fought back from 1-0 down to earn a good point against a side who are unbeaten in seven.
    you can hardly defend McCarthy by saying you had seven first teamers,because the truth is none except your keeper were deemed god enough by McCarthy to start at White Hart Lane.
    The top four have squads of frty players with over two thirds being internationals,they can make wholesale changes against the weaker sides and still be competitive.
    What McCarthy did was an absolute disgrace and was disrespectful to 70,000 fans who paid good money and gave up valuable time to watch a "sporting contest"

  • Comment number 32.

    And why do people keep saying the result at Man Utd could come back to haunt them? They were expected to get a pasting! And 3-0 would have been a score i would have expected from their first 11, let alone a first 4/5 with 6/7 reserves.

    And Phil, the Man Utd vs hull game is a very good example. Man Utd scraped a 1-0 against a dire team. Hull could have snatched a point against a 2nd 11 and stayed up because of it. Man Utd simply didn't care what 11 they fielded as they had A MORE IMPORTANT GAME against Barcelone coming up! Its exactly the same. Just because they won 1-0 makes no difference. What if Wolves had snatched a 1-0? You dont know the end result until the game is over.

    Do you also really think McCarthy went out to deliberately lose? Hahaha, of course. He went to defend and hit on the break and hope for a 1-0 - just like they did at Spurs. His game plan was EXACTLY the same.

    How many clubs go to Old Trafford playing for a win? 95% of clubs go to shut up shop and hope they get lucky on the break. they HOPE they can win, but they dont EXPECT to win. Anyone saying otherwise from a bottom half of the table team is in my opinion telling pork pies.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think one of the reason's why people like Coyle aren't criticising McCarthy's decision is that Wolves got beaten handsomely, which is only going to help people like Burnley in the long term.

    They're both battling relegation, of course Coyle is going to be happy to see Wolves lose any game.

  • Comment number 34.

    Wolfofkent - good point - Wolves have been on the end of drubbings against some big clubs. However, I would counter that the preferred starting 11 are preferred for a reason.

    Also, the changes were made immediately after a good away win at a CL hopeful side - hard to justify the changes on a performance analysis follwing that.

  • Comment number 35.

    I thought we matched Arsenal in all areas & could and probably shold have won it with a bit of luck with the Flecher non goal & Silvester handball which to me looked as though his hand was clearly in the penelty box when it hit him, that said i would have been happy with a point befoe the game but now gutted it wasn't more.

    As for Woves i can't see what the fuss is about when the "big" clubs in the prem do it noone bats an eyelid.

  • Comment number 36.

    Good point for Burnley. But you have feel gutted that they had a goal disallowed. Phil Has three promtrated teams ever stayed in the Premiership?

  • Comment number 37.

    I'm not a Wolves fan but I support Mick McCarthy's right to pick his own team from his own squad. His job is to keep Wolves in the Premiership over 38 games using the limited resources that he has at hand.
    Every other manager does this, unfortunately this goes unnoticed with the top clubs as they have at least 2 quality players per position.


    Typical Wenger, once again deflecting his own team's shortcomings by blaming others - this time McCarthy, and the fixture list were in the firing line. What next - wrong type of grass on the pitch...?

  • Comment number 38.

    As many posts have already pointed out to chose a team from the entire squad is at the discretion of the manager. Man Utd did it in FA cup semi final... Heck Rafa Benitez has been doing it for the past 5 years!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    green_manc, Coyle IS Scottish, he was born in Paisley, Scotland but played for ROI. Sorry to spoil your moment of getting one over the BBC chief sports writer.

  • Comment number 40.

    I trust you'll make a similarly indignant post at the end of the season, Phil, when one of the "Big Four" (if they're still in tact as such) rest players against a relegation struggler because their league position is all but assured?

    I'm a Man United fan but it still annoys me that McCarthy is getting all this flack. Why is it acceptable for the "big" teams to decide a game isn't worth bothering too much about, but not Wolves? I genuinely sympathise with the fans, but anything about compromising the Premier League is an utter joke. We've all seen Ferguson, Benitez, Wenger and [insert recent Chelsea manager of your choosing] put out a team that clearly shows they couldn't give a damn about everybody else in the league (because they have a Champions League game or whatever) so I don't see why other managers should be held to different standards.

  • Comment number 41.

    Ironically ive just read WENGER HITS OUT AT FIXTURE LIST. So Wenger thinks there are too many games and players are getting burned out/injured. Is this not why McCarthy rested players? Had Arsenal played Burnley at home would Wenger have rested some of his players? Possibly. I bet he is spewing over Fabregas' injury. Whilst i bet McCarthy is glad he has his fit 11 to choose from at the weekend.

  • Comment number 42.

    green Manc,Owen Coyle is 100% scottish
    Born in Paisley he is the new Shanks.
    played for Eire due to grand parents.

  • Comment number 43.

    It was shown last season when Villa capitulated in the UEFA cup to ensure a top 4 finish that these tactics rarely succeed.
    Hats off to Coyle for his positive outlook, can someone get him to call Mr Moyes too as he is another one who seems to crawl inside an ultra-negative shell every time we play 'top 4'.

  • Comment number 44.

    You get paid for the nonesense!
    At least get your facts correct phil and write about the subject objectivly.
    Perhaps teams especially promoted teams wouldn't have to seperate themselves into mini leagues if the like of man utd,man city and chelsea were playing by fair sporting rules in the first place.
    Spending millions beyond their means to monopolise the european places devalues the league as a sporting competition not lowly wolves making several team changes.

    Secondly, the changes weren't about playing at man utd or playing burnley next.Wolves have several fixtures in short succession, the whole squad is needed and games and rest periods must be planned and prioritised.

    other points

    wolves didnt put out a reserve squad (other poster above described this in more detail)

    Had we been at home like burnley v arsenal MM wouldnt have made so many changes.

    On what basis have you created the relationship between rotating/ using your available squad and waving the white flag?
    MM still expected those selected to perform well and try and get a result.

    we lost more heavily to chelsea and arsenal with our so called strongest eleven (no such thing at wolves at the moment).

    The likes of man utd and liverpool putting out weakened teams at the end of season due to european commitments has/had a far more worse effect on the league than wolves actionsin midweek.
    just ask sheff utd fans.

    Every team/nation does it, whether it be in domestic leagues/cups european cups or international competitions.
    Wenger may pass judgement but on recently did he play a weakened team v olympiakos, losing 1-0.
    what about the integrity of the champions league and standard liege chances in that group?

    If you care to argue that arsenal's B team could still compete and liekly win then well, that just leads us back to the disparity in sporting competitiveness of the premier league.
    How is it right that soem teams b teams could easily get a top 6-8 spot in their own right?

    Regards ticket prices, that is a completly different debate but is still relevant to this matter.
    Again, if fans werent having to pay for big clubs extortinate interest repayments per season on loans they've immorally taken out to hinder other teams chances of stability/progression then we perhaps ticket prices wouldn't be £42 in the first place.
    In any other business such obvious unsporting or unethical business practises would be punished or investigated, not the premier league though.
    Next time you try to enlighten us with your opinion. try and make it
    a- factual
    c-comparitive to comparable events not burnley at home vs a consitently fragile arsenal.

  • Comment number 45.

    Why did no-one complain about the rubbish team we put out against Chelsea and got slapped 4-0 (and could have been many more). What about the dross the "first" 11 served up against Birmingham? The performance against Man U was arguably far better than either of these.

    I'd wager quite a lot of money that the majority of non-Wolves supporters complaining about Mick's selection, would struggle to name more than a handful of our supposed first 11 without recourse to Google.

    Phil (or anyone), just what was it about Stephen Ward's performance against Spurs that impressed you so much that you think he should have been included on Tuesday? And can you explain exactly how Roland Zubar's showing against Man Utd wasn't up to Premier League standard?

    The fact is that, with a couple of exceptions, Wolves have a large squad made up of mostly anonymous journeymen pros who are largely interchangeable in terms of their quality. Some days they'll perform well (Spurs), others they'll perform badly (Brum, Chelsea), others they'll perform OK and get beat (Man U, Arsenal).

    All this end-of-football nonsense is ridiculous. It's only a story because it was against a top 4 side. Had we fielded 10 changes against Wigan, no-one would have batted an eyelid and we'd still have been last on Match of the Day.

  • Comment number 46.

    "Manchester United fielded a side that was good enough to win at Hull City - and promptly did, so I do not accept that comparison."

    I think that's the whole point isn't it though Phil, just in reverse.

    A Man U 1st or 2nd team was capable of beating Hull, so it was inconsequential if they played a first or second string.

    Likewise, a Wolves 1st or 2nd team were most likely not capable of winning at Old Trafford, so it was inconsequential if they played a first or second string.

    What is the difference Phil? The outcome wasn't effected - in reality I think everyone knows that - so what is the difference?

    You can play the 'White Flag' card all you want, but all this is doing is showing your bias towards the Big 4 - and a bias that is reflected across the BBC. People say a first string Wolves team could have won because Man U were poor. No they couldn't! Man U were poor because they didn't need to get out of 2nd gear.

    If we'd fielded a strong team, Man U would have moved up the gears.

    Trust me, I'm flattered that the Cheif Sports Writer of the BBC thinks that Wolves could go to Old Trafford and win!

    But you, me, the Wolves fans and everyone else reading this blog knows we wouldn't have. Yes, now we'll never know but you don't see many poor bookmakers, and the best odds I found were 22/1 for a Wolves win. If you think we had a chance, next time you see odds on a football match that long - stick £100 on it. Or are you not THAT brave?

    But the 10 guys who wore the Old Gold on Tuesday had every right to be there, every right to be playing. Mick had every right to pick them and every right to do what he thinks is best to ensure Wolves' survival this season.

    The only people who should be unhappy are the Wolves fans, especially those who travelled to the match, because we are the ones who lost out on seeing our team play against Englands best.

    Wenger saying it is now over 37 games is ridiculous, unless we go to the Emirates and beat them with a so-called 'first-team'.

    Your rant in this blog really does nothing more to lend itself to many football fans belief that the BBC is only interested in the Big 4 and Fairytales.

  • Comment number 47.

    As a Burnley fan I cannot comprehend Wolves' approach to the Man U match. The whole point of last season was to obtain the goal of being able to go to grounds like Old Trafford and Anfield and play against some of the greatest teams in the world on merit. To me it is diluting the achievement of that goal if you then go to those grounds and act as though you don't deserve to be there. Also, for the players who put so much into the promotion last year surely that was with the aim of getting to walk out at grounds like Old Trafford next to the Man U players as equals?

    I understand that playing Arsenal at home is a more winnable game than playing Man U at Old Trafford but I have applied this week for my tickets for our match at Man U in January and I'm already looking forward to getting to see our players and fans make the most of the day by playing with belief and giving as good an account of ourselves as possible. Yes we might end up losing 5-0 but I'll be able to walk away knowing that it wasn't for lack of trying.

    A fantastic point last night and hopefully we'll manage to pick up our first away win on Sunday.

  • Comment number 48.

    I feel a bit like I do about free speech debate on this one - I don't agree with what McCarthy did but I would definitely defend his right to do it. How on earth can the Premier League ask him to defend his team selection?! What next, questions in the House as to why Utd dropped Giggs when he is Sports Personality of the Year?!

    As a Wolves fan I'd also like to ask the National media and the armchair Premiership fans when exactly they became such experts on our team to be able to say this specific selection was 'raising the white flag'.. I have friends who think Hill is better than Ward, Maierhofer should be in for Ebanks-Blake, Mancienne is by far our best defender and Foley should be the first name on the teamsheet.. Only Doyle (who ran himself into the ground at WHL) and Milijas (a luxury playmaker who has been in and out the team)would have made any difference to the quality of our line-up. But of course people see 10 changes and you combine it with a slow news week you get a media storm. You'd think the XI who played at Spurs were suddenly Galacticos judging by the reaction of some!

    Burnley have been a breath of fresh air with their football while for the most part Wolves have stunk the place out.. but if we win on Sunday we'll be above them at Christmas and most likely be 12th to 14th in the Premiership table. Phil McNulty quotes Stuart Hall above, seemingly lamenting the tribal nature of football and its 'win at all costs' mentality.. but, perhaps sadly for the neutrals, for many thats exactly what being a football fan is about.. Wolverhampton Wanderers is not run for the benefit of you but for season ticket holders like me.. and its to people like me, not the Premier League, that McCarthy will have to answer to for his decisions come May.

  • Comment number 49.

    The bbc have seen that the midlands clubs will be taking over and have cacked themselves ...
    The london clubs southern clubs are slowly being pushed out and the beeb dont like it ...

  • Comment number 50.

    green_manc You are 100% wrong. Owen Coyle is in fact Scottish. Born in Scotland and lived in Scotland most of his life. The reason he played for Ireland (once!) is because Craig Brown pretty much told him he didn't have room for him in the Scotland squad of that era. I do hope any Airdrieonians fans haven't read your post....they'd be a bit miffed.

  • Comment number 51.

    After Arsenal scored and with a bit of luck they would have been out of sight after 25 minutes. But fair play to Burnley for hanging in there.

    What is it with some of the northern teams like Bolton, Balckburn and Burnley that once they they away from their own patch they are very easy to turn over? They creat a half decent atmosphere when surrounded by their own fans but appear to the softies when on their travels.

    Burnley played off the atmosphere at home and as one cliched contributor has stated it acted as a twelth man. What will the return leg at the Emirates be lie? I think it is fair to say that even at this stage it is safe to pencil in Arsenal by at least 3 goals.

    Burnley, Bolton and Balckburn will all be in relegation trouble simply based on their inability to travel outside their comfort zone.

    Their supporters need to ask why are they so soft.

  • Comment number 52.

    I think I would have to disagree with this article somewhat. The comparison between Coyle and Macarthy, during these mid-week games, although inevitable is quite unfair. Both games were completely different situations. Firstly, Wolves are in a desperate fight for form and so in the knowledge that there is a vital game with Burnley at the weekend he saved his first team from the prospect of a morale damaging defeat away at the hardest ground to visit and also prevented unnecessary injuries. In contrast, Burnley were playing Arsenal at home where they have very good form. Playing a side reknowned for being brittle and susceptible to dropping points against sides who give them little space to manoeuvre and weave their magic. Therefore, Burnley had by far the greater chance of gaining points from these lists of fixtures. For Wenger and any other big club manager to question the Wolves' team selection is downright hypercritical to be honest. The number of times teams play effectively their 'second string' either prior or post european games is too numerous to mention. The whole reason clubs have squads of 23ish players is to share the burden of such fixture pile ups. I understand the fans greivances for not having their best side on display but whether or not Wolves win or lose at the weekend Macarthy has opted to give his side the best chance possible against a direct rival for survival. Every club fighting against relegation prioritises their fixture list and this is just an example of that. In the interests of balance then I look forward to seeing this same article when the likes of Rooney, Torres and Drogba are rested against anyone.

  • Comment number 53.

    Another great blog Phil. I was there last night and thought Burnley were exellent in every department and fully warranted the point (if not all three!!)

    In the past when were weren't directly involved with Arsenal I always admired and respected Mr Wenger and the way his team play football. However I am somewhat flabbergasted by his post match comments last night regarding the Turf Moor pitch (which I thought looked immaculate considering how much rain we have had recently) and how "physical" Burnley were and that the referee (who I thought had a fantastic game) let lots of things go! This just shows an utter lack of respect to owen Coyle and his players and also the supporters of Burnley Football Club. Why can't the man be gracious and accept that his "Galacticos" under performed last night against an excellent team in Claret and Blue.

    Also Phil I would like your opinion on Tyrone Mears' as possible back up to Glen Johnson for England. He is having an outstanding season and feel that he is definitely worth a shout.

    One more thing - Theo Walcott was poor last night but I have to say that Stephen Jordan (who is normally the fans' scapegoat) was outstanding against both Walcott and Arshavin.

    Merry Christmas to you all.

  • Comment number 54.


    There are plenty of arguments against what Mick did, mostly involving the disrespect shown to those travelling Wolves supporters, but you seem to have picked all the weak ones.

    Wolves expended massive amounts of energy in beating Spurs, defending brilliantly and tirelessly to a man after taking an early lead. To beat Manchester United, who've lost seven home league fixtures in six seasons, would have required a monumental effort to top even that at White Hart Lane. This, with just two days in between the games, was hugely unlikely to happen. With a huge game coming up on Sunday, the like of which Wolves' fate this season will be decided, changes were always going to happen.

    Personally I think ten changes was too excessive, but six or seven would certainly have been acceptable with me (and let's not forget Portsmouth made seven changes at Chelsea last night).

    Now, to Burnley - they faced two homes games in five days, both very winnable. They had an extra day's rest compared to Wolves and I don't believe for a minute that if Wolves were playing Spurs and Man United at home they would have rested any players.

    Finally, Manchester United rested their first team away at Hull last season in preparation for the Champions League final. Wolves rested their first team in preparation for a massive game against Burnley. It just so happens that United's second XI is slightly better than that of Wolves, but I don't see anyone moaning about what Sir Alex did despite the fact it was the last day of the season and Hull were in a relegation shoot-out.

  • Comment number 55.

    And the award for stating the obvious goes to...

    Phil McNulty

  • Comment number 56.

    As a spurs fan I'm annoyed with the whole situation with wolves' team against united. Firstly, we lost (we didn't play well enough) against a team who are close to the bottom of the league, at HOME. Secondly, after this frustrating loss the wolves manager promptly decides to basically GIVE 3 points to united (who we are competing with - not for the league, but for the top section). What if he decides to do it again against villa or city? What if either of those teams get 4th place ahead of the others by 1 or 2 points? What if united win the league by 2 points because he played a first team against chelsea and got a draw? I'm not implying that mick is trying to influence the outcome of the league, i'm just pointing out that being "selectively competitive" is imho frankly a disgrace, both for the fans and the league as a whole.

  • Comment number 57.

    What McCarthy did was take a calculated risk - a risk that we will find out if it was worth taking come the end of the season depending on whether we stay up or not. At home against Burnley, we should be looking to take 3 points. However if we dont its not the end of the world. McCarthy should only be judged on his decisions come the end of the season and if we have stayed up or not. He has earned that right from the Wolves fans due to the work he has done over the last 3 years and getting us promoted. McCarthy knows we have a much stronger chance of beating Burnley at home then we do against Man Utd at Old Trafford so why not rest the squad that put everything into the game at Spurs to maximise our chances of a win. Just because he has rested the players doesnt automatically mean that we will win because Burnley shouldnt be underestimated - however the decision has, in my opinion, improved our chances.
    What I dont understand is how can you say that by fielding the team that he did on Tuesday was raising the white flag? Obviously we made it tough for ourselves by fielding that side but only because the team had never played together before. All the players that played are professionals and play to win. They had the opportunity to make their claim for their first team place.
    What McCarthy did by playing that team was well within the rules. Every manager has to sumbit their squad list at the start of the season and all the players in that list have a part to play. If some of the people are just on the list to make up the numbers whats the point of paying them thousands of pounds a week. If McCarthy decides to make so many changes at once then thats up to him. No one can tell him who he has to play. However, if come the end of the season and we dont stay up questions will be asked about what went wrong. Thats when Mick will have to take responsibility to the Wolves fans for the decisions he made over the season - and Im sure that this decision will be brought back up.

  • Comment number 58.

    This article is a disgrace. Yet another supposed 'pundit' who knows next to nothing abuot our squad players. Would you like me to give you a run through of our squad that played on tuesday because you sound like you know absolutely nothing about our team.

    Hahnemaan;First choice keeper
    Zubar-Arrived injured, settled in to the team and put in superb performances against Villa, Everton and Stoke before an injury at Arsenal.
    Mancienne-Regular starter, U21 international and was class on Tuesday
    Elokobi-Regular starter recently, just dropped in the last 2 games
    Hill- Average player
    Halford- Started 11 games this season
    Foley-Our best player, fans player of the season and was superb on tuesday
    Castillo-European experience and 70 caps for Ecuador
    Surman-Highly thought of, ex U21 international
    Friend-OK, thats an odd one
    Hoff-Austrian international.

    Just because our team beat Spurs on Saturday, it wasn't our strongest XI.

    Ebanks Blake has scored 1 goal this season, many fans have been calling for him to be dropped.
    Craddock-He's 34, he can't play 3 in a week
    Ward-Out for 3 months and comes back in for the last 2 games. Marked Lennon out of the game
    Milijas-Came off with a knock on Sat, wasn't risked
    Jarvis-Very injury prone, can't risk losing him when we already have our other 3 wingers out

    So Phil, I suggest you do some research abuot teams like us, because 6 of those players have been regular starter all season. Mancienne, Castillo, Zubar, Foley, Surman and Hahnemaan are likely to start in our team for the rest of the season.

    So it wasn't a reserve team.

  • Comment number 59.

    Loving the fact that green_manc (#30) actually thinks that all Republic of Ireland players are Irish! Legendary suggestion.

    Unless that is, by 'Irish' you mean he fulfills one of the folowing criteria: 1) Was not born in Ireland, 2) has never lived in Ireland, 3) might have an Irish relative somewhere in his family tree.

    C'mon fella, its been the same since before Jack Charlton's team in 1990. He aint much more Irish than Manual Almunia is English!

  • Comment number 60.

    I am in complete agreement with Phil in that what an average PL fan expects to see is a situation where each of the 20 teams in EPL will go into each game with the hope they could win it.If they cant do that, what is the purpose of competition? That doesnt stop you from going to defend and 'lay ambush' on counter attack or take your chance when you have one just like Wolves did against Spurs.

    As for presuming that a match at OT is almost unwinnable as many posters seem to conclude here, do I need to remind you lot how many average teams have taken points at OT? Man Utd are not invincible at OT, not even with their performance during the match in question. Granted that the players fielded are first teamers, the lads that played against Spurs are psychologically superior as they have the momentum.

    And BTW, it is ridiculous to compare Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal playing a changed team in other competitions to EPL as they hardly do unless they have already secured the league. In most cases, they have done that and won the matches. A PL club that plays a match without a single shot on target! (Wolves had no single shot on target)obviously gives the impression of having no intention of winning or even making a genuine attempt.

    I just hope that for the sake of football, Wolves will be rightly relegated at the end of the season as they dont deserve to stay up with the attitude they put up against Man Utd.

  • Comment number 61.

    The key difference between Manchester United resting players against Hull last year, as compared to Wolves this week, is that the Hull game had absolutely zero importance for the team resting their starting XI. Of course, the commentary at the time was mostly "the league lasts 38 games so you cant complain about one result".

    I'm pretty sure that Mick McCarthy looks at it the same way. After all, he had a couple of stabs at the Premier League with Sunderland and routinely watched his side get pasted at places like OT, you can understand why he is trying a different approach this time.

    Lets be fair, how many relegated teams look back at the season and think "if only we'd won at Old Trafford"

  • Comment number 62.

    Burnley fan here! We have such a small squad the smallest in the premier by far that we couldnt do what Wolves did even if we wanted to!
    I am so proud of Coyle and the lads that I dont care if we go down so long as we keep playing the way we are because its great to watch us "have a go"


  • Comment number 63.

    Phil, you are a jouralist yes.....??? have you ever heard of a thing called research?

    Take a look at Wolves line-up against Arsenal earlier this season....i think you will see that this proves your blog as utter nonsense.

  • Comment number 64.

    The way Burnley get results against the likes of Arsenal to me shows how the standard of the Premier League has slipped, personally I'd like to see some of these lesser teams relegated to ensure the likes of West Ham stay up... I think thats the only way the Premier League will be able to consider itself as strong as La Liga, with big clubs like Newcastle going down in recent seasons its really lowered the standard in my eyes

  • Comment number 65.

    I'll preface my comments by saying I'm a Wolves fan and a writer.

    While I appreciate your blog is all about your personal views, Phil, I think this is easy journalism. You're taking the stance of Manchester United's competitors at the top of the Premier League: they may view McCarthy's decision as capitulation, but this is a cheap shot.

    McCarthy has a job to do - keeping Wolves in the Premiership - and if he believes rotating his squad is the best way to achieve that, then that's his call. Taking emotion and fan-bias out of the equation, I'm sure anyone would agree that over the course of a season, every single manager rotates his squad to best adapt to the nature of the opposition, the availability and fitness of his players and the demands of the fixture list.

    To me, those journalists and pundits who've questioned McCarthy's decision - and by inference the Club's appetite to compete and the validity of the League - are not really adding anything of value to the debate. By trotting out the same old views, they're missing the point and helping to perpetuate the double standards that exist in the Premier League. There seems to be a view that the 'top teams' have some kind of divine right to do what the hell they like when it comes to their 'first XI', while the so called 'smaller clubs' somehow have to follow the exact letter of the League's law and be damned.

    Since substitutes were introduced into the game, the concept of a 'first XI' has been null and void anyway, and squad rotation is an absolute necessity for any club in any league these days.

    I think we should all recognise that this is simply what it is: a squad decision by a manager who's trying to WIN success for his team and his club. If McCarthy and the Wolves really didn't care about winning, they would have stuck with the squad that battled and beat Spurs and not cared about fatigue, injuries or the rest of the season.

    Coyle has taken a different decision about his squad which is equally valid and driven by exactly the same desire: to win.

  • Comment number 66.

    At 10:02am on 17 Dec 2009, maziwhoo wrote:

    "...Secondly, the changes weren't about playing at man utd or playing burnley next.Wolves have several fixtures in short succession, the whole squad is needed and games and rest periods must be planned and prioritised.

    other points

    wolves didnt put out a reserve squad (other poster above described this in more detail)

    Had we been at home like burnley v arsenal MM wouldnt have made so many changes...."

    Can you please tell me if Wolves will be playing more matches than they did in the championship?

    You are not Mick, i am sure you cant say Mick would not have made many changes if he were playing at home as most of their fans were taken by surprise.

    You probably dont go to games to know how painful it is to not only pay your hard earned money but to stand in the cold watching your team play instead of sitting in your heated house watching TV. Why do you think the ticket prices for carling/ FA cups are substantially lower than league matches? It is simply because most PL teams used the competitions (Carling cup especially) to test their untested players. How then will you feel paying £42 only to go and watch a team resigned to humilation with no single shot on target?

  • Comment number 67.

    To Matt Lord, Stuart Holt & Neil – I know Owen Coyle was born in Scotland, but he played for ROI which makes him in my opinion Irish. Is Eduardo Da Silva Brazilian or Croatian?? Is Owen Hargreaves English, Canadian or German?? Is the Great Zinedine Zidane French or Algerian?? I could go on all day but I think you get my point! Neil, what relevance has your point that the only reason he played for ROI was because Graig Brown had not space for him in his Scottish squad. Also it doesn’t matter whether he had one cap or 100 caps

  • Comment number 68.

    I think it is a great point you make Phil about how the 10 player's from Wolves' that were left out of the Man Utd game would have felt.

    I am sure there was more than a couple of them after winning promotion last season said to themselves "great I get to play at the likes of Old Trafford next season"....well MM made sure they did not,Also add to this that they got back to back wins and there reward was to be dumped out of 1 of the bigger games of the season.

    I would say they maybe a bit fitter for the Burnley game but I am sure there moral would have taken a big hit,they may now even have the thought in there head that if they win against the lesser sides big Mick is going to leave them out against the top 4 or 5 teams!...not exactly what they had in mind at the start of the season.

  • Comment number 69.

    24. At 09:29am on 17 Dec 2009, jack wrote:
    How can chelsea put the reserves out agaisnt west brom last season because they had barcelona the week after ?? ..
    If you're going to try and have a dig at another team, at least get it right. Last season we played West Brom on Sat 15th November (winning 3-0) and 26th December 2008 (winning 2-0). We played Barcelona on April 28th and May 6th. You must have got confused with the reserve game on April 20th which Carvalho and Belleti played in. Oops.
    On another note, I don't think it's fair that Mick McCarthy get singled out when other teams do it. On the whole he's the manager, and he should be able to use his squad as he sees fit.
    Got to love Wenger moaning yet again about the fixture list. Check out who we've played after Champions League weekends, and then be amazed that Mr Ancelotti hasn't moaned in any shape or form. The last couple of weeks have brought into sharp focus who Mr Wenger really is.

  • Comment number 70.

    Hi Phil. There's been a lot of comment on here so I'll keep it short. I saw the game and thought we actually played quite well and were unlucky not to score - it was a good effort. I understand that you think it's bad for the sport but you should do Mick McCarthy's job yourself before you make these judgments. I think he knows more about the capabilities of the Wolves squad than you. Cheers.

  • Comment number 71.

    I completely agree with your blog and more importantly your report on the match,Burnley were superb in both attitude and effort.
    The one thing I would like to mention was the ability of Fabregas, he is a truly outstanding footballer, previously only seen him on TV and I told my ten year old son to watch out for his runs and passing ability as we came away from the match we raved about how good he was in that opening 20 minute period. the best player by far that we have seen at Turf Moor this season.
    as we were under the cosh in that period I was watching the managers reaction and it was positive to each of the players, this is where the Burnley players took heart from, the manager believes in his players and once they started to compete and close down the space we were a different proposition for Arsenal.
    Owen Coyle has his team playing a style of football that we all want to watch and if we look at our stadium each home game they are not many seats vacant. This is what he has brought to the club and long may it continue, looking forward to next seasons fixtures already, both of us would like it to be in the premier league but if not as long as the football is played in this manner we will be at all the home matches

  • Comment number 72.

    Why is everyone making a fuss about McCarthy's selection? Fair enough the wolves fans can complain because they actually paid to watch their team, but to those of us who didnt watch the game or are not wolves fans, why does it matter. As a liverpool fan, i would be very happy at a reserve team been put out in a premier league game ahead of a champions league final or something of the like, all the "big four" do it and will continue to do it. As far as the blog goes, you never know how Coyle's approach will serve burnley, with one of the smaller squads, they could soon run out of steam and suffer. You cant judge who was right until the end of the season and to be quite honest, i dont think the difference between going down and staying up is going to be the fact that wolves lost here at Utd, everyone had them down to lose regardless of the team they picked.

  • Comment number 73.

    Wolves fielded five players that started and performed admirably at Man United in the Carling Cup. I'm sure the six others would have played had they not been tired after the Spurs game.

  • Comment number 74.

    Nice for someone to write about the 2 year ongoing miracle currently taking place at Turf Moor.
    Typical graceless Wenger comments.
    It's about time the football world realised exactly what Owen Coyle has managed to do at Burnley. We are competing with Premier League billionaire clubs and millionaire players, going "toe-to-toe" and giving them a good game. OK, so we get walloped away from home from time to time. It's likely to, indeed should, happen.
    Burnley squad total cost : £6M
    Players' salaries ceiling : £15K per week max.
    Ground can only hold 22000.
    Smallest town to host Premier League football - pop 80000.
    It's comparable to somewhere like Bath being up there.

    The greatest miracle will be if we survive this season.
    Under Owen Coyle we are playing football, winning friends, ruffling a few feathers and keeping the light burning for all the little clubs out there.

    And yes, I also hope we beat Wolves on Sunday. I'll be there but you can all watch us play FOOTBALL on Sky.


  • Comment number 75.

    64. At 10:57am on 17 Dec 2009, yellowgreenred wrote:

    The way Burnley get results against the likes of Arsenal to me shows how the standard of the Premier League has slipped, personally I'd like to see some of these lesser teams relegated to ensure the likes of West Ham stay up... I think thats the only way the Premier League will be able to consider itself as strong as La Liga, with big clubs like Newcastle going down in recent seasons its really lowered the standard in my eyes

    What are you on about? The reason why teams like Newcastle got relegated is that they're not good enough, end of story. It doesn't matter who the team is, you don't play in the Premier League by default, you have to earn the right to be there.

    And besides, do you think supporters of top European teams in Italy and Spain have any more idea about Newcastle than Burnley or Wolves? Newcastle are just another club to them.

    Newcastle got routinely thrashed by Arsenal, so Burnley deserve credit for getting a draw.

  • Comment number 76.

    Even if wolves beat Burnley on sunday? will people turn round and say mcarthys team selection against united was a master stroke?
    I think not.
    Given Burnleys away results so far this season wolves would be favourites to win the game whatever team played at old trafford.
    Though having said that... i think an away win is close now
    Heres hoping for sunday.

  • Comment number 77.

    #9. At 08:46am on 17 Dec 2009, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    To The Serbian Gary Breen...Manchester United fielded a side that was good enough to win at Hull City - and promptly did, so I do not accept that comparison.
    Phil, I think you have completely missed the point there.

    Who is to say what a clubs strongest 11 is? We do not know how Man U would have got on if they had played their 'strongest 11' that day, nor do we know how Wolves would have fared had they played their 'strongest 11' on Tuesday.

    The issue is, neither manager has picked what people perceive to be the strongest team. You are taking issue with Wolves but not with Man U.

    What if Man U had lost that day? Would you be championing the cause for the teams that went down, who played tougher opponents on that day, or would you state the usual 'a season is 38 games, not just 1 game' stuff (which I happen to agree with). Would you say that it is Ferguson's right and privilege to pick who he wants and the end justifies the means? The same could be said for McCarthy but we don't know how this most recent fixture will figure in the overall shake up.

  • Comment number 78.

    I think at 65, Jack makes a good point.
    Since the age of substitutes and multiple cups as well as Europe to contend with, I think that, barring all but the weakest teams, there isn't really such a thing as a 'strongest 11' any more.
    Sir Alex Ferguson has certainly proved that to be successful on multiple fronts, you need a big, talented squad.
    Also, this argument is, as Jack states, made more complicated by big clubs resting players against supposedly 'weaker' teams. I'm a United fan, but why should big teams be allowed to play squad players against weaker teams because of more important games in the near future, but smaller teams can't also prioritise accordingly?

  • Comment number 79.

    #67 Zinedine Zidane is French because he was born in MARSEILLE and played for France. People who say he is Algerian are about as clued up as Phil McNulty was writing this blog.

  • Comment number 80.

    Firstly, I would like to say well done to Burnley on getting a point, it is an all mighty shame that this is not the main news.

    Now, the 2 games involving Wolves and Burnley, not only during midweek but at the weekend too, were totally different. Wolves faced 2 gruelling trips, one down to White Hart Lane, where they played and defended magnificently, and then a trip up north to Old Trafford. Burnley faced 2 home games against Fulham and Arsenal.

    The midweek games were even more different. Wolves facing Man United who just don't lose two Premier League home games in a row. Burnley facing Arsenal at Turf Moor - Burnley having an outstanding home record, and Arsenal not being the best team away from home.

    As for Mick McCarthy, he is the manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers. All he is bothered about is what is best for Wolves, not what is best for the title race, Arsenal or any of the other big 4 and he is not bothered what is best for the Premier League (and why should he, they only care what is best for the top 4, and not the rest).

    Furthermore, why haven't we seen issues raised like this before. I certainly remember Benitez playing a weakened side to face Fulham a few seasons back in preparation for the Champions League Final, meaning Fulham stayed up, yet nothing has been said. I suppose it's alright for the bigger teams to do it, but when a smaller team does it, it's an outrage.

    As for Arsene Wenger, what a complete and utter idiot. Why doesn't he, just for once, focus on his own team and that short comings, rather than shipping the blame to everything else?! Quite ironical that he is moaning about the fixture list, which is precisely the reason Mick rested and allowed more recovery time to the brilliant Wolves players who gave everything on Saturday.

    Finally, the so-called Wolves Reserves didn't do too badly either. It was goalless for 30 minutes, they only broke through because of a silly penalty, and Wolves had a great chance before that, but hey the Premier League, or should I say the top 4, weren't looked after by Wolves were they. What a shame!

    Super Mick McCarthy!

  • Comment number 81.

    I totally agree, MrBlueBurns.

    I think the point that Mr McNulty struggles to get is that he deems it ok to play a weakend squad if you know you can still win, but fails to apply the same principle if you know you'll probably lose.

    The reality is only the 'Big 4' can afford to play a 2nd string and still expect to win.

    So what Phil is effectively advocating here is behaviour that is only acceptable to the 'Big 4'. They may change their squad and rest their players when it suits because they can still be competitive. But when the lower teams do the same, to protect their interests by losing a game that was almost inevitable anyway, it is no longer acceptable. What really is the difference?

  • Comment number 82.

    I fully respect Owen Coyle for the job he has done at Burnley and also for his comments re the so called "weakened team" argument.
    It clearly was not a weakened team - it was a DIFFERENT team from the one that happened to beat Spurs on Saturday.
    Its very disappointing that the media decide to attack the Wolves in a poorly thought through way. we have a small squad to choose from, they will all have some part to play this season.
    The team that played on tuesday actually put on a good performance - certainly compared to the game away to Chelsea.
    What's most worrying is that Wolves supporters are using this to bash Mcarthy - its been on their agenda for a couple of seasons now and this is being seen as a perfect weapon.
    Basically Mcarthy, players and club execs will be judged on the single objective - will we stay up. If not, judgements can be made.
    BTW - wenger was making a good point re fixture lists but then lost his argument when he had a go at a club who clearly dont have the resources of the gooners.
    sunday will be a very interesting match - how will the fans react. Fascinating!

  • Comment number 83.

    Wolves team against Pompey this season
    Hennessey, Foley (Kightly 45), Elokobi (Maierhofer 80), Edwards, Mancienne, Berra, Halford, Henry (capt), Doyle, Keogh (Ebanks-Blake 45), Jarvis.

    Unused subs: Craddock, Hahnemann, Milijaš, Zubar.

    Keogh,Edwards and Kightly have been injured since

    so please tell me Phil which players are the reserves??

  • Comment number 84.

  • Comment number 85.

    Why don't we just give Man Utd a 30 point head start next season? That way they won't even have to bother playing home games against the bottom half of the table.

    There is, in my opinion, a huge difference between a team like Wolves putting out a second string against Man Utd at Old Trafford, and Man Utd or another top team doing the same in the Carling Cup or in a league game prior to a big European game. Big teams still put out a side to win the game in the latter case. Putting out a side to lose like McCarthy did goes against one of the fundamental points of sport - competition. How any Wolves fan can be happy with such a negative attitude/mindset is beyond me. I think a full strength, competitive, Wolves team would have actually had a decent chance of getting something at OT against a Utd side that isn't actually very good at the moment.

    And personally, I don't think it will mean they pick up more points in the long run, which presumably is the aim of McCarthy's gesture. Momentum is everything in football, and Wolves have thrown away the chance to capitalise on the chance to pick some up after that great win at Spurs.

  • Comment number 86.

    It seems more unfair on Utd's title rivals than Wolves' relegation fodder associates. Giving up the game made it a stroll in the park for Utd. However, losing a game 3-0 isn't the best way to give the finger to your relegation threatened opponents.

    You can argue till the cows come home that Utd were bound to win but this is of course nonsense especially since they'd just suffered a home defeat and were operating with a make shift defense.

    Mick McCarthy is very bullish & one would not bet on any remorse. He also holds SAF in very high regard (fair enough to some extent) but it also suggests some kind of collusion.

    As a Utd fan, I have often seen Utd struggle against the so called lesser teams when they visit Old Trafford. So I was in no way banking on a 3-0 before the squad was announced. Even thereafter it was only an indisciplined penalty that allowed Utd the initiative. However, 1-0 was effectively game over. That was clear for all to see.

  • Comment number 87.

    First things first. There is a world of difference between resting one or two players (as the Big 4 often do) against a weaker team, and resting almost an entire first team when faced with stronger opposition. The former is a calculated risk, and can often be rectified mid-game if the rested players are on the bench. The latter, however, is little more then outright surrender before the ball has been kicked. Saying that it's ok for the bigger teams but not the smaller ones doesn't work, because the big four don't actually do it.

    For my own part, I believe McCarthy was wrong to rest so many players. It is both disrespectful to the players that defeated Tottenham, and to the fans that pay to watch his team week in, week out. McCarthy's argument about how the Burnley game is "more important" fails on two key counts: firstly, that resting so many players will not guarantee a victory, and secondly, even if it did, a win away at Old Trafford (unlikely, but possible given their defensive issues) would yield the same net points anyway even if Burnley thrashed them.

    People who say the manager should be able to use his squad entirely as he sees fit must consider this. Had it happened to your team instead of Wolves, would you be happy, having paid to go see them? I wouldn't be. The anger of their fans is entirely justified, especially if McCarthy's tactics backfire and Burnley beat them at the weekend. It's obvious that what happened there was against what little remains of the actual spirit of the game. The fact that McCarthy knew full well that the Big 4 had lost or drawn multiple games against such opposition (including, suitably, United losing to Burnley) makes it even worse, because there was a real chance they could have got something from the game, especially if the reserves performed as well as has been said.

    I'm not a Wolves fan, so why do I care about this? Partially because it basically gifted United three easy points, which irritates me as I don't want them to win the title. That's biased, but it's ok- had it happened at my own Chelsea I would understand why fans of United and Arsenal might be aggreived. But it's mainly because I do not like the idea that the lower-level sides are effectively meat for the bigger clubs. Everyone can beat everyone, and everyone should try and win every match. This McCarthy failed to do, and this is why he is rightly under fire for it.

  • Comment number 88.

    I think it's about time Mr McNulty responded...

  • Comment number 89.

    I agree with most people here, the comparison between the two games is flawed. If you have managed a team on any level, then you know that what MM did is absolutely corect. Sunday's game is a 6 pointer, and I can tell you now that wolves will win. Their freshness will tell at the end of the game and Burnley will just fade-away. I never criticise your blogs, but your opinion does not really matter, that's why you're a journalist, not a football manager.

  • Comment number 90.

    Thoughtful article, Phil.
    The story would have lacked punch if Bolton had lost however. Wolves have shown that they are capable of taking points off the "better" clubs recentmy and so have Bolton. The two clubs are near the bottom of the table and are both under pressure. McCarthy's choice to field a weakened side on Tuesday against a stronger opposition is not a first by any means (I watched the game and 3-0 was generous - I thought Wolves created some good chances and played some attractive football and workled hard and relatively well as a unit).
    I think it a little early to comdemn Wolves and McCarthy's approach in such general terms. Every manager and team makes mistakes. Wolves have not an easy season. Bolton and Wolves have different styles of play and strategies. Good, it makes for better viewing.

  • Comment number 91.

    A bit off to compare Wolves' scenario to Burnley's; the former were playing away at Old Trafford, with an important game coming up against Burnley and the latter were playing at home, in a stadium they've obviously performed well in this season.

    I'm sure if Wolves were at home against United the situation would have been different and I am certain the same will ring true when Burnley go to Old Trafford.

    I doubt Coyle will concede defeat before turning up at OT but I think the comparison was weak all the same.

  • Comment number 92.

    but burnley played arsenal at turf moor, and everyone knows arsenal are easier to beat if you foul them a lot (sorry, go toe-to-toe) wheras MM was away at OT, after a really hard game at Spurs, and Man U are much harder to physically unsettle.

    I'm not a new member

  • Comment number 93.

    "The guy who organised the fixtures this season must have come from a special school, because he's more intelligent than I am," said Wenger.

    Maybe Wenger should read Paul Fletcher's excellent blog on how the fixture list is created?

    Maybe next year they will map out Arsenal's fixtures first, and let everything else revolve around that?

  • Comment number 94.

    I half expected an article like this one, especially after Burnley picked up a point against Arsenal. What I didn't expect was the attack on the Serbian Gary Breen. Why is it that SAF resting his players against Hull is acceptable to you Phil, especially when this could have had a direct influence on the outcome of the relegation battle? Wolves resting players and losing at Old Trafford will have no bearing on the title race, yet you find this unacceptable!
    You also make no comment about Arsenal's reserves playing in the Champions League that again had a bearing on the end result of the group table. Was Mr Wenger correct in doing this?
    I support Wolves and was surprised at the selection and do have some sympathy for the fans that travelled to the game, however how many of them truly expected Wolves to get anything out of the match?

    I believe that Premier League rules state that teams should field their strongest sides, so in that case Phil please feel free to voice your concerns to the FA each time that the big four rest any of their players. Also due to the fact you know so much about the Wolves squad could you please feel free to let me know what you think the Wolves First XI should look like. Most Wolves fans and Mick McCarthy haven't settled yet on what are best line up actually is. Wayne Rooney must have been having nightmares on Monday night about the prospect of facing Jody Craddock!

    The only thing that Mick McCarthy did wrong here was to rest all of the outfield players. Nobody would have been complaining if the figure was 5 or 6.

  • Comment number 95.

    I don't agree with what MM did - imagine if Wolves get relegated at the end of the season anyway? What if some of those players don't get the opportunity to play against Man U again? Not to mention all the travelling fans...

    However I fail to see the difference between Wolves playing their second string before an important match to say Man U, Arsenal, Liverpool etc resting players before big matches. The much quoted rule in the FA handbook about fielding your stongest side became irrelevant a long time ago - look and the Arsenal kids in the Carling Cup for example. Just because Arsenal's second string is better than Wolves' is no excuse.

    Personally I think that a manager and team has a responsibility to ensure they compete at the highest level against ALL teams in the division especially with so much at stake nowadays.

    But don't just punish Wolves for it, or ask them to explain why they do it...the FA should look at every team in the same way.

  • Comment number 96.

    56. At 10:28am on 17 Dec 2009, SavageNick wrote:
    As a spurs fan I'm annoyed with the whole situation with wolves' team against united. Firstly, we lost (we didn't play well enough) against a team who are close to the bottom of the league, at HOME. Secondly, after this frustrating loss the wolves manager promptly decides to basically GIVE 3 points to united (who we are competing with - not for the league, but for the top section).


    You're basically upset because Wolves see you as a weaker team than United? The fact remains that they saw you as potentially beatable and us as not.

    The fact that actually beat you renders your post null because they were RIGHT. Most teams will go to OT and not get anything, including yours.

  • Comment number 97.

    I love how everyone presumes to know who McCarthy's first choice 11 are. Surely only he knows that? Surely it is possible that he has more than 11 players that he considers good enough for the first team? Were there any youth team players/debutants fielded against Man Utd? Man U could conceivably have 2 teams of 11 with approximately the same level of ability and play one one week and the other the next (not far from what they actually do) is that wrong?

    I'm not saying what Mick did was right- but it is not as clear cut as you are suggesting Phil.

    Mick has a responsibility to look after his players and if he felt that fielding the same 10 outfield players as he did against spurs was risking injury then that is his right as manager. Wenger has some nerve with what he does in the carling cup!

  • Comment number 98.

    93. At 12:25pm on 17 Dec 2009, Gooster wrote:
    "The guy who organised the fixtures this season must have come from a special school, because he's more intelligent than I am," said Wenger.


  • Comment number 99.

    67. At 11:03am on 17 Dec 2009, green_manc wrote:
    To Matt Lord, Stuart Holt & Neil – I know Owen Coyle was born in Scotland, but he played for ROI which makes him in my opinion Irish. Is Eduardo Da Silva Brazilian or Croatian?? Is Owen Hargreaves English, Canadian or German?? Is the Great Zinedine Zidane French or Algerian?? I could go on all day but I think you get my point! Neil, what relevance has your point that the only reason he played for ROI was because Graig Brown had not space for him in his Scottish squad. Also it doesn’t matter whether he had one cap or 100 caps


    You can argue all day about these semantics but the fact you claimed he wasn't Scottish is, in fact, incorrect. You can call him Irish if you wish, due to his football international status (although to correctly qualify this you should call him an Irish international, not just "Irish"), but you shouldn't tell someone else that he's not Scottish.

    Because he clearly is.

  • Comment number 100.

    I'm afraid Burnley will always be just a small town in Yorkshire.


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