Author’s note: consider this a follow up to my earlier post, ‘Who wants to win the Carling Cup?‘
I was lucky enough to be inside the Westpac Stadium in Wellington to witness Wellington Phoenix’s 6-0 demolition of previous A-League pace-setters Gold Coast United yesterday evening, but unfortunately that only served as a brief – albeit very welcome – relief from a fairly desperate couple of days for me in terms of football as Everton’s unbeaten run was brought to an abrupt end as a severely depleted squad was hammered in Benfica before losing out to Bolton last yesterday.
In fact, it’s after a few days such as this that Everton, with an already small squad stretched seemingly beyond breaking point by a huge injury list and the stresses of European competition, need a good week’s rest to regroup, nurse some players back to fitness and bounce back for the test against Villa next weekend. Unfortunately though, before the players can put their feet up they must play their third match in six days when they face Tottenham in the Carling Cup on Tuesday. You have to ask then, who let that happen?
It’s quite frankly ridiculous. Sky naturally get the pick of the games to televise this round and with Arsenal against Liverpool at the Emirates the obvious choice they of course decided to also show darling Manchester United’s game against Barnsley. What a fantastic spectacle that will be… I’m sure the general public can’t wait to see Barnsley get completely outclassed and hammered – and Barnsley fans, before you protest, I’ll remind you that United just lost to Liverpool.
But the choice of games isn’t what concerns me primarily tonight, it’s more the arranging of them. Of all of the teams playing in the Carling Cup on Tuesday Manchester United and Everton are the only two sides who played in the Premier League on Sunday, giving them just one day in between their matches. United will have little cause for complaint – they’re receiving TV royalties and have a squad easily big enough to cope with such demands despite having also played in the Champions League on Wednesday.
For Everton though, it’s a different matter. Even if they didn’t have an injury list that’s starting to resemble Santa’s list of who’s been naughty and nice, they don’t have a massive squad and have already played two games in four days – one of them in Portugal! And yet Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Bolton – all of whom, let’s face it, have far bigger squads than Moyes’ men, get an extra days rest after their Sunday fixtures despite not having played on the Thursday.
Of course, a pattern is emerging here. Who would we describe as the current ‘big five’ in terms of the Premier League if you take into account where all the money (and thus the power) lies? Hmm… that would be Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City. Four of whom are amongst the six clubs who get to play their Carling Cup fixture on the Wednesday, giving them ample time to recover from their weekend exertions.
The real irony is that a number of those clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool in particular – will almost certainly not be fielding full strength sides anyway, seeing as they’re far too important to waste their energies on such a ‘mickey mouse’ competition as the Carling Cup and so most of their first teamers who played at the weekend will be getting to put their feet up for a week anyway! Meanwhile Everton, a side that is desperate to win the competition to get their hands on some silverware, must play a third match in six days.
Everton’s eleven fit senior players (our bench against Bolton read: Baxter, Agard, Wallace, Akpan, Coleman, Duffy, Nash) will get just one day off to ice the bruises inflicted by Bolton before heading south to face Tottenham at White Hart Lane. It’s absolute bollocks really isn’t it? Can you imagine what Alex Ferguson’s reaction would be if he were told that he had to play three games in six days and that those games were in Lisbon, Bolton and London? I’m actually trying not to.
But of course, it would never come to that. Oh no, there’s no way that the big clubs could be forced into playing such a ridiculously brutal schedule, they simply wouldn’t stand for it. They’d kick up such a stink that the organisers were forced to reschedule matches or risk seeing these ‘big name’ clubs refuse to enter their competition in future. The terrible truth is that the power doesn’t lie with the clubs in football, it just lies with a select few clubs.
So on Tuesday night, Everton will try and scrape together eleven fit players and we’ll send them out to the slaughter against Spurs. I’ve got no doubts that we’ll get beaten by a Tottenham side with a deep squad and bang in form – hell, Jermaine Defoe even got a rest at the weekend as he was suspended. He’ll be simply chomping at the bit to get at a back four that has conceded eight goals in two games in stadiums over a thousand miles apart.
And all the while, United’s reserves will give Barnsley a hammering while they add some more TV money to the coffers over at Old Trafford while Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City’s players all put their feet up safe in the knowledge that such hardships shall not befall them as the sport’s governing bodies sit firmly in the back pockets of their respective clubs.
It’s a shame really, because I actually really fancied having a good go at the Carling Cup this season, especially after our exploits in the FA Cup last term. I guess though, we’ll just have to hope for a miracle, or content ourselves with making a fresh assault in the Third Round of the FA Cup come January, when some of our casualties have returned to fitness and form.
I feel sorry for Moyes and his players more than anyone though. No club could cope with losing 11 first choice players, and we’ve already had to pay the price against Benfica in Europe and Bolton in the league. Now the players must find some more energy in their tired legs for a third time in six days – they must be absolutely exhausted. In fact, it’s tiring enough watching the games and I’d quite like a bloody week off as well. Imagine how they feel.
Have your say:
What do you think of the Carling Cup fixtures? Are the sport’s governing bodies overly influenced by the ‘bigger clubs’? Please leave your thoughts in a comment below…