As I write this, we are still unaware of the outcome of the EFL investigation into Town of David Wagner utilising his squad. I use this phrase because that is exactly what he did. Utilise his squad. That is his job and that is why Dean Hoyle pays him a lot more than my wage packet and rightly so.
The EFL outlined their position and the action they would take by issuing a statement saying:
“We have today written to Huddersfield Town to request their observations in relation to team selection during their recent Championship match with Birmingham City and, as per our regulations, the EFL executive will refer the matter to the board if it is deemed appropriate to do so.
It should be noted, however, that the result of Saturday’s game will stand in all circumstances and any potential action would be taken against Huddersfield Town directly.”
Before I get into the absurdity of the statement which was probably written by a stress-ridden inexperienced press officer, let’s examine exactly what ‘rule’ Town has apparently broken. Rule 24.1, the said regulation in question states that:
“Each Club shall play its full strength in all Matches played under the auspices of The League unless some satisfactory reason is given. In the event of the explanation not being deemed satisfactory, the Board shall refer the matter to a Disciplinary Commission which has the power to impose such penalties as it shall think fit.”
The very fact this rule even exists makes you call into question the competency of the EFL and is a complete farce in and of itself. The main reason for this is that what it does, in essence, is pick the team for the manager. What constitutes a ‘full strength’ team? What constitutes a ‘weak’ or understrength team? Is it value, appearances, age? Town’s team against Birmingham had a combined total of over 1900 league career appearances between them. What is the threshold on the number of players you can rest?
If we were to take this rule literally, then almost every team every week would have to be fined. What the EFL don’t seem to realise on the most basic level imaginable is that what happens in football is that managers can’t actually play their first XI every week. This isn’t the 1960s where you had 11 players, one sub and all of your first XI played every single game.
Managers must rotate their players, rest ones who have played too many games, play players who perhaps haven’t got much game time or who need to be tested in big game environments. You know, the sort of thing any manager who holds a Level 2 coaching badge does.
Clearly, the EFL didn’t seem to understand that concept. Bristol Rovers manager Darrell Clarke summed up the situation perfectly from a manager’s perspective declaring:
“I’ve just been trying to get hold of the EFL on the phone to try and find out if they want to pick my team for Saturday.
They seem to be calling the shots and I can tell you that I, like many of the other managers who have been punished, am very angry and disappointed.
When somebody behind a desk with a nice warm cup of coffee can start telling me which first-team players I can and can’t play then the game is gone.
I wonder if the people who have thought up a ridiculous format that supporters up and down the country have boycotted will think about giving themselves a fine. That’s a good question isn’t it?”
Over the course of this week, the usual non-existent media attention we’re given this season (apart from some enlightened individuals) has been momentarily halted. Our little old club has become the hot topic of debate across the football world. I have listened to radio shows and television panels discuss our ‘controversial’ decision as if we had just chucked eleven 18-year-old youth players from our academy and put the tea lady on the bench.
The delusion spewed out the mouths of B-team Soccer Saturday pundits (you know the ones I mean, Tony Cottee and Matt Murray excluded of course), TalkSport trolls wanting to boost their ratings and some truly nonsensical rubbish being shouted around the Twitter-sphere has made me question whether the amount of plastic fans in football has ever been at a higher level before.
Most Town fans know why this EFL investigation has been conducted and that is because of the comments made by Blackburn manager and part-time human sour grape, Tony Mowbray. In his post-match interview after Blackburn’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa, Mowbray questioned why Town Head Coach David Wagner had made 10 changes from the side that beat Wolves at Molineux 1-0 saying:
“Maybe he [Wagner] is not aware of the way the British game is played, and the integrity of all the leagues…Everybody should be trying to win every game, Huddersfield have to look after themselves, I suppose – they’re in the play-offs, so if he wants to rest everybody then so be it…
I’m not sure I would’ve done that [made 10 changes], personally, but I don’t want to stand here and question the integrity of the game. It’s disappointing that 10 men from Birmingham City can win 2-0 against a team in the top six who have been winning pretty consistently all year. It suggests that the changes did have a big impact on the game.”
It’s amazing how pressure can turn you to xenophobia! To question if another manager understands the rules of the game because he is German reeks of an uneducated and yobbish attitude we haven’t seen since the Ron Atkinson years. David Wagner isn’t the manager of any other team in the Championship except Huddersfield Town.
David Wagner is not the reason why Blackburn currently lie third bottom of the table on goal difference, they are. Their inept performances and incompetent owners have brought their club to the brink of destruction, no one else. To shift blame from your own failings as a coach onto an opposition manager is cowardice and it should be called out as that.
Take responsibility for your own team’s shocking performances and front up to your fans that pay your wage. Hiding behind banal platitudes and pontifications about how hard done by you are that other managers aren’t going to be your cheerleaders to escape relegation makes you look like a fool.
The biggest reason why I’m angry however is that Mowbray and the EFL have insulted every one of those 11 Town players who played on Saturday. How dare Mowbray state that Wagner didn’t want to win that game? How dare he suggest that the players didn’t want to win the game? How dare he insult the professionalism and footballing ability of players who have held Premier League side Man City to a 0-0 draw and played their part in other huge victories for us over the course of this season? Are they now declaring through this statement and investigation that these players aren’t good enough to play for our club? Or are they just saying they weren’t good enough to beat Birmingham? Only they will know the answer.
So instead of focusing on important issues in the Football League that continue to blight the sport like the minority of black managers, the still lingering presence of homophobia that has meant there are currently zero openly gay footballers in England or the renegade owners currently destroying clubs across all three divisions, the EFL has decided to concentrate on investigating a manager doing his job. In today’s press conference before our last game of the season against Cardiff, I think David spoke for all town fans when he said:
“When I first heard about it, I thought it was a joke.
This is nothing to do with (a lack of) integrity. I feel I have to apologise or excuse for something…And I have excuse for nothing.
It’s my squad and I protect and love every single player and every player deserves to start games and they have started games to be fair.
I cannot understand these questions and it only shows me we have a few narrow-minded people in this football business”.
Whilst we have heard countless questions, questioning the integrity and attitude of David Wagner when he looked out for Huddersfield Town’s interests first and foremost, perhaps it’s time that questions were asked about the EFL. Questions which revealed the real attitude, motive and understanding of the EFL.
Perhaps it’s time that questions were asked about the priorities of the EFL, how they acted so quickly about such a trivial issue but fail to tackle renegade owners who are allowed to do as they please, destroying traditional Football League clubs and having lasting damage on the game that we love.
Perhaps the time has come for the fans to stand collectively as one not to condemn football managers who are looking out for their club’s best interests but the EFL, a corrupt, inept amalgamating institution which is bringing the game to its knees.