Roy Hodgson Has Nothing to Apologize For

The powers that be in the Premier League tend to get all uptight when a club manager suggests that he’s going to rest his starters for whatever reason. This is somehow an affront to the integrity of the competition and unfair to the other clubs fighting to avoid relegation or to get into Europe. Plus, lots of people bet on these games, so resting players at any given time might raise as many red flags as Urawa Red Diamonds supporters.

That said, managers are not the least bit beholden to gamblers, and no manager should be punished for doing what’s ultimately best for his club. If a manager decides to rest players in order to get them healthy for a particular fixture, then he should be free to make that decision.

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson is the latest to jump into this teapot tempest when he all but announced that winning the Europa League would take priority over Fulham’s remaining Premier League fixtures.

And why not? There’s nothing left on offer for Fulham in the league. They’ve confirmed their Premier League status for next season, and they’re too far behind other clubs to win another spot in Europe through the league. There’s only one way Fulham plays in the Europa League next year, and that’s by winning the Europa League this year.

What’s more, Fulham have already played 55 matches this season, more than any club in the Premier League, including the Big Four. If they reach the Europa League final, that number will jump to 63. That’s a lot of fixtures for a club that’s not very deep. That they’ve managed any sort of run at all in the Europa League — let alone one that saw them knock out Shahktar Donetsk, Juventus and Wolfsburg — is remarkable. So why not chase the trophy still on offer? Get Bobby Zamora and Clint Dempsey fully fit, get a win and a draw against Hamburg, and whatever happens in the final on May 12 happens.

Plus, it’s not like Fulham have completely closed up shop in the league. The Cottagers held Liverpool to a scoreless draw at Anfield yesterday, a result that left Liverpool 6 points adrift of 4th place. Clearly, Hodgson’s defenders haven’t gotten the memo that they’re supposed to take it easy.

Regardless, many will argue that Hodgson should still try to keep his first team on the pitch, because it would be unfair to Burnley and Hull City if Fulham fielded reserve sides against Wolverhampton and West Ham. This is a rubbish argument. Burnley and Hull had 33 rounds to do what they needed to do to avoid the drop. If they haven’t settled matters by now, it’s their own fault for being in this position.

This same argument against resting starters took place last December, when Mick McCarthy put the Wolverhampton reserves on the pitch for a midweek fixture at Old Trafford. McCarthy was fined £25,000 by the Premier League for that decision, which completely ignored the fact that it was the right decision. Wolves took six points from the two matches surrounding that midweek tie, and those six points are currently the distance between Wolves and the drop zone. What’s more, those three points might not save Manchester United’s title hopes after all.

That the Premier League even decided to fine McCarthy set a horrible precedent. Now Hodgson might end up facing a similar fine if he decides to field any reserves in advance of that semifinal tie against Hamburg. Let’s hope the league has the good sense not to charge him £25,000 for this. After all, the league didn’t fine Rafa Benitez £25,000 when he put the Liverpool reserves on the pitch three years ago. Dempsey scored a game-winner against those reserves to keep Fulham in the top flight.

A club like Fulham might never be able to chase European glory again. Hodgson should be allowed to do whatever is necessary to help Fulham win that trophy, and if that means throwing the reserves out the reserves against Wolves and Everton, so be it. The other 19 clubs had an entire season to earn their points. If they haven’t done it yet, it’s they’re own fault.

18 thoughts on “Roy Hodgson Has Nothing to Apologize For”

  1. Dave, spot on. If the the relegation squads don’t like it then improve your quality. Don’t leave it for others to save you. No one says a whole lot when Sir Alex rests players. The Wolves fine is a joke as well.

    1. I absolutely believe that managers should be able to field whoever they want. And league fines are ridiculous, because they amount to directing a manager’s tactical decisions from above.

      That said, I think the argument you’ve offered here — “relegation clubs shouldn’t complain” — is a weak one. Relegation clubs have every right to complain, because stuff like this can be unfair to them. The Premier League is a round robin tournament. Its aim is to determine who ranks where after each team plays the other twice through the course of a season. There is a symmetry and fairness to it. Moves like Hodgson’s mean that the competition becomes “unbalanced,” in a sense.

      Again, that doesn’t mean Hodgson doesn’t have a right to field whoever he wants. (I support Fulham and want to see them win Europa.) It just means that other clubs ARE justified when they complain about it.

  2. Roy should get manager of the year for what he’s done. It always seems to go to the title winning manager (surely that’s enough for them) when they really don’t need it.

  3. Roy Hodgson is responsible for Fulham. He is not responsible for any other club. The league fining McCarthy is a joke. They wouldn’t dare fine Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger if they did something similar. I would love to see Fulham win the Europa League. I always pull for the underdog, in case my username didn’t make that really obvious.

  4. Yep, Roy has nothing to apologise for.

    I hope the Premier League is absolutely squirming right now. They have created a rod for their own back by fining Wolves, and they have screwed themselves.

    Fining us (Wolves) was nothing short of a disgrace. A completely hypocritical move. Their justification for fining us but not Man Utd etc was that we lost. What a load of bollocks. They basically admitted that the bigger teams are allowed to do things that the smaller ones aren’t.

    I hope they attempt to fine Fulham, get shouted down, and end up rescinding Wolves punishment in order to avoid future complications.

  5. Also, it is worth adding that 8, yes EIGHT, of the 11 “reserves” against Man Utd, played in our 3-1 win over West Ham and our subsequent games.

    How the PL can decide what is a full strength side and what isn’t is beyond me. Whose call is it? The Chief Exec, the secretary, the board? All opinions. None of them as qualified as the actual manager of the team in question.

  6. My feelings have been pretty much covered in the previous comments. I always believed getting involved in the Wolves issue was a bad precedent to set. When you follow this argument to its logical conclusion, you have the FA picking the squads for each team every week. I only hope Al-Fayed makes good on his promise to show two fingers to any side that wants to question their priorities and their team selection.

    Basically what sides like Wolves (and Fulham potentially) are being punished for is for not having a second team as good as that of Chelsea or Arsenal or Man United.

  7. Two things:

    1) A few weeks ago, didn’t McCarthy put out a very similar side to the one that got him fined? Shows what a joke it was.

    2) Fulham can actually get back into Europa via Fair Play. UEFA’s latest results (released in January) had England in the Top 3, and Fulham are in line to take that spot considering Arse and Spurs are ahead of them on the Fair Play table yet already on their way to Europe.

    Although it means our season will start July 1. Ack.

  8. Never liked these rules. Managers should be permitted to do what is best for their team, no matter how it affects any other club. The rules as they are are terribly paranoid. “Unfair” would be Sir Alex sending a £25,000 check to Mick McCarthy, not McCarthy/Hodgson/anyone playing for the best possible outcome for the remainder of their season.

    Also pretty sure the Wolves “reserves” fiasco happened because no one could be bothered to know who plays for Wolves.

  9. I agree 100%, but if they don’t fine Hodgson how on earth does the one against McCarthy hold up? Are they going to split hairs and start deciding when you can and can’t use so called reserves?

    Let’s see….(A) is OK; (B) is not; (C) depends on the phase of the moon.


  10. “What’s more, those three points might not save Manchester United’s title hopes after all.”
    what would your reaction be if those 3 points helped Manu win the league.would it be fair to other title contenders.Sure Mick McCarthy has a responsibility towards the Wolves but similarly PL has a responsibility to ensure that each game is a fair and that the result is decided on the pitch and not compromised by fielding a ‘weaker side’.This would lead to teams deciding on which fixtures are winnable and deserve to be played by a first-choice team.Yes, there might be issues in deciding what might constitute a first-choice team but in principle fielding weaker teams in unwinnable fixtures goes against the spirit of the game and should be discouraged.(by the way i am a recent liverpool fan and if rafa benitez commited such an act, he should also have been fined)

    P.S – Imagine what would have happened if Rafa had fielded a full strength team against Fulham,it might have led to Fulham’s relegation as mentioned above.I for one watch the EPL to see would be the result of two full strength teams figthing it out for 90 min on a football pitch

    1. V: If those 3 points help United win the league, then fair play to them. United took care of their business, and Wolves took care of theirs. It’s a 38-game season, and each club has ample opportunity to take care of its own business. Asking “What if Wolves had been full-strength?” is the same as asking “What if Wayne Rooney had been healthy during the stretch run?” — these things happen, and you have to accept the result and move on.

  11. What a horrible precedent indeed that wolves fine was and the hypocrisy involved. It it were one of the “top four” resting their so-called “starters” before a Champions League Match, the Premier League would not have batted an eyelash.It is not up to Hodgson to care about other teams, he gets paid to manage Fulham – and credit to him, his staff and players for doing what Hull, Wolves, Burnley, Portsmouth have all failed to do so far – picking up enough points to ensure top flight football for next season.

    Teams have to register ALL their professional squad players at the beginning of the season, these players get paid to play when needed. That should be left to their manager, not the Premier League.

  12. Great Article Dave,
    I may be a bit biased because I support fulham, but I agree 100%. What’s the point of having managers if you have someone not with the team deciding whats best for the team? How does the F.A.- a body who isn’t even with the team for training able to judge what the team’s strongest side would be?
    The precident the FA set by fining McCarthy is a disaster, it set a horrible precident. If teams wanted to rest players for future matches instead of just resting them I believe you’re going to start seeing a lot of phantom injuries lasting one week. Which will set another annoying precedent like the NFL has regarding their injury lists.

    For example purposes only: Say if Man U was saftely up top and they wanted to save Rooney the wear and tear from playing a bottom 3 team when they have a cup game ahead. You may see Rooney pop up with a virus or migrane or something minor that can go away in a couple of days.

  13. the fact that the league can fine a manager based on his team selection is absurd…if a player is eligible to play for the club in a given competition, why should the manager not be able to play him…regardless of the usual starting eleven.

    fulham had an excellent run last season and earned a european has been pointed out, why should they sacrifice a chance for european glory because it may upset the “fairness” of domestic league competition.

    fulham have all but secured thei place in the premier doingso they have earned the right to rest anyone they want in pursuit of european glory.

    does anyone even raise an eye brow when a big club plays their youth side in the carling cup? No.

    if you are relying on another club to save your fortunes you can’t complain if that club has already accomplished what it needs to domestically.

  14. The Premier League is starting to get silly this season – fining clubs for not playing their best teams. How can anyone else but the manager decide who is the best team to play on the day? Teams have large squads so that they can rotate the team and rest players – if your 1st 11 had to play every game you would have no players left standing at the end of the season.

    If Roy wants to rest some players for the Cup, that’s his decision alone. He’s the gaffer and he can do what he wants! The only person Roy should answer to are the Fulham board and I’m sure their ecstatic with what Roy’s done the season.

    I hope Fulham win this competition; Roy Hodgson comes across as an extremely nice chap and it would be great to see him win something!

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