When Sir Alex Ferguson made wholesale changes to the Manchester United side which faced Schalke in the second leg of the Champions League semi final last month there was not a single word of complaint from UEFA – and with good reason. On the other hand we are now seeing warnings from the Premier League that “The FA are watching to see what team Ferguson puts out against Blackpool on Sunday. If they make major changes from the team that played Blackburn last weekend, they will face penalties just like Blackpool and Wolves did in the last couple of seasons.” Why? Clubs should be able to field any team they want, in any Premier fixture they want – with one proviso. If a player is named in the squad required by the FA, there surely cannot be any valid argument for them to be used.
The new rule was introduced at the start of this season stating “Each Club must submit a squad by 5pm on 1st September containing no more than 17 players who do not fulfill the Home Grown Player criteria. The remainder of the squad, up to a total of 25 players, must be home grown” It means that for players to participate in the league they must have been named in that squad.
It brought the Premier League in line with UEFA which has a similar rule for their European competitions. It was the reason why no complaints were ever heard about the many changes made for the Schalke game. And in case anyone wonders, the same rule applies in the group stages where two out of the four clubs are knocked out.
So why should the FA be any different? It cannot have it both ways! If a squad has to be named, EVERY player in it MUST be able to participate in any of their fixtures with no questions asked, just as they do in UEFA competitions. How can anyone reasonably think otherwise?
Which lead to the debate as to whether the likes of Michael Owen should be entitled to a title winning medal for making just 10 appearances during the season including 9 as a substitute. Why not? The same principle must apply, if a player is included in the seasons squad, he should be just as entitled to a medal as anyone else irrespective of the number of appearances made.
Granted, some flexibility may need to exist for unexpected circumstances like players transferred in and out in the January transfer window or for long term injuries like those suffered by Owen Hargreaves but any tweaking to the rules should not be difficult to implement.
The bottom line is that if clubs are required to name their squads by the FA – which there can be very few arguments against, everything else has to be consistent with that rule, just as it is with UEFA. And one final point to reinforce that argument. Every one of the 24 man squad named in the FIFA World Cup Finals tournament is entitled to a winners medal whether they participated or not. Surely, that must be enough said.
Is this a reasonable argument for the FA to consider?