Should the manager have played a stronger side on Tuesday and a little bit about the United game…
Well howdy. It seems that the past week and a bit have gone past in something of a blur, what with the fall out from the Arsenal game bleeding into the Villa game that bled into the Carling Cup defeat on Tuesday. Amazingly, with playing Stretford on Sunday, we find ourselves staring at a no news day. I would tell you about some bizarre dream I had where SuperKevinDavies climbed out of a giant marshmallow and sold me a cut price X-Box as long as I gave him my first born, but I had quite a peaceful sleep last night and I don`t want to tempt fate, especially as I may be eating cheese later.
There has been little to no fall out over the defeat to our friends from the north on Tuesday, at least in the papers. St Owen described himself as disappointed that he does not get the thanks he thinks he deserves from the Burnley fans. Fair enough point really, but then some sections of the Bolton crowd boo Big Sam and look what he did for us. That most Burnley fans allow themselves to be whipped up into an anti-Coyle frenzy, and allow their children to do the same, says more about them than it does about the manager who managed to get himself out of the game with some grace, if not the right result. And kudos to Brian Laws for asking Burnley fans to now cease in the vitriolic statements aimed towards the man who took them to semi finals and the Premier League. Unfortunately, you would expect, some Burnley fans have got memories like elephants. But then again, some elephants live in zoos too.
Having had a better look at the game, as much as one could on the BBC highlight, should we be disappointed in being knocked out of the cup at such an early stage? I almost went to the Southampton game before Mrs X reminded me that just because Southampton is in the south doesn`t mean I can leave work at 7pm and still get there. For the fans who went to the south coast and watched an uninspired performance it must have been déjà vu for those of them who travelled to Turf Moor. Not that some of the players were uninspired, Robbie Blake and Rita Moreno catching the eye, it is just that Burnley were more up for the game.
Did this have something to do with who they were playing? Yes, probably. They took the lead with a conscientious decision, with Iwelumo appearing to handle the ball before Wade Elliott scored, but if anyone thinks that Bolton won`t benefit sometime in the season from some sort of dodgy decision by the referee or linesmen then they`re seriously mistaken. We`ve already got away with one this season, but I`ve promised Mrs X that if I talk about the Paul Robinson tackle one more time then she can have a go at my eyebrows with some kitchen scissors.
Some may point to a weakened team and suggest that if the manager had wanted to make good his word of looking to the cups as a way to glory then he should have put out all the first teamers that he could, seeing as how Stretford don`t come to town until Sunday. This has been exacerbated by the run of results that has seen Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Citeh go out of the competition, all playing weakened teams while Stretford themselves were lucky to win in the manner they did after a first half performance by Scunny that should have seen them streets ahead.
As an argument, I`d like to give you three teams to look at. Just peruse them for a moment:
v Burnley League Cup R3 21/9/10 Bogdan, Knight, Steinsson, Ricketts, Alonso, Cohen, M.Davies, Taylor, Blake, Moreno, Klasnic
v Gillingham League Cup R3 28/10/03 Poole, Hunt, Thome, Charlton, Barness, Stelios, Campo, Nolan, Ba, Pedersen, Jardel
v Sheffield United FA Cup R3 5/1/08 Al Habsi, Hunt, Andy O`Brien, Michalik, Cid, Guthrie, Joey O`Brien, Stelios, Cohen, Diouf, Braaten
Now, I`ve thrown the FA Cup on in to show what a really weakened team looks like. Al Habsi may be the Pie Eaters great saviour nowadays but at the time was brought in to give Jussi a rest and Diouf was probably put in as a punishment. Otherwise that is a primarily second choice side, barring, at the time, AOB and Diouf. Cohen was making his debut and, if my memory serves, had arrived too late for his name to appear in the programme. Even so, they were playing what amounted to a Sheff United reserve side, some of whom my Sheff United supporting nephews didn`t recognise, but still lost.
The 2003 League Cup campaign, that took us to the final, really kicked off after the defeat of Gillingham. This was managed with a strike force that included Jardel and Henrik, who was used more often than not as a sub, as was Stelios. Of the team the regular first team starters would be Hunt (playing in central defence rather than right back), Thome, Charlton, Campo and Nolan. Yes, I know, Stelios was better quality than some that we have now. Or then.
So what is the difference between the Gillingham game and the Burnley game? As Big Sam did, so St Owen picked a team that he thought would win the game whilst looking to the bigger picture. You can say that Ricketts isn`t first choice but the manager would have probably started with Cahill as Burnley is his former club. Bar Moreno and Alonso all have had some game time in the Premier League this year and if Klasnic is to get some match fitness better it be in the Carling Cup than the league where his lack of fitness would be a hindrance. And this is not having a go at the Croatian, but he was some way behind everyone else when he joined. Bogdan would have played regardless and SuperKev may have had some part to play. So barring Klasnic, this is a team that should have put Burnley to bed. That they didn`t is no fault of the manager. A first half performance that contained a Burnley team with real fire in their belly was undone by a second half that appeared to pass them by. The only real criticism is that the manager should have brought on another attack minded player with both Petrov and Holden, who is in great form, staying on the bench for the duration when it would have been better to drag off Cohen, Little Davies or Matty for the last ten minutes.
Anyway, we`re out. Burnley have their little victory which will have satisfied them as they took their children out for their nightly beating. Still, at least we weren`t knocked out by Northampton. Imagine if that happened??
Looking forward to the game on Sunday, St Owen has told the press that he has consigned the Burnley game to the dustbin of history:
‘My focus is now on getting the group back together, including the eight lads who didn`t play, and turning our focus on Manchester United. It`s a very tough game, a local derby, against some of the very best players in world football, but that`s exactly why we`re in the job.’
Stretford made a whole raft of changes last night and The Whisky Guzzling Madman of Carrington didn`t even bother turning up although you`d have to pay me a kings ransom to go to Scunny as well. He went to Valencia instead. Nice work if you can get it. The United game is going to be tough, probably tougher than The Arse, but with a following wind and Rio in defence, we should expect a positive result.
Speaking of work, off I go. Hi ho hi ho hi ho. Until tomorrow.