Prem clubs are moaning but tough sh*t – play the reserves

John Nicholson
Jurgen Klopp fist bumps Pep Guardiola

The Premier League is being vague over the threshold for postponements but reserves and youth teams mean clubs should always have enough


Because the Premier League are taking postponements on a game-by-game basis rather than setting hard and fast rules that are easy to understand, they are making everyone’s lives more difficult and causing unnecessary disruption.

It seems games are currently being called off if the team cannot field 13 players and a goalie, but there is little data transparency from clubs or the Premier League. I do not believe that any club in the top flight cannot field 14 contracted players. Most clubs have well over 40 signed to the first team and at under-23 level. Manchester United, for example, have 51 before counting youth teams. So when clubs say they can’t drum up the numbers, I presume they mean they haven’t got the requisite amount of first-team squad players available. These typically range from 25 to 30.

But this isn’t consistent. All clubs regularly field players who are not in the first-team squad. Those reserve-team squads are there to play for the first team when the occasion demands. Well the occasion now demands they do.

These are players who can be fielded; more than that, these are players who would bloody love to be fielded. Would love to prove themselves. They can’t be that bad. They’d not be on the club’s books if they were. Let’s see them. If your first-team squad is tired from the exertions of playing too much football, or is infected with Covid, here’s your answer: play other players. There. How hard is that? You’ve likely got over 20 Under-23 players on the books. Play them instead.

Xavier Simons celebrates

What is really being said here is that a club absolutely can field 14 players but they don’t want to because they fear they are not good enough. Well, tough shit. You can’t have everything how you want it all the time. Who said you could?

It becomes somewhat nauseating that managers are making out like they’re really hard done to or that it is all somehow so unfair, but that is only because they are so privileged and so pampered, so spoiled and so deluded into thinking they’re so special that our lives will not be complete unless we see 11 of their 25 elite athletes running 14km twice a week. Get your head out of your arse. We support teams, not players. It doesn’t matter who is in the team – we’ll support them.

No, it’s not a ‘catastrophe’ or ‘a nightmare’ or ‘a disaster’. These are not words that are appropriate to use for this situation but which have all been aired in various media discussions. You’ve had a few weeks to plan for this. The fact you haven’t is no excuse. Yes, it may make your life a bit more difficult, but what made you think you wouldn’t have to change your working life at all in these circumstances?

Football isn’t an upmarket product, manufactured from the finest ingredients which won’t be palatable if not played by first-team players. If you have to play eight U23 players, it could easily be a more enjoyable game than usual. It could be more fun. It could be better than the usual dreck your tattooed millionaires churn out.

At this level there are a lot of delusions brought on by phenomenal financial privilege and constantly being talked about as though they are all demigods. The irony is that some of the problems are being caused by their own players refusing vaccination and having to isolate for 10 days when testing positive, or having to take longer off to recover. You are moaning about a situation that you have the power to influence positively. Instead, all you’re doing is complaining that life is not as easy for you as it normally is. Do not expect us to be sympathetic to that.

There is only one principle to adhere to: if you have 14 players who are not injured and not Covid positive at the club, you can play the game.

And no, it won’t compromise the competition, as is being said, because the competition is already compromised with the richest largely dominating, or hadn’t you noticed that? The Premier League is a financially doped league. If anything, all teams having to play some reserves will make it more competitive, not less.

The managers go on about playing elite football as though it is some sort of high falutin art form, the rigours of which are beyond our understanding. In case these managers and players have forgotten, as many people watch lower-league football right down the pyramid as they do their so-called elite version. We don’t mind watching non-elite players doing non-elite things. In fact we bloody love it. Why do you think 8,896 turn up to see Stockport play Altrincham in the fifth tier? Are you lost in the fog of your own rarefied air that you do not understand this?

If the Premier League thinks it will devalue its product – because ‘product’ is how they think of it – by playing non-first teamers, a word to the wise, you fools: your ‘product’ is already a byword for sportswashing, grasping capitalism, unfairness, inequality, greed, cryptocurrency scams and all manner of other evils.

Yes the game is all about money. You’ve got to play to satisfy broadcasters and boost the club coffers. Money drives all of this. But who benefits from the money? You do. We don’t. It’s you. For a moment, you should try seeing things on our side of the fence.

So get off your high horse, stop talking about going on strike, stop complaining. You have such resources and so much money that these complaints are all so tin-eared. Just play the game with the players you’ve got. That is what every other business has had to do in the pandemic – get by with the staff available.

Here’s what you need to say: ‘We are a rich club, we’re given over £100 million by the Premier League every year just for existing, so we have great resources and plenty of available players who are contracted to the club. We will use those resources to put out the best team we can and we will be happy to do so.’ Say that instead of staring at your navel and feeling sorry for yourselves like a spoiled rich kid.

You can’t have everything you want all the time, even if most of the time you absolutely do. So stop your sobbing and take the rag away from your face, now ain’t the time for your tears.