Coyle carried out his threat to ring the changes for the game against Blackpool and with the points sealed his tinkering did the trick. Rickers Twickers provides his view..
Today’s football pundits – and there are several of them knocking around these days – harp on about football being a squad game.
With many top level sides having 30 or more players to choose from and as fast as the phrase ‘ he’s made the number 46 shirt his own ‘ has started to ring out across Premier League grounds another term, ‘squad rotation’, has entered modern football parlance. However in The Championship, save for bigger teams like Wolves, Birmingham and Sheffield United, a few clubs are playing on a different playing field.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than at Turf Moor where, by the start of March, just 23 players had seen first team action this season. Given that Burnley have now played 47 games in a mammoth season that still has some way to go that is an astoundingly small number of players to have pulled on the famous Claret and Blue shirt.
In fact, the figure is even more alarming when, of the 23 used, three players – Akinbiyi, Penny and VDS – have made but one start each whilst others like Mahon, Rodriguez and young Alex MacDonald have only seen action from the bench.
Two others, both loanees, have made less than 10 appearances and one of those, Russell Anderson, is unlikely to play again in 2008/09 due to serious injury.
In reality that leaves a squad of just 15 regular names and it is around those players that manager Owen Coyle has built his season.
Graham Alexander has played every minute of every game, and must be super-fit, absolutely knackered or, most probably, both whilst The Beast has only missed the campaign opener against Sheffield Wednesday and it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if the Player of The Year award was shared between them.
Others like Caldwell, McCann, Elliott and Paterson are usually in the eleven and, with Grezza and Jensen, top the overall appearance tally in the whole division by some distance. Their closest challengers include Neil Sullivan and Richard Wright – both veterans and, of course, ‘keepers.
Honourable mentions have to go to Robbie Blake, Joey G, Eagles and Duff who have all put in excellent service as have regulars such as Messrs Jordan, Thompson and Clarke Carlisle.
However, anyone who says that football is a squad game at Turf Moor could be forgiven for saying that it is, but not as we know it.