Date: 24th February 2010 at 9:37am
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Couch Potato comments on the recent decision by the PL to give Wolves a suspended fine for fielding a weakened side at Old Trafford and discusses the implications.

Wolverhampton Wanderers gaffer, Mick McCarthy broke the rules last December by fielding a weakened side against United at Old Trafford in order to rest his key players ahead of Wolves important clash with the Clarets at Molineux a few days later.

The clash at Molineux was a vital six-pointer with both teams striving to avoid relegation,a match which the Clarets lost 2-0. Both clubs of course were promoted to the top flight last season and both were and still are seeking to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.

The difference is we seem to be trying to do it fairly and within the rules.

Couch Potato discusses the recent decision by the Premier League to give Wolves a £25,000 suspended fine following an investigation of McCarthy’s disgraceful behaviour.


Following the Premier League slapping a £25,000 suspended fine on Wolves for fielding their reserves in a Prem League fixture at Old Trafford, the Wolves chief executive, Jez Moxey said:

‘One thing that’s never been in question is the integrity of Mick McCarthy. He picked a team that, in his view, was in the best possible position to get a result in that particular game. He made it unselfishly and with the best interests of Wolves in mind.’

Do you question Mick McCarthy`s integrity?

This was my reaction at the time, as recorded in WTBM 80.?

Mick McCarthy had said on SKY before our televised game against Wolves that he was sorry if he had upset anyone by fielding their second team against Man U. But pundits, presenters, journalists, fans and Vital Burnley posters like me got drawn into heated discussion that has not finished yet. McCarthy himself, only a few hours later was uttering profanities, and within days was photographed ‘gesturing`.

Throwing in the towel at Old Trafford was a clear breach of Premier League rules. He has been asked to explain his action by the League bosses. The Wolves lawyers are mounting a robust PR defence ahead of what ought to be a hearing. Presumably SKY`s lawyers are meanwhile pointing out that they didn`t contract to put massive wealth into the League in exchange for its minnows to surrender to the big boys.

Was a precedent set by Liverpool making 9 changes against Fulham before a Champions League final? Will any club whose final League position this year can be considered to have been affected by ‘McCarthy`s choice` be studying the Blades` civil court victory over the Hammers? Will McCarthy be called to the FA on a disrepute charge? Will he be called to account by his peers for claiming there is more integrity in his little finger than that possessed by his critics, including a clearly displeased Arsene Wenger?

This one could go to penalties. I was pleased to see the editor of this fanzine match my Vital Burnley call for a 6-point deduction.

This is what WTBM editor Barnsey said in WTBM 79

“Ridiculous, Mick McCarthy. In the words of Kevin Keegan “he`s gone down in my estimations, I can tell you.” Maybe it`s understandable, but it is certainly unforgivable, and I hope that the PL interprets this as contravening the rule that says you must play a full-strength side, and docks them some points. If they fail to do this, they run the risk of the league becoming a farce.”

A bit of history

In 1961 Burnley were fined £1,000 for fielding a weakened team that drew 4-4 in a top flight fixture on the Turf against Chelsea. An FA Cup semi was coming up in 11 days, and a European Cup Quarter Final in Hamburg 3 days before that. We lost both.

What happened 49 years later?

This debacle all started when Mick McCarthy decided to ‘chuck-one-in` in a game last December when Wolves travelled to Old Trafford to play Manchester United. McCarthy made 10 changes to the side that had beaten Tottenham 1-0 in the previous game resting key players ahead of the match against Burnley.

McCarthy said at the time:

‘We had a great result at Spurs and every player rated it 9 to 9.5/10 in terms of how hard it was. I need to protect them. If you have another match of that magnitude, you can’t cope. We have big games coming.’

Wolves were then thumped 3-0 by United in front of a somewhat annoyed set of away fans that had paid good money to watch a bunch of reserves stand no chance of defeating the current Champions of the Premier League. Many of the 3,000 Wolves fans that had travelled to Old Trafford were now asking for their money back.

Burnley travelled to Molineux facing a completely rested and refreshed team with nine of those dropped players recalled to the side. Sadly for the Clarets, McCarthy`s decision seemed to be justified on the face of it in this vital six-pointer of a game. Wolves came out 2-0 winners but to be honest the Clarets had such a poor game that most probably any Wolves side would probably have beaten us that day.

This decision by McCarthy though had clearly upset many, not least the Wolves fans themselves although some may have changed their view after our defeat at Molineux. The PL was not happy either and asked McCarthy to justify his actions.

After deliberations the PL announced recently that that they had hit Wolves with a £25,000 fine but one that would be suspended.

McCarthy accepted the verdict calling it a ‘deterrent’, and said he would not make the same selection move again.

“Everyone else can have an opinion on it [the ruling]. Mine is, I’m absolutely glad it is done and dusted with,’ said the Wolves gaffer.

‘Will I change 10 players again? I think you will find it isn’t possible to do it.’ He added: ‘We’ll have to see if anyone else does it but, come on, it’s been put there as a deterrent. It has set a precedent and I’ve accepted it.’

The Premier League’s official statement on the incident read:

‘The Premier League Board has issued Wolverhampton Wanderers FC with a suspended £25,000 fine after deciding that the team fielded in their league fixture against Manchester United on 15 December 2009 was not full strength and therefore in breach of Rule E20. The board also deemed that the club had failed to fulfil its obligations to the league and other clubs in the utmost good faith and was therefore in breach of Rule B13.”

“The board considered submissions from Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and had sympathy for the explanation submitted by the club in relation to similar cases from previous seasons. However, the board ruled that this case could be differentiated from the other matches cited and that disciplinary action was warranted. The League’s E20 rule stipulates that clubs must field a full-strength side in all top-flight games. However, goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann was the only name on the Old Trafford team-sheet that had started the victory over Tottenham at White Hart Lane three days earlier.”

‘In coming to this decision the board also wants to put clubs on notice that any future rule breach of this nature would be subject to a disciplinary commission that would have available a full range of sanctions.’

Now here`s the funny bit!

One person who commented after the decision by the PL was Wolves striker, Kevin Doyle the scorer of Wolves second goal against the Clarets:

‘I’m surprised anything has come of it, to be honest,’ the Republic of Ireland international told BBC Radio 5 live. ‘They [the Premier League] are going to have to end up fining a lot of teams over the next few years, I think, if they are going to go about it that way. Are they going to start fining clubs for changing teams in the FA Cup, the League Cup, when they go from Champions League to the league? Bigger teams change their sides massively every week, so why is that any different for us?’

My advice would be don`t hire Kevin as your lawyer! He doesn`t even seem able to grasp that different competitions have different rules.

And here`s the official club spin

Wolves` chief executive, Jez Moxey said about the PL decision:

‘This ruling may now lead to a wider discussion regarding the issue of squad rotation and the Premier League’s rules. We look forward to fully participating in any such debate at future Premier League meetings. One thing that’s never been in question is the integrity of Mick McCarthy. He picked a team that, in his view, was in the best possible position to get a result in that particular game. He made it unselfishly and with the best interests of Wolves in mind.’

Er? Unselfishly AND with the best interests of Wolves in mind? How does that work? My advice is, don`t hire Jez Moxey either. He seems to completely fail to grasp the fact that competition rules are contracts entered into by clubs quite precisely to stop clubs acting solely in their own interests. Maybe Wolves should be cast adrift and forced to play friendlies for the rest of their days?

It gets worse

Mr McCarthy got a bit emotional under pressure from journalists at the time of his rile-breaking selection. Evidence for this can be found in an article written by Tony Barrett for Times Online.

“Is this the face of somebody who gives a flying f**k?” was McCarthy`s rhetorical response when pressed on whether his reasons for adopting such a strategy could be justified.”

An accompanying photo shows McCarthy giving the V and has the caption:

‘Wolverhampton Wanderers manager gestures on the touchline’.

In fairness to him, (Though why should I be fair to a convicted rule breaker?) it`s not clear whether the photo was from that time, or from The Times archive of McCarthy moments.

But no action seems to have been taken by the FA.

Compare the FA`s response to Gary Neville giving the one-fingered salute to former teammate Carlos Tevez in the first leg of the Carling semi, as reported in the story ‘Gary Neville and Carlos Tevez avoid FA punishment`.

Manchester United’s Gary Neville and Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez have escaped punishment by the Football Association, BBC Sport understands. Neville was under investigation for a one-fingered gesture that took place in United’s 2-1 loss to City on Tuesday. Tevez called former team-mate Neville a ‘boot-licker’ and a ‘moron’ for his comments about the Argentine before the Carling Cup semi-final first leg. However, both players have been warned about their future conduct by the FA. It is understood if the players were to be formally disciplined in future the FA reserves the right to refer to Neville’s conduct and Tevez’s words.

But apparently the FA thinks that managers should be allowed to get away with similar behaviour. But shouldn`t higher expectations of good behaviour be placed on managers than on players?

This is how they treat obscene gesturer`s up north

Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor were punished following a late-night drinking session and V-sign gestures on the bench in April’s win over Iceland. Ferguson and McGregor were told they would not feature for Scotland.

So, what do you think?

Have Wolves and McCarthy got off lightly?

Do you question Mick McCarthy`s integrity?

Which PL clubs have a right to feel cheated by the now confessed and punished rule-breaker? Burnley because Wolves cheated to gain an advantage over them? Any other club that Wolves finishes 3 or less points above, because they cheated to gain an unfair advantage in the game over Burnley? Any club who finishes 3 or less points behind Man U, because Wolves gave Man U an unfair opportunity to gain those three points?

Do you think any clubs who end up in May having been disadvantaged by Wolves now unquestioned breaking of the PL rules will take Wolves to civil court? The Blades took the Hammers to civil court after the Hammers broke the rules? and won big money. This one could go to more penalties.

Couch Potato


45 Replies to “McCarthy`s Disgrace”

  • A disgraceful manager and a disgraceful punishment! At least we now know he broke the rules but a suspended fine is weak! They should have thrown the book at him and docked the club points. They should have declared the Wolves v Clarets game null and void and had it replayed. As you say though CP there could still be repercussions come May if the top spots and relegation places are decided on a handful of points with one club Wolves having broken the rules and affected the outcome. [Edited by turfmanphil]

  • TMP – thanks for putting this up, and for all of your excellent editing, which has made major improvements. I’d disagree with only one thing you have contributed. I don’t think Burnley were THAT poor at Molyneux. Our two strong pen claims were turned down. And the two goals we conceded resulted from sharp Wolves attackers outrunning a tired-looking Caldwell. Would they have lost half a yard of pace if they’d played by the rules and played midweek?

  • I thought at the time CP it was our worst team performance I had seen on the road this season but Bolton,Fulham and Villa have since been far worse! You have a fair point, Wolves to be honest were not that brilliant if that was their full-strength team, we just had an off-day I thought. At least I can hold my head up proud that we went to Old Trafford and tried our best with the best team we could put out. We both lost 3-0 but I bet I know which sort of game the Wolves fans would have preferred to see.

  • Hopefully come the end of the season the adage Cheats don’t prospore” will ring true. In my opion Wolves has got away with it, with the fine being suspended. Totally agree with CP about the penalty decisions and had they played mid week would they have out run Caldwell?

  • I often hear…but Man U field weakened sides and so do… but this is very often in either the FA Cup or Carling Cup and these competitions are not covered by the Prem League Rules. I think McCarthy was wrong on every count and I think the punishment is weak compared to others that are dished out.

  • McCarthy lost his integrity in my opinion and that’s his loss alone – he’ll have to live with it but I think his arrogance will see him through that one.
    However (and more seriously) he brought the game into disrepute and that is football’s loss. For this reason I think the punishment is insufficient. I don’t think it’ll be seen as enough of a deterrent.

  • I personally think that the premier league have weak grounds to punish him on. United are the best example of a team who persistently play weakend sides including when playing premier league fixtures. ie. against Hull City last season. For this they have never been punished and so I don’t think the PL can justify punishment for the same misdemeanour by Wolves. This also throws open the debate who exactly decides what a team’s strongest line-up is? Should it not be the manager? Also how many changes can a manager make before it is deemed he has fielded a weakend line-up? Why don’t we throw out all managers and have the premier league pick our tems for us seeing as they know our best line-ups? Don’t mis-understand my position however; I believe that a manager has an obligation to try and win every game for the fans that pay their money, although appreciated he does to have an obligation to try and keep them in the league too. This therefore presents an interesting dilema whereby two very valid objectives are conflicting witheachother (perhaps) and so the manager has to choose which he thinks is the more important objective. In this case McCarthy chose the longer term approach and so from my point of view the only people who can reprimand him are the Wolves fans who believe the short term is more important or that the objectives are not conflicting.

  • As a Wolves fan and, more importantly in this case, a football, I would not have made so many changes. However, Wolves is not the only team to rest players (and I mean in the Premier League, not just in Cup competitions which now seems to be an accepted breaking of the rules). I believe Portsmouth (of all clubs) made 5 or 6 changes the following night. Do they get a £12,500 suspended fine?
    We all know that the top teams rest players when they have a Champions League game a few days later but nobody seems to wet their pants over that any more.
    Is it because this may have an effect at the top of the Division (Wenger reckons that Man Utd have, in effect played one less game than Arsenal) so something has to be done?
    How many changes ARE you allowed to make from one game to the next?
    With such large squads these days, that are full of internationals, who should be appointed to judge a Manager’s “best team”? Should an FA official be on hand every day at every training ground to monitor who is injured or fatigued?
    Should all teams have to nominate their best 11 players?
    Or should we, as fans, and Managers of other clubs, stop looking for excuses to explain why our teams get relegated or don’t win the League?
    In my opinion, the problem lies with the Premier League and the Monster they have created. Is the gap between the top and the bottom so massive that teams almost accept they are going to drop points against certain teams? We all do. You know, when you are looking at the fixture list and estimating how many points your team could get and you estimate ZERO when playing the big boys – “and anything else is a bonus”. Should the playing field be levelled a little or should, as in Society in general, the rich continue to get richer and the les rich continue to be less rich (Note that I don’t use the word “poor”). Should the big boys be allowed to continue owing mega-millions, simpy because they are “able to service their debt”?
    Yes, Mick McCarthy may have fielded a weaker team. Maybe if Wolves had debts of £700, 000, 000 (or whatever the figure is) he would have been able to promote a Michael Owen and a Gary Neville from the bench but the International players he promoted from the bench are not household names so it becomes more noticably a “weakened team”.
    Is it Ok for so-called “Pundits” to in one breath tell us how important it is to beat the teams around you when you are fighting off relegation but then in the next breath criticise managers for acting upon such wisdom by giving themselves a better chance against such rivals?
    So, in summary, it is still wrong to play weakened teams, but Wolves have been used as a scapegoat highlighting something that has been going on regularly for quite a while in various competitions. The problem lies with the Premier League and the utter fear that has been created about getting relegated and the “stay-up-at-all-costs” attitude that has developed.
    Unfortunately, top flight football is no longer about “our best XI v. your best XI”. Its too big for just that – or should that be there’s too much money and greed involved these days?
    I’ll get back to work now!

  • Two wrongs don’t make a right! Man U and the like should also have been punished. The rules are clearly defined by the FA’The League’s E20 rule stipulates that clubs must field a full-strength side in all top-flight games’ Like everything else you should use common sense in interpreting that rule. McCarthy’s decision was blatantly at odds with that ruling! The FA I suspect have been embarrassed by their turning of a blind eye to Man U & other Top 4 clubs in the past doing the same as Wolves. I guess they felt they couldn’t punish Wolves anymore than they did! They are simply weak willed and should have made a stand apologising for letting other clubs get away with it in the past and stating clearly it would no longer be tolerated now or in the future!

  • I agree two wrong don’t make a right and if indeed the PL had punished Utd and others in the past it would have been easier to justify punishing Wolves. I maintain however that the fans should be the ultimate judge of the manager and if our manager had thrown out 8 fixtures (Big 4 home and away) without a fight I would be screaming for his head. So I say let Wolves fans decide if they are happy with their manager sacrificing one game for another. As stated, I personally would not.

  • TMP – it’s PL’s rules that have been broken, not the FA’s. (Which is why any precedent from the FA Cup or Carling is irrelevant, by the way.) ClaretClaude – your argument as to why you don’t think the PL can convict Wolves of having broken the rules is interesting, and well put. But… the fact remains that they HAVE convicted Wolves of breaking the rules. They have also said very, very clearly that they CAN distinguish between what Wolves did and what Wolves said were precedents. (The fact that RalphDog cannot is therefore irrelevant, no matter how lengthily and entertainingly put, and I valued reading what he had to say.) A good test of whether the PL can make the distinction is whether Wolves and McCarthy have changed their tune. McCarthy’s ‘flying ****’ poistion has been replaced by the behaviour of a clearly chastened man, who has, I suspect, been read the riot act by Wolves’ lawyers. Besides, if any club were to bring a civil case against Wolves, a judge would not need to nitpick over arguably unclear contractual obligations entered into by Wolves when they signed up to play in the PL; but whether ‘a reasonable person’ would conclude that Wolves gained an unfair advantage. McCarthy’s own statements about his goals, and the result of the two games, confirm that they did; and confirm his extreme foolishness in confessing his crime even as he was committing it. I doubt Burnley would sue; but I strongly suspect that if they did, they would win; as would any other club who were disadvantaged. I also think SKY will have told Wolves they are not going to get any more money from them if they throw any more games. Argue the morals all you like. Argue the law in court if you want to go there. Money talks.

  • once again couch spud and the rest of you has beens are talking garbage, you seem to know more about my team than you do your own, I seem to remember that Mick was backed by the majority of PL managers including yours (mind you he saw the light and went off to bigger and better times) and since the fine fans have also backed him on sky, but there again I don’t expect you to know whats fair or not.
    For your information the team selected were chosen from the squad of players that EVERY premiership club have to file with the PL at the start of each season, the squad Mick chose consisted of 8 yes EIGHT internationals of those selected for the Man U match 10 of them either played or were in the squad that played Chelsea on saturday! look up the facts “BEFORE” spouting off your gobs – Burnley fans – all mouth, wind and p–s.
    oh by the way the second word is off.
    We are Wolves………………..SUPER,SUPER MICK, SUPER, SUPER MICK, SUPER MICK McCARTHY……………Sour grapes or what…………

  • I am surprised that Wolves have been fined at all and think the decision is bizarre. As I said at the time, rule E20 is a load of crap. If United name a team which does not contain Rooney, Chelsea – Drogba, Liverpool – Torres/Gerrard etc then this is not their strongest team, therefore not in compliance with rule E20 and therefore they should be fined? No? Its daft. As is said above – Who are they to say what the strongest team is? Mccarthy still sent his players out to win the game ( he didnt ask them to lose), he just put out a lesser talented ( in theory) bunch. At least he was honest. He could have said, These 3 have a virus, he has a bad toe, he has a slight groin strain, he has a calf problem etc etc etc what would have happened then? I think Claude has it pretty much bang on the money. What he did isnt great, but his job as Wolves manager is to keep Wolves in the Premier League and he will do that in the best way he can.

  • you lot really talk some *****, take we to court etc,etc, ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha -morons,cretins spring to mind, what a load of *********, wemberly,wemberly,wemberrrrrrrrly. ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha, muppets – go back to school – theres only one owen coyle, one owen coyle.

  • Couch Potatoe, I agree with what you say and other clubs probably would have a case against Wolves. But then the Wolves Lawyers would scrutinise every other team selection in every other PL game and come up with a long list of other teams that had made a number of changes and argue at length that they too should be sued. I think Mick McCarthy has taken his (and the club’s punishment) and has altered his comments accordingly. (I suspect the rollocking MM had was probably more severe from Wolves owner than from Sky or the PL). I understand why the fine was “suspended” as this partially keeps the lid on the huge can of worms it would have opened. It now acts as a warning too all PL teams that this will no longer be tolerated. I’m glad the issue was raised, albeit a pity my team had to do it. The football world will now be watching carefully for when teams make more than a few changes in future. We all knew it was going on but it took one of the lesser teams to really ram the message home to the PL, even if they didn’t intend to.

    To the people who say Wolves didn’t play a weaker team – get real, of course we did.

    And to the people wqho think Wolves should be severely punished at this time for doing it – get real too.

  • CD – regardless of whether you think the rules are nonsense, if you sign up to them, you are entering into a contract with everyone else who signs up to them to abide by them. If you don’t want to abide by them, don’t play. If you want to change them, go the the relevant meetings and vote. If you breach them, you can lose cases in civil courts. You and I don’t disagree on much, but I think that suggesting that managers can do whatever they want is to support breaching of contracts, breaching of good faith, and setting a very bad example in public to fans, especially young ones. I also don’t think SKY will pay big money ever again to televise Wolves reserves and may already have asked for their money back; which the the Wolves fans also did. Sorry, but football conducted at an ‘anything goes’ level with managers as the only authorised decision-makers ain’t what I am a fan of.

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