Every football manager should play his best available team…
…or should they?
In an ideal World it would be great to put your 11 best players in your starting team every single Saturday. It would give your club the best possible chance of winning each game and would no doubt strengthen your chances of meeting your seasons objectives. That is certainly the opinion of the players I have managed since I started out doing this, but is that what is really best for the team?
Being an amateur football Manager is very much a balancing act when it comes to team selection. Of course you have to choose a winning team every week or one that is capable of winning the game, but you also have to be fair in picking players in your squad who deserve some game time. At Junior or Senior clubs this problem is no doubt diminished somewhat as players are paid to play at these clubs and have signed proper contracts knowing that if they train well and play well then they will start.
At our level, players are paying to come and play for the club. Each player pays the same ten pounds a week as the rest of the squad and therefore deserves the same amount of game time as anyone else. If you take yourself away from thinking about your own circumstances or club and think rationally, it is the same as paying for a gym membership and not using it or paying for a season ticket at your favourite football team and not going to any games. Eventually your going to cancel that membership or give your season ticket up. It works the same way at an amateur football team, if guys can see that they won’t get their money’s worth then they will stop coming. As a Manager it is our job to try as best as we can to try and create a level playing field for all of our players regardless of ability.
One of the ways I have sometimes got round this was using all of our cup games as an opportunity to give players who have been on the outskirts of my team a full 90 minutes or to try and arrange midweek friendly matches in order that they get some game time. The risk here though is that if one or more of these boys plays a blinder then who will play in the next league match, the player who played well in the cup or the player who did nothing wrong in the last league game. Is there a right or wrong answer in this one? It’s definitely another sleepless night on that pre match Friday.
I keep prattling on about money, but for some boys, paying that tenner a week can have a real burden on them financially and they need to see a return on what they are paying for or they will go elsewhere. Ultimately you don’t want to lose any players so you have to come across as always being fair to them and show that you’re doing your best to get them all playing as many minutes as possible.
Sometimes the issue doesn’t come from the boys on the fringes of the squad though. I’ve also found that players who would probably be considered by anyone at the club to be slightly superior in ability become angry at being left out for an “inferior” player when they feel that they didn’t deserve to be dropped. It’s a difficult one to explain because telling a player he is left out because his team mate has paid x amount of money and hasn’t played in a few weeks never goes down well. You can’t criticise his match performances because he has been playing well and he obviously knows it’s not because the boy replacing him has been playing better than him. No matter what you say the guy will probably be annoyed anyway. The reason you give will only determine what type of annoyed you make him. If you piss him off too much there is always the risk he could walk too.
It’s a nightmare scenario for all of us unless your ruthless and just play your best team no matter what happens. I couldn’t do that though, the morale of your starting team would be great but your squad morale would be terrible. Plus, who would want to sign for a Manager who was only going to pick his favourite players anyway. To keep a squad happy you have to be as fair as you can to everyone. It’s a tightrope!
Stay balanced and don’t fall over.