Former Nottingham Forest player Garry Birtles has expressed his surprise at manager Aitor Karanka’s decision to make ten changes for the EFL Cup fourth round tie against Burton Albion in midweek.
History shows the game clearly went against us and many Forest fans were magnanimous in defeat on Tuesday evening as we lost 3-2 but whilst I can see what Birtles is getting at, making so many changes for the game really isn’t surprising in the modern ‘Premier League is everything’ approach to football and Karanka’s not the only one to effectively further devalue the competition with his selection decisions on the day.
Writing in his Nottingham Post column he explained.
“I must admit I was surprised Karanka made 10 changes. Five or so would have been understandable, but when you look at the potential prize on offer, 10 was a lot. Now Burton are in the quarter-finals with a chance of facing one of the big boys. They will make good money and you never know, they could progress again.”
He rightly adds Burton were definitely up for the game and it showed and they definitely deserved to win. But had Karanka made only five changes there would be a lot of fans who thought ‘he’s taking it seriously’.
That outlook confuses me.
The Championship campaign is our bread and butter, any league campaign is always the main concern for a season so you should expect changes for Cups and expect to see fringe players being given a runout or youngsters being given a shot to impress and increase their own development.
But when did a Cup become something not worth winning?
A number of fans feel promotion isn’t on the cards, and even if we attain it most would argue the best we can do is enjoy a couple of years of scraping by and simply trying to stay in the top-flight. I’m not saying that shouldn’t be an aim, obviously it should. But in the meantime what about the benefits of Cup nights and making them equally important – as they are for most fans – and going out looking to win for the joys they can bring.
Maybe I’m a little too traditional and I get what Birtles is saying, but given you can make up ground in the league, why it is the Cups that get risked and sacrificed?
What’s more important in reality, finishing in the top half or treading water, or maybe having a day out at Wembley and making history again?