Large Squads: Embarrassment of Riches or the Seeds of Discontent?


The subject of squads has for a long time being the subject of debate. Manchester United’s long run of success owes much to the size of the squad and is looked enviously by “smaller” Premier League clubs and managers.

The advantage of a large squad is obvious – for example in the treble season of 1999 United had Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham. This allowed Sir Alex Ferguson a degree of flexibility in team selection. For example the skills of one player maybe utilised against a team which has a perceived weakness which that particular player can exploit to United’s advantage. Large squads also give the manager the opportunity to rest players over the course of a long season and also give enhanced cover against the investable injuries to players which are bound to occur over the course of a long season. Additionally, a large squad gives the manager the luxury of various tactical options during a game.

However, every silver lining has a cloud. Irrespective of which team sport you play whether it is football, Rugby or Cricket, regardless of what level you play, everyone wants to be in starting line up. The reason for this maybe different but the effect on the individual is the same, and can in many cases have a negative impact. So if you are a Saturday or Sunday league footballer you look forward to Saturday’s game as an outlet for the stresses and strains of a long week at work. If you are repeatedly overlooked for selection the player becomes demotivated, leading to him/her missing midweek training, to not turning up for match day – leaving the club or worse giving up on sport altogether.

At the top level not being selected may have exactly the same outcome, although the thought process which leads to discontent will be markedly different. Top level footballers by their very nature are highly competitive and ambitious, not only do they want to achieve success at the very highest level they also have an eye on their own marketability i.e. they want to attract the largest transfer fee and weekly pay packet. Prolonged period on the bench and being utilised as a substitute is not conducive to achieving their own personal goal. If not handled correctly it can lead to discontent on a personal basis. Players become disgruntled and start to grumble which in turn can lead to problems in the dressing room.

How these various tensions are resolved is in main, the responsibility of the team manager. During his tenure at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson has proven to be more than equal to the task. He has successfully integrated ‘Home Grown’ stars – Giggs, Scholes, Beckham and the Neville brothers etc and the imported stars – Cantona, Keane etc and has moulded them into arguably the greatest football club in the world over the course of his tenure.

All the above strongly supports Sir Alex Fergusons claim, not by himself personally but by Man United supporters on his behalf as being the greatest manager of all time for his ability to manage a large squad.

The transfer policy Manchester City is embarking on will be an interesting test of Roberto Mancini’s managerial skills.

The answer to the question, a large squad: An embarrassment of riches or the seeds of discontent is that they can be both; it all depends on the man management skills of the manager.

If you wish to discuss this issue further with myself or other members of the Stretford End Arising community, you can do so in the Forum

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1 Comment

  1. well looking forward toinght another late nite up. This time it will be harder to stay as its midweak, work 20morrow. I will force myself to watch. I will be drnking lots of soft drinks thats what keeps me make, coke.

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