Cardiff City manager Neil Harris has told the EFL they must make a u-turn on their decision not to allow five substitutions now before injury pile-ups begin to undermine the spectacle of the game.
The Bluebirds manager, along with many others, has had to muddle his way through a number of injuries to key players so far this season, owing to a crammed schedule due to the elongated campaign last term.
Already we have seen Jordi Osei-Tutu, Joe Bennett, Greg Cunningham, Lee Tomlin, Josh Murphy, Harry Wilson and a number of others succumb to injury problems, with the campaign barely 10 games old.
We have seen the struggles in the top flight, too, with Premier League teams also suffering a spate of issues with fitness, most notably Liverpool, who lost three centre backs in a short space of time in recent weeks.
But as far as Cardiff are concerned, their hectic fixture schedule after a quite incredible stretch of games from June onwards has really hit their squad hard.
Harris described his side’s crammed schedule of seven games in 19 days as “ludicrous” and “barmy” and believes players need help from lawmakers to ensure their wellbeing is paramount.
As such, the Bluebirds boss wants to see the law of permitting five substitutions, which we saw brought into action post-lockdown last season, reinstated with immediate effect.
“I’ve got no issues with the amount of games, it’s not an excuse at all, the schedule is what it is,” Harris said.
“But where the EFL and the Premier League have really let us down as an industry, the football clubs and, ultimately, they’ve let their players down, is by not allowing the five subs.
“That would make a massive difference.
“It’s not just us who have suffered injuries, it’s been most clubs, Liverpool, for example, the best team in the world, because of the crazy schedule and it’s wrong.
“If they could change that, I would change that tomorrow. If I was them and I was strong enough, and they should be strong enough, I would change that rule tomorrow and allow five subs.”
While the welfare of his players is of utmost importance, Harris also believes the number of top players being hit by injuries is also marring the fans’ experience.
He believes supporters, forking out to watch their teams on the TV or through online streams, are being robbed of watching their favourite stars and top-class football because managers are not afforded the opportunity to manage their players better with the option of more substitutions.
Harris revealed he voted for the law to remain in place at the start of this campaign and would like the governing bodies now to be “brave enough and bright enough” to implement this key change mid-season.
“It’s not about the clubs, it’s about the welfare of the players,” Harris added.
“We lost three full backs in a week. Aden Flint has torn his hamstring and had an operation today because of the amount of football that’s been played. Liverpool lost three centre halves in three days.
“It’s not about the best team and the worst team in the top of the Premier League and the bottom of League Two, it’s about the welfare of the players and making sure they can put the spectacle on for the fans that can’t be in the grounds.
“Fans are paying £15 [in the Premier League], which again I think is wrong, to watch their teams play and they are being starved of the quality of football sometimes and the pace of the game is deteriorating.
“But the people who make the rules are not brave enough or bright enough at the moment to turn around and say, ‘We have got this wrong, folks, we are going to put five subs back in place from, whenever, whether it’s after the international break or January 1’. It’s the same for everybody.
“Does it help if you’ve got four attacking players who are world class for Man City and Liverpool? Yeah, maybe it does, but every team is losing players at the moment.”
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Cardiff, Harris believes, are suffering more than most because their campaign ebbed on into the play-offs last season, eventually falling short in defeat by Fulham.
After just a 10-day lay-off, the Bluebirds were back in pre-season training and that is likely what informed Harris’ decision to vote for more substitutions to stay this year.
That option, however, was met with a negative response from the EFL, it seems.
“Ultimately, we have paid the price so far for doing so well last season, as have other clubs, and I voted for five subs and even offered the middle ground of saying four subs and a goalkeeper sub if you need to,” the manager said.
“But no, the EFL knew better.”
City’s particularly frantic fixture schedule culminates in a Severnside derby with Bristol City on Friday, before the majority of Harris’ squad receives some much-needed respite during the international break.