Nigel Adkins, the Sheffield United manager, has branded critics of his Johnstone’s Paint Trophy selection policy as “foolish” ahead of tonight’s Northern Area quarter-final at Fleetwood Town.
The visitors are set to make numerous changes for the visit to Highbury, despite tournament regulations demanding clubs names their “full available strength” squads for all its games.
Although Adkins reserved the right not to comply with the strict letter of JPT law before both of United’s outings in the competition so far, he yesterday dismissed suggestions that should be interpreted as a lack of respect.
“This game, very much, is a stage for the players,” Adkins told The Star. “If anybody turns around and says we are fielding a weakened side then its foolish. If you are representing Sheffield United, then we expect you to be a good player.”
“No matter what changes we make, we are talking about good football players,” Adkins continued. “We are still looking to win a game of football.”
Adkins has previously expressed his frustration at United’s fitness record this term and last night cited injuries to key players as a mitigating factor behind their inconsistent form.
“How many times have we been able to play everybody in the same positions two games running? Once perhaps,” he said. “We’re not complaining. We’ve talked about the amount of injuries but we’ve got players coming back to fitness which is pleasing.
“Every team has them across the course of the season, injuries and suspensions. It’s how you deal with them that’s important going forward.”
United, who yesterday handed an under-21 trial to Newcastle defender Jamie Cobain, expect to be without Che Adams, Chris Basham and Paul Coutts for the meeting with Steven Pressley’s side while David Edgar has reported for international duty with Canada.
“These games are great opportunities to give people game time and preparation,” Adkins said. “Those lads came off at the weekend so that suggests there is an issue there.”
Meanwhile, United will host Mansfield Town or Oldham Athletic in the second round of the FA Cup. United qualified for yesterday’s draw after beating Worcester City 3-0. Town and Athletic, who recently signed Michael Higdon on loan, require a replay following their stalemate at Field Mill three days ago.