The numbers that prove why Sheffield United are right to oppose proposed Premier League substitution change
As resistance to the idea of allowing teams to make five substitutions begins to crumble among the lower echelons of the Premier League, Chris Wilder has reiterated Sheffield United’s opposition by launching his strongest attack yet on a proposal he believes will tilt the balance of footballing competition even further in the direction of the England’s leading clubs.
Describing one of the arguments being put forward by supporters of the plan as “b******s”, Wilder, the United manager, was speaking as the issue prepares to be raised again at the division’s next shareholders’ meeting.
Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola of Manchester City and Chelsea’s Frank Lampard have been among the most vocal proponents of reintroducing a measure which was initially designed to ease the workload on players at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although Wilder remains on good terms with the trio - and admits United will have to fall into line if the change is voted through - he remains vehemently opposed to the idea of relaxing the three substitute rule, which has stood for the past 25 years.
“Cards on the table, Jurgen will look after his own club and quite rightly so, I’d do the same and that’s what I am doing,” Wilder told The Star. “He’s not going to be bothered about Sheffield United or England and why should he be? Are Sheffield United fans bothered Liverpool players might be getting tired? No, of course not. That’s the way football is.
“It doesn’t help us to have people using five subs. It does help the clubs with the deepest squads, full of internationals and with the best academies though. I’m not going along with it, the data doesn’t convince me.”
Wilder, whose side enter Saturday’s match at West Bromwich Albion searching for its first win of the new season, suspects the motivations of those pushing for five changes stretch beyond a desire to guard against injury and fatigue. His scepticism appears to be supported by the number Klopp, Guardiola and Lampard made during their recent games against United - all of them making two apiece, with Chelsea refusing to introduce any more substitutes even after Thiago Silva had scored scored their third goal during a 4-1 win at Stamford Bridge earlier this month.
“I’ve heard a few people say there’s a psychological reason for doing it, because you’ve got players who can’t get many minutes under their belts if it stays at three,” Wilder said. “B******s, because really, that’s what it is. With everything going on in the world right now, with what other people are going through, I don’t think the average man or woman on the street is going to be too sympathetic to a young lad on £200,000 a week who can’t get a game. That’s not harsh, that’s just the way it is.”
United are among six clubs, including Burnley, Leeds, Aston Villa and Newcastle, who are set to cast ‘no’ votes when the proposal is tabled again at the next PL summit. Fulham and Crystal Palace, who are previously understood to have signalled their opposition, are now thought to be more amenable to the idea of increasing the limit.
“These lads would have been going to the Euros (European Championships) in the summer anyway, if they hadn’t been changed,” Wilder said.