Big Sam slams crowded EPL, Cup fixtures

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce considers the Premier League's scheduling "diabolical" and says it's "destroying" the game.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce considers the Premier League's scheduling "diabolical" and says it's "destroying" the game.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Sam Allardyce has accused the English Premier League of putting players' health at risk and devaluing the FA Cup by staging a full programme of league fixtures next Tuesday and Wednesday.

In a fierce attack, Sunderland's manager described the scheduling as "diabolical" and said the league was "destroying" the game. He is convinced many top-tier clubs will field weakened teams in this weekend's third-round Cup ties to preserve fatigued players for league matches a few days later.

"Of course I'm going to make changes for our Cup tie at Arsenal on Saturday," said Allardyce, who believes the glut of matches in late December and early January makes footballers more vulnerable to potentially serious injury.

"If the Premier League decides to put a stupid fixture midweek when they don't bloody need to, then I haven't got much choice.

"It's diabolical. It's a game to be enjoyed, not a game to be destroyed and we destroy the game by asking the players to do too much in this period. We're flogging the lads.

"The Premier League have the facts, they've had them for years. The game gets ever quicker, you get more and more injuries in this period and everybody at that level just ignores it.

"If you want us to respect the FA Cup, don't put Premier League fixtures in the midweek just after new year. Don't give me stick when I change the side at Arsenal. Give the Premier League stick, not the managers."

He is further aggrieved by the league having agreed to a request from Swansea to move their game against Sunderland at the Liberty Stadium from next Tuesday to the following day.

While this offers Swansea an extra day to recover from a Cup tie at Oxford on Sunday, it reduces Sunderland's rest period before another league game at Tottenham on Saturday.

Allardyce believes the decision could jeopardise his side's survival chances. "Making me play Wednesday and Saturday rather than Tuesday and Saturday is making it harder for me to get Premier League points," he said.

"With having three away games in succession, we've got around 2,000 miles (over 3,200km) of travel and the lunch-time kick-off means we've less than three days' recovery for Tottenham."

Swansea had the game switched on the grounds they needed more than 48 hours to recover from their Cup trip.

Sunderland have complained to the Premier League about the Swansea game's rescheduling but the protest fell on deaf ears.

"They've described our complaint as frivolous," Allardyce said.

"They don't look at the facts properly.

"To dismiss our appeal was totally and utterly wrong by Mr Scudamore (the Premier League's chief executive).

"Richard Scudamore has my number and he can ring me up any time he wants to tell me why he agreed to the change. But he won't call."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2016, with the headline 'Big Sam slams crowded EPL, Cup fixtures'. Print Edition | Subscribe