Today is the moment of truth for Wolves manager Mick McCarthy as his "fresh" Wolves side takes on Burnley.
McCarthy is prepared to take the heat
Today will be the moment of truth for Mick McCarthy. His Wolves side will be firmly in the spotlight when they host Burnley for a game so decisive for the manager that he rested 10 first-choice players for the trip to Manchester United. It was a decision that saw him become a pariah as a weakened Wolves lost 3-0. The debate has been raging in England since as to whether McCarthy was within his rights to rest so many players.
In particular, the Wolves fans who had paid a handsome sum to travel north for the game, as well as United's title rivals, were not particularly happy. McCarthy has been a model of defiance since Tuesday following a Premier League demand for him to explain the line-up at Old Trafford - and criticism from various quarters. Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said McCarthy's move "damaged the international credibility of the Premier League".
But the Wolves coach will hope to use the negative comments to inspire his side - just like he did when he came under fire from Roy Keane during the 2002 World Cup when in charge of the Republic of Ireland. Instead of wilting under the vitriolic assault from the then Ireland captain, who questioned his ability, McCarthy responded by leading the side to the last 16 where they were defeated cruelly on penalties by Spain.
His current charges are behind him as the striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Wolves' top scorer last season, said: "Decisions like this rest with the manager and when you take that away, you take away a part of the club. As players we are totally behind him and both understand and agree with the decision he has made." What McCarthy will also need are the Wolves supporters on his side, something not lost on him as he denied any intentional offence.
"My job is to maximise the resources of this club. That is what I am doing and I would do it again," he said. "I am paid to make decisions. I make them and stand by them. I take the heat. Don't think that I don't understand that it has added a bit more pressure to the game, but that is on me." The heat will be on at Molineux. Burnley, without an away win this season, will have the neutrals in their corner.
They have gained admiration for their attitude as well as their ability upon their top-flight return. Owen Coyle, the Clarets' manager, did not follow McCarthy's lead in midweek as they gained a point against Arsenal that could be crucial in the final analysis. It is not his style while many of his players know this top-flight experience may not come their way again. Take the captain Graham Alexander, who scored the penalty equaliser against the Gunners. At 38, he has been on the pitch for all but 46 minutes of Burnley's campaign so far. It is testament to his and the club's character.
Coyle added: "We have some gifted individuals, but our strength is in the group. "My players are the lowest paid in the Premier League and budget-wise we are a shadow of anyone else, but there is an honesty and a freshness about us." email@example.com Wolves v Burnley, KO 5.30pm, Showsports 1 & 2