GRA­HAM WESTLEY

The for­mer Peter­bor­ough boss is this week’s guest colum­nist

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE -

YOU are a pro­fes­sional foot­ball man­ager. You have been in a dugout for 860odd games across 20 sea­sons. Your win record is just short of 50 per cent, your ag­gre­gate goals record is more than 200 bet­ter than the new Eng­land man­ager. You have won pro­mo­tions, cups and play-offs. You have earned se­ri­ous cup run rev­enues and de­vel­oped or sold play­ers worth mil­lions to your clubs.

But you are cur­rently un­em­ployed. So, here is your ques­tion; what do you do on a Satur­day af­ter­noon?

Pres­sure

Bizarrely, in the main I have been out on the golf course. Or run­ning on the tread­mill in the gym while watch­ing Gil­lette Soc­cer Satur­day!

There is some­thing re­ally un­com­fort­able about be­ing an out-of-work man­ager, itch­ing to get back into the job of win­ning games and sit­ting in a stand watch­ing an­other man­ager’s team – es­pe­cially if he might be un­der a bit of mo­men­tary pres­sure.

So, I do my very best, in the main, to avoid turn­ing up at games.

That said, I re­ceived in­vi­ta­tions from friends to watch both Chelsea v Liver­pool and Wy­combe v Steve­nage last week­end.

I watched both games and it was great to taste so much live foot­ball ac­tion in­side 24 hours.

You might ex­pect that I would re­port a stark con­trast be­tween the two lev­els. But I have to say, the con­trast is noth­ing like it would have been in days of old.

For a start, the qual­ity of play­ing sur­face at both of the grounds was ex­cep­tional.

That would never have been the case in years gone by. Then there is the ‘brand’ of foot­ball. In both games, there was an over­whelm­ing em­pha­sis on pass­ing the foot­ball shorter, rather than the longer­ball game that lower league foot­ball might have once ex­hib­ited.

And then there are the gen­eral fa­cil­i­ties. Both of­fered a good stan­dard of or­gan­i­sa­tion, com­fort and hos­pi­tal­ity.

So why is it, then, that Leagues One and Two were poorly rep­re­sented in the last 32 of the EFL Cup and have no rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the last 16?

It seems that the top clubs are tak­ing that piece of sil­ver­ware a lit­tle more se­ri­ously this sea­son.

More front-line play­ers are be­ing used. Fewer risks with re­sults are be­ing taken. There are a lot of top man­agers un­der pres­sure to de­liver sil­ver­ware and it seems as though they want to give them­selves as many chances as pos­si­ble.

That can only be a huge pos­i­tive, in my eyes. There was a dan­ger of the League Cup mean­ing noth­ing, or at best a lot less than be­fore. With cups be­ing such an im­por­tant source of in­come in fu­elling bet­ter grounds, coach­ing and fa­cil­i­ties for lower-league clubs, this resur­gent at­ti­tude pro­vides en­cour­age­ment that the im­prove­ments at lower lev­els can be sus­tain­able.

For the record, Liver­pool were ex­cel­lent. They played with a pur­pose and an en­ergy that sounded out a very clear mes­sage. Jur­gen Klopp has made a dif­fer­ence there, for sure. They are a very dan­ger­ous op­po­nent again now.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

PLENTY TO SHOUT ABOUT: Liver­pool’s Jor­dan Hen­der­son en­joys his goal against Chelsea and, in­sets, more Reds cel­e­bra­tions

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