Wolves hope to escape penalty

Premier League probes Mick McCarthy's decision to field a second-string team
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The Independent Football

Wolverhampton Wanderers will tell the Premier League investigation into Mick McCarthy's controversial decision to field a weakened team against Manchester United on Tuesday night that it was a one-off and will not be repeated against other top opposition.

The Wolves manager came under pressure from the Premier League yesterday who announced that it would ask the club to explain McCarthy's actions with a view to deciding whether he has broken two key league rules. At Old Trafford McCarthy dropped 10 players from the Wolves side that beat Tottenham on Saturday.

It is understood that the Wolves board, including the owner and chairman Steve Morgan, were not told in advance by McCarthy that he intended to field a weakened team. However, the board, led by the chief executive, Jez Moxey, yesterday supported their manager.

The club are confident that McCarthy's team selection will not result in a punishment from the Premier League, who will examine Wolves' conduct in relation to two rules: E20, which requires clubs to play their strongest team and B13, that requires them to act "in good faith" to the league and their fellow clubs.

The Premier League executive is most concerned that Wolves' approach of dropping top players for difficult away games does not become a habit. Should they decide to press charges the case would be heard by a three-man commission although it is not thought that the matter will go that far.

Privately, Wolves feel McCarthy might have gone too far in changing every one of his outfield players from the team he picked on Saturday. However, the board does not want to be in a position in which it is seen to be dictating selection policy to the club's manager. He was trying to keep players fresh to face Burnley on Sunday, a game that could be crucial to Wolves' survival in the Premier League.

There is also a sensitivity at the club that some of Wolves' second string are not up to the standards they had hoped of them despite four of them being full internationals. Starting his first league game against United was Stefan Maierhofer, signed from Rapid Vienna in the summer for a fee of £1.8m, who has not made the impression the club hoped.

The board is also sympathetic to McCarthy's injury problems. He lost Dave Edwards last weekend. The striker Andy Keogh had had to have an operation on ankle ligaments and Michael Kightly and Stephen Ward have also suffered injury problems. Moxey said that the club were taking the Premier League "very seriously" and that it was Wolves' "overriding ambition to stay in the division this season and consolidate". "This is the main priority for Mick and he picks a team for each and every game to not only try to get a positive result but also with the whole season in mind," said Moxey. "I would also take issue with the suggestion that the team was a reserve XI. The starting line-up contained four full internationals and a further three under-21 internationals. It was captained by Kevin Foley, last year's player of the season."

Moxey said that he sympathised with the travelling Wolves supporters who became increasingly disgruntled as the game went on and sang that they wanted their money back. "We appreciate the excellent support of our fans who follow the team in such large numbers and hope they realise that every decision made by the manager is one which has the best interests of the club at heart."