Watford fail tricky balancing act as managers ring the changes

As it turned out, the Port Vale fans who demanded their money back that night were watching a team including newcomers like David Beckham, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes, who would become known as the Class of 1992 and go on to dominate the decade.


The League Cup in particular has become a vehicle for managers to give some playing time to reserves and squad players.

But for some it is a difficult balancing act between resting first-team regulars and progressing in a competition that ends at Wembley with a Europa League place for the winners.

As 11 Premier League clubs entered the Capital One Cup this week, all except Watford got away with an average of eight changes each by progressing to the third round.

Watford swapped their whole starting XI and lost 1-0 at Preston.

Claudio Ranieri, known as “The Tinkerman” in his first spell in England with Chelsea, lived up to the name with 11 changes for Leicester’s tie at (third tier) Bury but came through 4-1 with England Under-19 international Joe Dodoo scoring a hat-trick on his debut.

It was tougher for Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, who only won on penalties against lower-division opposition, while Crystal Palace and Aston Villa, also much changed, both required extra-time.

The one exception to the general trend were Sunderland, whose manager Dick Advocaat wanted to give his first-team more time together and the confidence of a win after their poor start to the season.

That plan almost back-fired when they were being held 3-3 at half-time at home by fourth-tier Exeter City after more bad defending.

But former England striker Jermain Defoe rescued them with a hat-trick in a 6-3 win.

Managers must now decide on their strategy for the next round, when all the eight teams involved in European football this season enter a draw that has thrown up a number of local derbies that players and supporters will be desperate to win.

Arsenal, whose manager Arsene Wenger has invariably fielded weaker teams in the competition, faces a visit to big north London rivals Tottenham.

Villa must face traditional enemies Birmingham City, and Palace are at home to neighbours Charlton Athletic.

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)