EFL asks Wagner to explain changes
Huddersfield Town have been asked by the English Football League to explain his decision to make ten changes for Saturday's match against relegation threatened Birmingham City.
Bermuda striker Nahki Wells was one of the players left out from the previous match against Wolverhampton Wanderers, although he did come on as a substitute at the start of the second half as Birmingham won 2-0 to climb out of the relegation zone before their final match this weekend. Manager David Wagner made the changes after Huddersfield secured their spot in the promotion playoffs with a 1-0 win over Wolves last week.
The win for Birmingham was only their third in 24 league games, despite being reduced to ten men midway through the first half. Goals by Jonathan Grounds and a Craig Gardner penalty secured their win.
An EFL statement yesterday read: “We have today written to Huddersfield Town to request their observations in relation to team selection during their recent Sky Bet Championship match with Birmingham City.
“As per our regulations, the EFL Executive will refer the matter to the board if it is deemed appropriate to do so. It should be noted, however, that the result of Saturday's game will stand in all circumstances and any potential action would be taken against Huddersfield Town directly.”
Huddersfield cannot finish lower than fifth in the table, although victory on Saturday would have kept them on course for a third-place finish. The defeat left them below Reading and Sheffield Wednesday with one match remaining.
Wagner defended his team selection after the match, saying it was part of his rotation policy.
“At Wolves I made five changes and everyone knows my rotation policy is part of my idea in a busy Championship,” he said. “Changes were necessary with our thoughts to the playoffs as no one knows what will happen over the next month. It is unfair talking about my starting eleven because I wanted fresh players.
“At the moment we are not getting consistent results but we have been able to stay in the top six and progress to the playoffs for the first time in 45 years.”
Birmingham's win put them two points clear of 22nd-placed Blackburn Rovers, with the relegation fight going down to the final day of the season. Wigan Athletic and Rotherham United are already relegated, with Birmingham, Nottingham Forest and Blackburn all battling to avoid the drop. Birmingham have 50 points while Forest and Blackburn have 48.
Tony Mowbray, manager of Blackburn Rovers, criticised Wagner's decision to play a weakened Huddersfield Town team as the victory for Birmingham means that Blackburn, former Premier League champions, must now beat Brentford in their final match on Sunday.
“I think the manager at Huddersfield has seen it as job done, we've made the playoffs, and he's been able to pick a team for a game which doesn't really matter,” Mowbray told Sky Sports. “What matters is trying to win the playoffs. I understand his reasoning but the bigger picture is the integrity of the league.”