Caretaker head coach continues squad rotation policy
KEITH Downing explained the reasons behind his team selection for today’s 2-0 FA Cup third-round defeat by Crystal Palace at The Hawthorns.
The caretaker head coach made eight changes to the side that beat Newcastle 1-0 on New Year’s Day.
Youssouf Mulumbu (eye), Billy Jones (mild concussion) and Steven Reid were all ruled out with injury – while Nicolas Anelka and Jonas Olsson were rested due to workload.
Victor Anichebe also remained unavailable as he continues his rehabilitation from an ongoing calf problem.
And Downing, who used 20 players in four games during the festive period, insists he picked a team he felt was capable of advancing to the next round of the competition.
“I kept the same shape as the Newcastle game and I wanted to play the two up front in Vydra and Long,” said Downing.
“Vydra played well at Tottenham and Longy’s had a calf problem so I was looking to get him back into fray.
“He was fit and well.
“My problem was probably a little bit at right-back; I asked Craig Dawson to do a tough role and play slightly out of position at right-back.
“He’s a great pro and agrees to everything.
“He was prepared to go and do it but I probably didn’t quite get the balance right there.
“I had the same question about making changes against Tottenham and it went well.
“If you lose games you are there to be criticised.
“I thought there were enough fresh legs and quality to go and win the game.
“We just didn’t show enough.
“I’ve made changes throughout the Christmas period when we’ve had five games in 15 days.
“It was always a thought from the moment I took it on to keep freshness and utilise all the squad.
“It’s not the fact it was the FA Cup, it’s the fact it was the fifth game in 15 days.”