Warriors head coach Alex Weaver has hit back at criticism aimed at him for fielding youngsters against Geylang International on Tuesday evening in a StarHub League Cup Group B match.
While both teams had already qualified at the expense of Tampines Rovers, the result of the game did determine their opponents in the quarter-final stages of the competition.
The eight-time S.League champions have been criticized in some quarters for making nine changes to the starting line-up that dumped Tampines out of the group stages, with four Prime League boys given the nod to start.
This appeared to some as a strategy to avoid Albirex Niigata (S) and instead play Tanjong Pagar United in the next round.
One of those who slammed the tactical decision was Albirex’s Vice Chairman Koh Mui Tee, who claimed on twitter they had shown disrespect to his club, as well as Geylang and Tanjong Pagar.
However, Weaver refuted that.
“We, ourselves and the club, hold the highest respect to every single club in the league,” the Englishman told FourFourTwo.
“It would be silly of us to try and choose our next opponent because any team in this league can beat anyone else on their day in the league, so there’s no need for us to choose who to play because that will be pointless.”
“I had planned to do that once we secured qualification. I wasn’t even thinking about which team we were going to face in the quarter finals, I was only thinking of the game in 2 days and the rest time in between and what’s the best thing to do? It’s to rest the players so they can play in the next round.
“It just makes absolute common sense, not just at sports science. Why would we want to risk injuries for the players when we have already qualified for the next round? We did the sensible thing.”
Results in previous matches do help to prove Weaver’s claim. While the Jaguars currently sit in the bottom half of the S.League table, they defeated Albirex 4-0 in the first Group A League Cup match, before defeating Police SA 7-1 to secure the top spot. His own Warriors team as well, had defeated Albirex 4-0 in the league back in April.
The former Stoke City Academy coach did concede that a change in format would help prevent such a situation from repeating, although he felt that the three-team groupings were not at fault.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of having only three teams because with four teams the same thing can happen. What the FAS (Football Association of Singapore) could do, is to make it a straight knockout tournament to maybe prevent this from happening again.”
Image Credit: Halim Zul Hakim/Football Association of Singapore