Motherwell manager Graham Alexander says the Premier Sports Cup group stages are ‘too much’ for players at this point in the season.
The Fir Park side finish their Group F campaign against Annan Athletic on Saturday after a disappointing 2-0 defeat to cinch League One club Airdrieonians. Alexander’s team need a win against Annan to achieve either first or second place. It will be the fourth competitive game Motherwell have played in 10 days.
It’s been a testing period, with new signings still to arrive while key players are also injured. Alexander – while not using it as an excuse for the Airdrie performance on Wednesday – says it’s a lot to burden smaller squads with in the middle of July.
He explained: “Pre-season is about preparing your team for the full season, and with that you share the workload from a game. You build players up from 30 minutes to 45, to 60, 75, 90, and it’s impossible to do that when the pressure is on to win games.
“We played the same two centre-halves in every game for 90 minutes and that’s putting them at risk of injury – but we are where we are because of a lack of squad depth at the moment. I’ve heard other managers talk about it, certainly [Arbroath boss] Dick Campbell, if I’m not mistaken.
“He was saying clubs at that level can’t even play trialists in the games and stuff like that, so they need to have the squad in place. It’s impossible to do that. You’re putting too much pressure on a smaller group of players to play these games week in, week out.
“I could understand the principle behind it – and I thought this before Wednesday, to make everyone clear I’m not making excuses – even if it was once a week it would be good, but every three days is too much. The challenges come to us and we hit them head-on.
“We don’t shy away from it, so please don’t be mistaken that I’m making an excuse for this, but I think it’s too much, too soon for smaller squads, so it hurts the smaller teams. We’ve rotated the team in the three cup games in the positions we could, because we have other options.
“There are other positions where we can’t because we haven’t got those options. We’ll probably do the same tomorrow, and every game is an opportunity for a player to stake his claim for a place in the team for the long term, but that challenge is every singe week.”
Motherwell are close to two new signings ahead of next week’s first Premiership match against Hibs, Alexander adding: “Before next week we hope to have at least two more players in, which will certainly strengthen us, the players in mind that we’re talking about.
“They will be brilliant additions to the squad, they will improve us, and we just need to get them in as soon as possible, really, to give us that full week before the big kick off in the league.
“Hopefully they will be with us ASAP and then we’ll have to see if they’re ready to play games. I don’t think at the moment they’ve played any pre-season games at their other clubs, so we’ll see how we go with that.”
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