Nigel Clough has urged the governing body to conduct an urgent review of the FA Cup’s rules, writes James Shield. after lamenting the fact that Che Adams and Kieran Wallace, two of Sheffield United’s most promising young players, are prohibited from taking part in tonight’s fourth round replay against Preston North End.
Clough issued his plea after the Professional Footballers’ Association published a report which criticised the number of opportunities being afforded to home-grown talent in throughout the top four tiers of the English system.
Although Adams and Wallace were both eligible for selection during last month’s Capital One Cup semi-final with Tottenham Hotspur, they must watch this evening’s match from the stands after representing Ilkeston in qualifying four months ago.
However Clough, whose side will face either Manchester United or Cambridge United in the next round should they overcome North End, believes special dispensation should be afforded to those making their way up the football pyramid.
“I can understand why the rules are there and why they are in place,” Clough told The Star. “But, in certain cases, all they do is act as a bar to development which, surely, isn’t what anybody wants.
“Kieran and Che would definitely have been involved (against North End) if we’d have been able to select them. It would have been a wonderful chance for two up-and-coming and promising kids to gain vital experience and learn the tools of their trade.
“So, from my perspective at least, it seems a real shame that they’re going to have to sit and watch from the sidelines.”
Far from encouraging a free-for-all, Clough is proposing a surgical tweak to the competition’s legislation.
“We don’t want to be in a scenario whereby clubs can make a huge signing on the eve of a semi-final, for example, to tip the balance in their favour or cover for an injury,” he continued. “Because that would be unfair.
“But surely, if you play for one club in qualifying, it would be a good idea to say there’s a cut-off point at the first round proper stage? If you’ve come from non-league, like Che and Kieran have, that you can then play for your new club.
“That would seemingly make sense and it would also encourage Premier League and Championship clubs, who only come in at the third round, to loan some of their youngsters out. Equally, in leagues One and Two, you would feel more comfortable allowing a young lad to go out on loan because he’d be playing more games rather than having to miss out here and there.”
Adams scored twice as last season’s semi-finalists gave Spurs an almighty scare during the second leg of their double-header with Spurs two weeks ago while Wallace made a cameo appearance at White Hart Lane.
Both were awarded professional contracts by United in November after impressing for Kevin Wilson’s side.
Diego De Girolamo scored United’s equaliser during their 1-1 draw at Deepdale but is unlikely to feature after rejecting their offer of a new contract. Jamie Murphy and Terry Kennedy did agree fresh terms and have both been named in Clough’s provisional squad for the game alongside Michael Higdon.
The former Motherwell centre-forward, who will be competing for a starting role alongside Marc McNulty, was substituted after 43 minutes of last weekend’s victory over Swindon Town after falling victim to what Clough later described as some “understandable” but not very “subtle” theatrics from the opposition players.
“Michael had got a start and was fired-up,” Clough said. “We understand that and, likewise the fact that, after getting a card, he was going to start getting singled-out.
“But when he went to charge down a clearance and then, suddenly, he’s got five players surrounding him, well, it wasn’t very subtle.”