JON MCCARTHY admits he will ‘upset’ around 10 of his Chester players when selecting an XI to take on Solihull Moors on Boxing Day.
The in-form Blues are unbeaten in their past seven National League matches and have secured 13 clean sheets in just 25 league outings this term, remarkable stats for a part-time side who now lie seventh in the table, just six points off the play-off places.
McCarthy has developed a habit of sticking with a winning team, naming an unchanged line-up for six successive matches recently which included 3-0 wins over Eastleigh and North Ferriby United.
However, with the likes of Blaine Hudson and Kane Richards returning from suspension and pushing for recalls, the Blues boss admits several of his players could face a frustrating festive period on the sidelines if they don’t fit into his game-plan to defeat the 16th-placed Moors.
“I always manage to upset 10 players, because they all want to play and they can’t all fit in. I like all of my players and I hate having to let some of them down, but I do, that’s my job,” said McCarthy, who watched from the stands in midweek as Chester lost out 2-1 against Liverpool under 23s in a friendly match.
“Part of me has become hardened to that now.
“It’s not that I don’t care, far from it, but it’s going to happen to me that people will be upset with it so it’s about picking the right player for the right game and keeping my honesty and integrity in terms of which decisions I make.
“I don’t want to have a player come back to me asking why I made a certain decision one week and another the next.
“They deserve that honesty and consistency from myself and I’m always straight up and honest with them about my decision-making.
“Players who have done well on a Saturday inevitably stand a good chance of being selected the following week, I think I’ve shown my loyalty to the group who put in good performances.
“But I’ve got six or seven DVDs of Solihull to watch and that will affect personnel in terms of what will be best suited.”
McCarthy handed trials to attacking duo Erik Sousa and Timo Adeloye against Liverpool in midweek and full-back Jamie Morgan also got a run-out off the bench but the boss wouldn’t be drawn on whether any of the trio may join on a permanent deal.
However, McCarthy was delighted to see Liam Roberts back in goal as the stopper made a string of fine saves on his first 90 minutes since returning from a groin injury which has kept him out for nearly two months.
“Liam Roberts was excellent, he’s an excellent goalkeeper,” McCarthy said.
“He’s had a bad blow with the injury, it’s kept him out for a while but he was outstanding and for him to get 90 minutes under his belt is very important for us moving forward.
“It puts pressure on Alex (Lynch) and increases competition but that’s what I want in every position in this team. When there’s competition for places, that’s why we’ve been good, it’s why we’re doing as well as we are in the league table.
“I need to maintain that now and Liam coming back in keeps Alex on his toes.”
Ahead of Monday’s trip to Damson Park, McCarthy hopes to welcome back winger Craig Mahon, who has missed the past two matches through injury, but James Akintunde and Ross Killock remain out.
“Craig Mahon should be fit for Solihull so that’s a bonus and it looks as though we’ll have near enough everyone fit apart from the couple of long term ones,” he added.
“We’ve got a few training sessions left yet but it’s all progressing in the right direction in terms of team selection.”
“We have asked all the questions and we are now reliant on other clubs to make those things happen," Blues boss McCarthy said when pressed on extending deals for Ryan Lloyd and Theo Vassell, who has been out injured and receiving treatment at parent club Walsall.
"Hopefully we will get a response sooner rather than later. Hopefully we will be able to keep them, although it is not totally in our hands.
"We are very grateful to the clubs and we have benefited massively from that, and I think they have with how well this club has done. I think their players have benefited, that is the type of argument we will be putting to them. Hopefully we can try and keep that balance, strength and continuity."