Walter Smith needs to gamble.

Last updated : 04 January 2011 By dh1963
It's obvious that the current squad is the shortest on numbers we’ve seen at the club for a very long time. This season, we’ve witnessed young players pitched in when it rarely happened under Walter before - Hutton, Cole, Wylde and Ness haven’t let us down and all look like players of promise, but we all know they would still be serving their youth team apprenticeship if it wasn’t for the manager having no other option.
As we look forward to 2011, we have a real problem with the number of games scheduled and the likelihood of injury, suspension and loss of form killing us off more easily than any opponent we face can manage. We also have our chairman, our chief executive and our manager constantly telling us there will be no new additions during January to the playing squad.
Four postponed SPL games to fit in. A Monday night Scottish Cup tie which robs us of using up a precious midweek. A weekend League Cup semi-final which then means another midweek game to fit in. The possibility of the league Cup Final doing the same. A minimum of two Europa League games to play. And all that before any replays or further European commitments.
We tried, and failed, to win the “Quadruple” in 2008 after sheer exhaustion and poor squad rotation, combined with a ridiculous fixture schedule aimed at pacifying Peter Lawwell, saw us fall at the final hurdle in two competitions (the two we wanted most).
It's been the philosophy of the club to try to win every game and every trophy we compete for. Given recent history and the daunting challenge ahead of an increasingly tired and threadbare squad, do we need to think the unthinkable and prioritise our efforts? Do we sacrifice likely domestic cup success by fielding fringe and youth players in these games?
Some fans would say yes, it’s the only realistic and practical way to achieve our main aim - the championship.
But on the flip side, we could effectively be conceding two trophies to Neil Lennon and gambling we still have enough in the tank to come out on top of his team in the one trophy that matters most.
We know Walter has always been reluctant to gamble - our run to Manchester was the perfect example of his pragmatism. Will he do it this time out of necessity and play the youths in cup matches? Or is it a bigger gamble to rely on the same 15 or 16 players all the way through the season?
For the man who hates to gamble, he has to now take a risk. But which risk is he most likely to favour? We should find out when he names his team to play in-form Kilmarnock next Monday night in the Scottish Cup.
Let’s hope he calls this one right.