Heading

By John Cartwright

In my book, ‘FOOTBALL FOR THE BRAVE’, I have stated that Heading is — the football perfectionists ‘blind spot’. There is considerable interest and practises regarding other aspects of the game, but Heading seems, along with Tackling, the forgotten skills of the game. It was obvious in the latest Euro Club Championship final between Real Madrid and Athletico Madrid, that both teams were leaders in aerial domination in both attacking and defending situations.  Barcelona, with their high possession playing style have been deficient in developing variations and Heading has been a serious weakness for them in all areas of the field.

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Overloading Through the Field

By John Cartwright

Throughout football here we accept ‘fight’ situations in all areas of the field either because of the use of systems of play that cancel each other out or because of poor game understanding; games are played with scant awareness or appreciation of overloading in attacking/defending situations.

Our game stands on a pre-set playing structure in which movement beyond their normal area of involvement by players is not used enough. Yes, there is movement down flank areas by ‘wing-backs’ but little else of note beyond an occasional individual offering.

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THE SPACE IN THE SKY

By John Cartwright

My father took me to see my second pro. football match …….it was Leyton Orient v Notts. County in about 1947. He had taken me to watch a famous player of those days… TOMMY LAWTON, an English international centre forward. “Watch him son, he’ll score with his head today,” my father said. Sure enough I can remember him scoring a majestic headed goal to win a game that was fiercely contested on a muddy surface.

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TURN THE BODY – TURN THE BALL – TURN THE GAME

By John Cartwright

I find one of the most infuriating aspects of the British game is our inability to turn the ball away from tight situations towards open space. Time after time, at all levels of our game, the ball is returned ‘back from whence it came’! Our players, especially our back players, when under the slightest pressure from closing opponents, simply ‘hoof’ the ball towards the nearest corner —‘Direct Play’ often leading to unnecessary ball loss.

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Passing Speeds

By John Cartwright

As I have said so often ..….. “our game is played from first to last whistle at a fast and furious pace”. All aspects of play tend towards speed and aggression with guile and gentility as limited features. This tendency towards a ‘hurry-up’ game –style is most obvious with passing the ball where refinement and style is excluded in favour of ‘bash the ball’ methods. Our tactical preference of longer types of passing often creates too much distance between back, middle and forward positions causing a lack of closer support situations. When passing the ball over all distances and in most situations we use speed/fast rather than slow/soft as a preferred method of delivery. The result so often is loss of possession followed by a renewed ‘fight’ to recover the ball…. only to give it away cheaply again…..and so our inglorious game ‘battles’ on.

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OUR GAME-STYLE – WHAT SHOULD IT BE?

By John Cartwright

I have said for many years that the Game-style preferred in the main in these islands tends to lean in the direction of Direct Play and that this playing method has been responsible for the poor development of our young players as well as the lack of success at all international levels since 1966.   There have been individual attempts over the years to modify the preference towards Direct Play and introduce a playing style that incorporates more inter-passing; this has been moderately successful but in general most clubs have not attempted to change.

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“I`m a Striker”

BY John Cartwright

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for our lack of success at development level was demostrated to me by a very young player (6years old) who had just finished practising with the junior section of a professional club and was lining up with his mother waiting to be served with a drink from a Snack-van. Interested in asking him how he had enjoyed the session he had just attended. I said to him, “what have you been doing this morning?” His reply didn’t shock me but saddened me.

“I’m a Striker” he quickly replied.

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