By John Cartwright
The word ‘PATIENCE’ in the dictionary is described as; ‘the ability to stay calm in a difficult situation’. It is a word that equates to a basic quality required for sport and life itself. Patience becomes impatience through the inability to control a situation and take it forward successfully. Impatience in football is due, in the main, to playing skills being pressurized and found wanting. A perfect example of patience and skill in the game of football is regularly demonstrated by Barcelona Football Club. Their success has been achieved by fielding a team of highly skilled players who’s skills, when under pressure, do not ‘buckle’. The tragedy for our game is, we don’t have players with high enough individual skills to play more patiently, so we play in a fast and physical manner to camouflage this basic omission.
I think it’s generally accepted that to do something quickly tends to lead to more mistakes being made. The faster something is attempted, the quicker and precise the skill must be to succeed. How then can we expect to play a difficult game such as football in such a fast and furious manner and be successful when we lack the level of skill to play at such a fast pace? We can’t play fast and be successful through lack of individual skills; we can’t play more patiently either for the same reason — what a ‘pickle’ our game is in!
I have ‘banged the drum’ about making improvements to our development structure for a very long time, without much success I might say, but the mess in which our game now wallows, justifies my concerns. The use of skill and its importance in all aspects of life is an accepted fact, why has this not been a dominating feature in the development methods introduced into our game over the years? There has been an alarming lack of both foresight and practical game understanding by those charged with directing the teaching of the game here that has resulted in the present confused playing chaos we see.
Poor individual skill has increased a fear factor into our game. Closely allied to this has been the introduction of simplistic playing methods that have ‘kicked patience out of our game’; we only retain possession of the ball when under minimum pressure, but fail miserably to keep it once confronted with the slightest amount of interference; our passing of the ball is more aligned to ‘passing the buck’ than a ball! Our team selections reflects the paucity of talent available; we can’t play without a significant number of big, strong players preferably with pace, who can ‘win fights but not necessarily football matches’. The damaging result of skill deficiencies to our game is obvious but nobody at the helm seems prepared to make the important changes so earnestly needed. Don’t they see the huge difference in playing quality between ourselves and other successful football nations? Perhaps they don’t understand the game enough to recognize that vital changes are needed and quickly if we are to establish ourselves in football’s top echelons. Perhaps they don’t care enough – money’s good-pension time’s just around the corner—why rock the boat ? Whatever the reason, the time is running out and firm and responsible leadership is needed to pull our flagging and indebted game from its present path to obscurity to a higher status at world level.
‘Simplicity is genius’, is a statement often heard in football circles. I disagree. Simplicity is an option to be used when necessary in the game. Whilst we continue to look for the easy/lazy route to play the difficult sport of football, we will only find simplistic answers. Let’s make a clear and positive statement ‘football’s a difficult game to play and it requires high levels of individual skill to play it’. Once we accept this obvious fact we might then produce the coaches and the players who possess the virtues this fantastic game requires.