By John Cartwright
Wow! What a statement to make – ‘we can’t pass the ball’! Well, it’s true and we had better wake up and accept the fact or our game will continue to go nowhere – fast!
Have you watched players in this, ‘the home of Association Football’, pass the ball? If you’ve looked closely you must have noticed several alarming features; –
(a) Most passes over 30 metres are inaccurate.
(b) Most passes over any distance are too heavily weighted.
(c) Too many are poor selections.
(d) Most are ‘hit’ with little concern for ball possession.
Has anybody spent time watching BARCELONA FC recently? Now here’s passing of the football as it should be within a game-style that simply oozes class. In contrast, the delivery of the ball through the field of play as demonstrated so often by our players at all levels of the game, is nothing less than a disgrace! As with everything we do in the game, passes are made ‘aggressively’ not ‘sympathetically’. The attitude towards passing here tends to be – as long as the ball goes in the general direction intended, that’s ok.
This satisfaction with ‘passing the buck rather than the ball’ is an appalling mis-appreciation of what is an important ‘corner-stone’ of the game. The lack of class and panache within our game underlines the reason why we remain unsuccessful against the real upper echelons of world football.
‘Rolling, stoking, gliding, feeling’ the ball to each other with an occasional pass that needs a little more ‘zip’, is how so many of our foreign opponents play the game. Even though most overseas players possess better skill than ours, they still pass the ball in a more careful and calculated manner to their team-mates in order that the receiver does not have a difficult control problem. We, on the other hand, have great difficulty in producing periods of combined play and, engendered by fear, ‘hammer’ the ball at each other to ‘camouflage’ poor individual skill and force receivers to make controls that most find difficult, if not impossible to perform. In games at all age levels, we constantly give the ball away unnecessarily and then resort to ‘chasing and fighting’ to win it back again, only to give it away ‘cheaply’ once more.
For over 60 years, coaching in this country has focused more on passing than on any other aspect of the game, yet we remain one of the worst passers and retainers of the ball in the world at all age levels. Coaches, commentators and crowds fail to appreciate the qualities essential for positive and effective passing. We have tolerated for far too long, passing standards that have provided ‘almost accuracy’ and ‘ball-bruising contact’ as satisfactory……well, they’re not.
Our players, at all levels must be taught that Association Football is NOT AN AGGRESSIVE GAME, but a COMPETITIVE GAME, requiring ‘sympathetic touch’ and a ‘soft feel’ for the ball. Aggression is often caused by anger and frustration. Coaches must begin to release those pressures by providing more care and consideration when providing the teaching and playing methods for future young players. Our players must learn to play the game with joy not hate. Winning is important, but winning with style is even more important and much more gratifying.
Passing the ball is a vital part of the foundations of playing the game of football. Without good passing qualities it is impossible to play good football. The passing quality on display throughout our game today is poor and so the game we play is also poor. Until we confront the important issues undermining the game here, both on and off the field, we have no right to expect anything other than disappointment, frustration and the continuation of sub-standard football in constant need of ‘hype’ to support it.
Wouldn’t it be just great if BARCELONA was an English city! Although they are not infallible, and in my opinion lack variation to their playing style, they have established passing the ball as a magnificent foundation for future playing extensions. Why can’t we do the same?