By John Cartwright
Our game at all levels demands speed, speed and more speed from players in training and in match-play. Like everything, the use of speed is something that must be gradually introduced as skills are developed and players become more confident in applying them. It should be stressed that the constant intensity seen in practice situations here does not reflect the variations in playing speeds in competitive games when fast penetration is stopped but ball possession must be retained. These frequent changes in playing rhythm from fast penetration to controlled patience must be catered for more realistically during practice-play sessions so that can players quickly recognize them and act accordingly.
Unrealistic and poorly devised practice, in conjunction with an over- emphasis on competitive match play that is often totally unrelated to the playing comprehension of youngsters, is at the heart of our failure to produce skilful players. Young players must be involved in a gradual learning program suitably arranged for varying age or ability groups; they must be nurtured on practices that relate realistically to the game and play match football that relates directly to the practical work they are doing at the time…….. ‘PRACTICE HOW YOU PLAY followed by PLAY WHAT HAS BEEN PRACTISED.’
I do not see our young players being introduced into the game or progressed through the various development levels in a constructive and efficient way with the result that far too many are lost to the game.
Poor teaching produces poor students. This is an accepted fact. Providing ‘state of the art’ infrastructure such as facilities and equipment is wasteful if good teaching is not available to use it properly. There has been a noticeable emphasis within coaching in this country to expand the theoretical aspects of the game over practice time……TALKING A GOOD GAME NOT PRACTISING A GOOD GAME. I am not suggesting that theories should be discarded but the imbalance between ‘talking and doing’ must be restored heavily in favour of improved practical work.
We must also discard the casually accepted statement that, ‘Football is simply a team-game’ and replace it with, ‘Football is a game for individual players who conjoin with others when they are required to do so’. To view the game of football simply as a team game, distorts the whole concept of player development. Football viewed in this way from an early age, deflects the development of individualism as a priority and forces an emphasis on finding and producing certain types of players to play a certain type of game-style. By preferring a combined approach to development during the ‘golden years of skill absorption’ in youngsters rather than committing to a more individualistic approach during these important skill learning years, we have ‘suffocated’ masses of individual talent and have ‘straight-jacketed’ our game to such an extent that futility rules fantasy, ‘simplicity’ has replaced tactical variations, and speed has become a camouflage for a lack of playing quality.
‘Fight-football’ at speed closely represents how we play the game. A give it away – get it back – give it away again, ‘shambolic’ playing style infects our game from top to bottom. Fear is the ‘Parrot on the shoulder’ of our players who, lacking the skills to play the game creatively, resort to panic and not panache when situations in games become difficult.
The ‘slap-dash’ way in which the game is organized, taught and played here can only bring more and more frustration and failure. Oh, how wonderful it must be to work and play in countries such as Spain, Holland etc. where skill and game-style have been artfully blended together through their domestic and national teams to produce a playing product, that in the case of Spain, now rules world football at club and international levels. We meanwhile, will continue along the same old, mis-guided path, with no satisfactory playing method or development structure to follow – over-reliant on giving 110% effort (or is it now 120%?) to cover skill deficiencies – for ever rolling our sleeves up higher and higher – far too easily satisfied with a sub-standard playing style dependent on physical, ‘let’s get at `em’ performances that are championed and not critically challenged by our Press and Media, tolerated by our fans and inflicted on our kids from a young age.
Unless we produce and introduce an attractive and effective playing style in conjunction with a much improved development structure and follow with a forceful campaign to gain the support of the Press and public to accept these radical changes to our game, we can say bye, bye to future success on the world’s football stage…. at all age levels!
For heaven’s sake where’s the ‘balls’, and I don’t mean ‘footballs’, to fight for the future of our game? Danger-danger-danger, we’re falling further behind and nobody seems concerned enough to shout-radical changes need to be made… now! The ludicrous statements more aligned to self-justification than futuristic thought that are ‘fed’ to us from above, are nothing more than timely distractions. It is clear and positive forward planning followed by determined action that our game so urgently needs, not a ‘sitting on the fence’ approach.
For NEGLECT is in charge of our stumbling game.