By John Cartwright
I’ve recently watched England’s U16 play in the Victory Shield competition. The two games have been against Northern Ireland and Wales; neither have been particularly severe tests in football terms but the usual physical aspects have been more than obvious. What has been annoying is the blatant use of ‘hype’ by the pundits and TV commentators in their comments on the games and of individual players. Both games were won by England, as expected, but if an honest assessment of both games was made one would have to admit that there was neither an outstanding player nor team on view.
The continual overstating of mediocrity as potential greatness is creating false targets for all involved in the game. This ‘hyping’ of performance by commentators with a non-football background or by pundits protecting lucrative contracts is creating confusion. Greatness and Legends are words used too easily and too often during commentaries we receive on Radio, TV and in the Press; The swift departure to ‘Coventry’ of Jimmy Greaves, a true great of the game, following an interview in which he criticised the performance of an England team during an international at Wembley, was a clear example of ‘big brother’ controlling what information was to be delivered to viewers.
Our young players are playing to standards set by ‘academics’ and not by those who have had a professional involvement in the playing and coaching of the game. I am not saying that somebody who has not played at the highest level is unable to learn how to coach and teach the game, what I do believe is that the construction of a national coaching methodology and the delivery of coach education should be the domain of those who have reached high playing levels and have followed this with a prolonged period developing their ability to teach the game. A professional pedigree should be a prerequisite to a long-term ‘coaching apprenticeship’ for anyone aspiring to become involved in formulating coaching and practice methodology. Being a nice chap or a former ‘star’ player are not criteria for appointments into the highest echelons of coaching and development.
In combination with football’s ‘academics’ we are confronted by football’s ‘talkers and writers’ who generate ‘hype’ instead of honesty. Their lack of understanding of the game and their overrated comments are made solely in gaining or retaining the interest of viewers, listeners or readers. The reason for this deception and ‘conservatism of the truth’ is due to the age old problem – money!
The games’ at U16 level already mentioned are simple examples of ‘hype’ creating immediate ‘stars of the future’ in games of low quality. These games are ‘camouflaged with hype’ and projected as high quality in order to maintain the financial support of advertisers or they will be dropped as unprofitable. If one analyses the true content of these two U16 games: – there was no player with a good first touch of the ball; no player able to beat a defender with individual skill; no player able to run positively with the ball; few, if any player who could use both feet – including the goalkeepers; no outstanding header of the ball; passing the ball was very poor; ball possession was abysmal; tackling was often reckless; attacking creativity and guile was non-existent; defending was of local park standards.- so where was the quality that is supposed to be ‘gushing forth’, as we are continuously told, from our Academies? These boys have all been involved in the Academy program since they were about 8 years old – what have they learned—what have they been taught?
Somehow, very occasionally, a young player emerges from the development mire here with individual ability, but what happens to him/her as he/she begins to enter the senior sections of the game? Well, this player will find that their individual ability is too often regarded as a bane and not a benefit. Too many people, inside and outside of the game, do not appreciate the importance of individualism in the game and become disturbed when it is used but fails to ‘produce the goods’ often enough. The ‘play it simple brigade’, that flourishes within our coaching fraternity, diverts possible excellence into mind-numbing mediocrity they then pat themselves on the back for what they believe is a job well done! We could never produce a Lionel Messi type of player. Players who have reached anywhere near his standard have tended to be ‘rogues’ who have defied coaching’s ‘academics’, and refused to accept their ‘mediocrity not magnificence’ obsession (depression) of the game. ; – George Best – Paul Gascoigne, are the obvious players who were prepared to play the SENIOR game in the manner they had used through their CHIDHOOD days. MESSI IS DOING JUST THAT TODAY!
‘Honesty is the best policy’, so the saying goes. It’s a shame that we have not utilized the spirit of that saying when concerning football in this country for—– all ‘hyped’ ability disintegrates when opposed by true playing quality, ………… just look at our dismal record over the past half century…….. AT ALL LEVELS!!
Oh, and to finish, don’t be deceived into believing that one solitary success at any level, should it happen, be a catalyst for further success in the future……….. ‘one sunny day does not a summer make’!