By John Cartwright
The impatience that is so prevalent in football in this country is due to low playing ability; impatience is a ‘camouflage’ for poor skills and limited tactical knowledge; resulting in FEAR in every corner of the game!
Impatience radiates through all sections of football in this country. From the top down to junior levels, the sad demands for simplistic performances that avoid difficult decisions and actions has created ‘robotic’ reactions and stifled performances and this mediocrity is then perceived as satisfactory by most associated with the game here.
Skill acquisition creates confidence and confidence is the ‘armour’ that protects the playing of the game from being reduced to simplistic monotony. Individual skill, gradually nurtured and embellished to gel with team-play, is the ‘holy grail’ for all coaches, junior to senior, to seek and develop.
A football team should consist of skilful individuals in every position—even goalkeepers. Fear of mistakes is lessened when each player is comfortable on the ball and has the ability to combine effectively with team-mates. Impatience when pressurized is not something that should contort the playing style of individual or team as it does here today; Barcelona are the present day example of individual flare and team style as opposed to the ‘huff and puff’ recognized as the English game.
We have seen several attempts to improve the playing style here over the last few years, Arsenal – Wigan – and Swansea, have shown the ‘guts’ to make changes to the historical game-style ‘expected’ to be played here. Each have had their problems when trying to ‘re-educate’ Directors, Staff, Players, Media and Fans. The ‘up-and-at-`em’ culture that persists throughout our game is incredibly difficult to overcome and the clubs’ who try to introduce more sophistication find the transition almost impossible. Winning is the key. Whilst results are positive all sections of the football public will accept a more subtle approach to the playing of the game. However, should results fall away, impatience returns with a venom and the fear from beyond the field of play is soon transferred onto it!
The problem of lack of individual playing ability is the main concern with clubs’ trying to ‘fast-track’ from ‘direct play’ to a ‘keep-ball’ style. Lack of talent in the country has forced the game into what we mostly see now and attempting to ‘force’ a more sophisticated playing style onto ‘unprepared’ players is unlikely to succeed. Playing with more concern about possession is fine as long as the players are able to produce the skills – especially when opponents pressurize those questionable and unreliable skills!!
To play possession football requires all players to be highly capable performers on and off the ball. The players who tend to have more time and space to begin attacking play – are back players. We have rarely conceived the idea that our back players should be equally good starters of attacking play but merely good stoppers of it! So right at the beginning of the ‘keep-ball performance’ we find players without the playing quality to provide the ‘opening prelude’. Opposing teams’ recognize this weakness and make it difficult for limited skills to flourish – this causes panic especially when nervous back players are caught close to their own goal.
Football of the quality we see from abroad has been ‘downloaded’ over many years to players as they have developed – not forced in a few months! Skill quality in all positions is maximised abroad whereas here we have substituted ability for athleticism. Yes, athleticism etc. is an important ingredient in top sporting ability, but we have sacrificed skill to the ‘god of power and pugilism’. Tactical variations that are necessary to offset the problem of pressurization in games is virtually non-existent due to the inability of our players to modify and adapt the ‘installed roboticism’ they have acquired from day one of their football upbringing.
It has become painfully obvious that the playing quality we see today here, even with the ‘imported mercenaries’, is falling further and further behind other leading football nations. The impatience ‘infecting’ our game is not just seen on the fields of play, but in Boardrooms, amongst Committee’s and Selectors etc. at all levels, who see winning as a priority without noting that….. ‘all fame is fleeting’ and that ‘patience is a virtue’.