Our Highways Authority issued a driving warning that states — ‘SPEED KILLS’. This evocative statement was delivered to road users as deaths mounted on our roads due to excessive speed. Roads of varying types are designated with appropriate speed limits, but disregard of these warnings is often the cause of road fatalities.
Why have I written about traffic speed violations and the deaths that ensue from speeding in a football ‘blog’? Well, like the disastrous consequences too much speed has on the road, the over-emphasis given to speed in our football is a paramount cause of the ‘death of our game’ in this country.
Of course, safe driving does not necessarily mean slow driving; on Motorways there is a higher speed limit attached but this extra speed allowance must be used carefully and adjusted to suit traffic and road conditions. The game of football is no different; the correct use of speed is essential in producing the best results.
Our game is riddled with ‘SPEED MANIA’ – we have little conception of when to play slowly and when to quicken the tempo in games. The use of ‘Motorway – full-ahead speed’ irrespective of the circumstances at the time is a debilitating problem in our game. However, a strange thing is occurring in our game — some teams are playing slowly, some might say — too slowly! This about-turn in tactics by some clubs here should be applauded but questioned at the same time; changing such a prominent national game feature as game speed is not something that can be achieved overnight. The playing variations and decisions on changing from one playing speed to another is not fully understood by coaches and players and is often mis-applied.
Barcelona FC – the initiator of slower, preparatory, build-up play is the example that much of football is attempting to copy. Their brand of slower, possession football allied to quicker, penetrative movements is admired by many but poorly copied by all. Playing football a-la-Barcelona style requires high quality individual skills allied to superb levels of team and game understanding and these qualities take time to acquire. A Learner driver is not allowed onto Motorways because he/she does not have the skill or experience of driving at this level. Similarly, even an experienced driver would have great difficulty to sit behind the wheel of a Formula one racing car going at high speed. The promotion from Learner to Formula One driver takes time; the same situation must be accorded to footballers’ for in all walks of life, gainful experience is the ultimate requirement for improvement and success.
Our players have been brought up on a ‘maximum effort all the time’ playing culture. There has been scant concern with speed assessment in the game and a ‘crash-bang-wallop’ playing style has been seen as the way to play. Physical qualities, especially speed, are more common at all levels here than game skills. The constant demand for more and more speed to counteract the lack of talented players available is not only a disturbing feature of our game but something that can only lead to disaster. The game in this country is ‘hyped’ beyond recognition of its true status: We ‘import’ foreign skill as we can’t produce our own skilful players and we continue with coaching and development methods that have historically failed to produce both players and a suitable national game-style.
The faster one does something the more likelihood of mistakes and failure; the Learner driver trying to handle a racing car at high speed is no different than a footballer playing at a speed beyond his playing ability, each will be unable to cope with the demands set them thus leading to disaster — on the track and on the football field !