By John Cartwright
No better use of the lottery analogy can be found than in the context of finishing in football; if one doesn’t buy a Lottery ticket one will not win ; accordingly, if one doesn’t take the chance(s) that present themselves in football – you wont score goals! However, there is a clear distinction between the ‘gamble’ of buying a winning Lottery ticket and the more predictable and recognizable opportunities from which goals can be scored.
There are thousands of football coaching manuals detailing the techniques involved in kicking and heading of the ball and how these can be suitably adapted to scoring goals. All of these books describe the ‘how’ to do something, which of course is vitally important if a skilful and successful outcome is to be achieved, but behind every undertaking there must be a real desire on behalf of the performer to make it happen.
Goal-scoring, above everything else, is about ‘wanting to score’. It is the very catalyst of the game and therefore it tends to be the most difficult part of the game to master.
Goal-scorers are not all physically alike; the physical shape is not necessarily important; a smaller player tends to need more speed to overcome a height disadvantage; the taller player can add the alternative of Heading as an option in attacking play. In all cases however, scoring is about getting into goal-scoring positions, being prepared to score and having the skills to score.
‘A faint heart never won a football match’. The bravery of the prolific goal-scorer is unquestionable. To score goals on a regular basis he/she must enter areas where knocks and physical contact will most certainly occur. Irrespective of the possibility of injury this player must ‘hunt’ for every chance that offers itself, but remain unaffected by missing a chance to score. A top go goal-scorer’s courage is reflected by his natural instinct to try again to do the most difficult thing in the game — score!.
Goal-scoring then has a great deal to do with attitude of mind. Some players get their thrills in being recognized as providers of chances for others to convert; the mean goal-scorer however, has his/her attention on ‘putting the ball in the net’; the truly great player however, has the combined qualities of being both ‘provider and finisher’.
Positioning is the secret of goal-scoring success. Before a goal is scored the scorer must ‘find’ the positions from which to score. Like all aspects of the game, realistic practice teaches the scorer how, where and when to get into goal-scoring positions and what to do to finish; unless the desire to score is also a prominent feature, goal-scoring becomes irregular and not prolific. On arriving at the right time into a goal-scoring position a player must quickly assess –the flight, speed and angle of the approaching ball and the time and space in which to do his work. Goals can be scored in an assortment of ways including from–rebounds- deflections- knock-downs – defensive blunders etc. and the true finisher must prepare him/herself to take any chance when it happens. Goals scored before millions of viewers may look simple but are the product of hours of practice and the ‘signals’ received during practice. Realistic practises that create realistic goal-scoring situations must be part and parcel of coaching at all levels –for all players.
‘How’ to take a chance or take a ‘positional gamble’ often requires split second decisions to be made and players must be prepared to ‘manufacture’ the necessary body shape to assist in quickly producing the football skills and adaptations to deal with the awkward arrival of a chance to be successful. Mental bravery is an outstanding feature in all top sports performers; fear of failure must not sit heavily on the shoulders of those who want to score goals and criticism must not deter players from seeking out the next goal-scoring opportunity .
Too often in today’s game here we produce the ‘patient predator’ rather than the ‘football thoroughbred’. Patience, not overall playing quality is the total sum of so many of our front players; their contribution tends to be a ‘waiting game’ positioned ‘on the shoulder’ of an opposing defender, looking for the chance to break into the space behind. This lack of involvement and an over-reliance on good service from colleagues is tolerated as long as goals are forthcoming, but when not, both individual and team performances suffer.
I believe that ‘goal-scorers’ should be as complete in their playing ability as possible. The area in which they compete is the most demanding and requires the highest playing qualities — not just ‘runners and fighters’. Accordingly, team linkage in attacking play would improve and goals would be shared around the team more equally. The scoring of goals must not be seen as the responsibility of the few, the desire and opportunity to ‘hit the net’ should be open to all out-field players.
But no matter who scores and how it happens, the elation makes up for all the hard work, criticism and disappointments. Our game needs far more ‘total players’ able to play the ‘total game’ and enjoy that special feeling of scoring a goal or two or three!