By John Cartwright
Why does so much of our football resemble driving a car downhill at speed with no brakes? Uncontrolled speed has become a major part of our game which, allied to a lack of playing skills, has brought chaos rather than class to football here. From the Referee’s first whistle to the last, we play the thoughtful and skilful game of football as if it were a contest of ‘fitness first’ and ‘full steam ahead’. With little time for players to think, look or make correct decisions, the poor old football often resembles a bullet ricocheting from one scrimmage to another.
Where are the players, ‘home-bred or imported’ with the playing quality to play the game with both the skill and game understanding and who are capable of selecting the correct time for ‘speeding or cruising’? Subtlety and cleverness in using selective injections of speed into a game have been eroded in favour of ‘panic attack’ football that demands all-out effort all of the time! Giving 100% effort should not mean 100% of ‘chase and fight’, it should mean playing the game using all the qualities required — and should include, calm control and game awareness.
The present playing ‘hullabaloo’ is devoid of the awareness to select when to play quickly and when to shift into cruising speed. The use of fast counter-attack tactics can be extremely beneficial against teams who defend in depth. However, if or when an opposing team manages to recover their defensive positioning to halt or slow-down the attack a problem occurs in our game —- we can’t put our ‘foot on the brakes’! Instead of reappraising the situation and reconnoitre for other attacking opportunities, we try to maintain the original attacking speed regardless of the chance of success. Our crowds demand speed and irrespective of its value at the time ……. we give it to them….. ‘crash-bang-wallop’!
The teaching and use of speed variations in our game must be high on the list for coaches. The frequent waste of possession through playing at unnecessary speed is a major problem in our game — it produces a frenzied aspect where calmness and creativity should dominate. Our foreign opponents seem to have more control over the use of speed than we do. They are more adept at playing as game situations demand. Many overseas countries have spent valuable time developing players with high levels of individual skill. The value of having such skilful qualities is clearly displayed in situations when decisions on varying playing speeds need to be made.
We need to make vital changes to our development methods and speed awareness must be part of those changes.