By Roger Wilkinson
I said to a junior player the other day………“Did you have breakfast this morning?”
He said……….“Yes I had porridge”
I said………“Did you put it in your mouth or up your nose?”
“In my mouth of course”…………he said with a chuckle
I explained that there was only about a ¼ of an inch between the two but the good habits and life skill he had been taught meant that he always made that right decision. Football is like life and teaching the importance of the detail in those decisions is vital!
Fast forward a couple of days and I was watching an English Championship game between two of the top teams and I did a 3 minute (yes 3 minute!) audit of the individualism and decision making of both teams from the 66th to the 69th minute. This is what I saw:
- Centre backs heading and giving away possession when they had space and time to bring the ball down.
- Wide men trying to cross through defenders with no chance of the ball getting in to the box unless the defender’s leg magically disappeared!!
- Defenders, in loads of space, kicking the ball out when a Pique type player would have pulled it down and played his way out.
- Players turning into trouble, and in some cases cheaply losing the ball because their touch was too heavy.
- Players “punching” the ball into team mates, tightly marked, giving them a control problem.
I’ve got to be honest, I did see one of the front men cleverly link with a team mate in a tight situation on the edge of the box giving one little glimpse of potential high quality detail.
Apart from that solitary example during the 3-minute snap shot there was scant regard for, or evidence of the detail that is so vital to maintain and exploit possession in the game.
Surely coaches and players only have to watch the likes of Silva, Ozil, Modric or Lahm to see that what defines their greatness is the dedication to the quality and detail of their play.
It was so evident in those 3 minutes, that these players have cruelly missed out the important skill development and understanding of the detail that is required in their play during their development journey.
Obviously they have experienced deficient coaching from an early age but just as importantly why haven’t the flaws been corrected during the Academy stage from 9 to 18 yrs? Also, what are they doing day in day out as senior professionals?
So how do we change this faulty production line?
First of all, the main criteria all the way through the player’s development should be to produce the extra detail and clever understanding in their play needed for greatness. We don’t just want good habits we want great habits! Let’s innovate a gamestyle whereby individualism combines to produce outstanding and clever linkage. At no stage in the player’s development can we afford to skim over the precious detail that required in their play to achieve greatness.
At junior and youth level we need outstanding coaches who are focused on developing individualism and understanding not on how many U14 league games they can win! Their barometer for success is not junior league titles BUT the number of outstanding players they bring through to the senior and international game.
At senior level we want coaches and managers that despite the pressure to win games and stay in a job, still coach, develop and extend the abilities of their players and teams.
Development of a player should not stop when they reach senior level. We need coaches and managers that continue to develop the detail in their players and teams that allow them to achieve style and results.
Whatever level you are currently working at, I urge you to never settle for ordinary! Make a commitment to giving your players the detail in their play that will help them achieve greatness.