By John Cartwright
I see players enter the field ready to ‘do battle’, their ‘monitor vests’ firmly strapped to their chests; how far will they run today? Of course fitness is a vital part of most sporting events, but has an obsession with fitness levels overcome playing skills and game understanding? I think so!
I see players run non-stop in games at all age levels, I also see them use physical force that is often closer to aggression than competitiveness. Physicality has usurped playing skills throughout our game and force not fantasy rules it.
I see one and two touch practises take priority over staying with the ball as an option with passes made irrespective of necessity and penetrative alternatives are ignored.
I see players pass the ball to marked colleagues when they themselves are in open space. There is no consideration of creating an overload situation, for simplicity rules our game!
I see players find themselves in gaps in opposing defensive systems that have opened up but passes are made sideways and backwards and attacking opportunities go amiss.
I see penetrative situations fail because supporting players don’t understand how to react to these situations and a player on the ball either gives it away cheaply or makes an unnecessary ‘possession drilled’ pass and another attacking opportunity goes to waste.
I see passes HIT and not STROKED to colleagues which more often than not produces a poor control and lost possession of the ball.
I could go on and on, but where are the players who have the ability to make positive decisions when on the ball? Where are the Bobby Charlton’s, the Jimmy Greaves, the George Best’s, the Kenny Dalglish’s, the Stanley Matthew’s, the Tom Finney’s? etc. etc. Coaching in today’s terms cannot produce such exciting individuals, boring, simplistic, mediocrity is now the pinnacle of success. Those who have shaped our development methods over the years are seeing the ‘robotic’ disaster they have created.
Running with the ball – and staying on the ball to create problems for defenders seems to have disappeared from our game. Losing possession whilst attempting to be creative and positive in this way must not be seen as a failure but a learning experience that players can only improve if allowed to continue and find the answers. There is nothing more exciting in the game than players who run with the ball past opponents and through gaps; there are no better examples than today’s foreign stars, Messi and Ronaldo? Nobody will ever convince me that players like these have not failed time and again in their effort to beat opposing players – but they have shown personal courage to continue even after failure. Those who have been involved in their development must also be highly praised as well for their courage to allow them to carry on and refusing to impose the ‘play it simple’ option too readily.
Football is a clever game as well as a difficult game to play. This simplicity nonsense that is continually haled as the way to play must be discontinued if we are to produce players with creative ability. We must find and use development methods that insure the production of skills and game awareness with players ready to run positively with the ball whenever possible. Without ‘coaching courage’ the game becomes just a ‘robotic production line’…. A Morris minor would love to have been a Mercedes but production requirements of industrial corporations don’t work that way, but structured manufacturing methods should not apply to the development of footballers…..John Doe, can be moulded into a Lionel Messi, but first our football production line must begin to favour Greatness more than Grimness! By establishing a development system that has greatness as the pinnacle to achieve would lift everything at lower levels towards higher playing standards and so benefit all playing levels of our game.
A University is not expected to produce students with mediocre ability. High grades are expected overall with the some reaching the highest academic standards ….. the ‘Messi, Ronaldo standards’! Like a University education, higher expectations in the teaching, learning and playing the game must become essential objectives in football development in the future.