By John Cartwright
Following the England v Slovakia game recently, there has been a ‘storm’ of criticism from various sources on the movement and positioning of Wayne Rooney. He has been ‘branded’ responsible for Kane’s poor display and for the general poor performance of the team.
I am not a Rooney fan, nor do I have any allegiance to Man. Utd. I am making my comments in this ‘blog’ purely on football tactics and nothing else.
Once upon a time there was a game called ‘football’ and it was played in streets, playgrounds and on waste-lands. This game was universal in terms of worldwide popularity and it produced players of legendary status. The street game was about practising whilst playing and positioning was an essential part of the game. Positioning then was not allied to the formal role that positioning relates to today, it meant constant, active interchange; one minute you were a ‘rush goalie’, the next you might be in a forward position, BUT COLLEAGUES HAD FILLED THE SPACES YOU HAD LEFT!
This interchange of positioning is now called ROTATION and all quality players and quality teams use rotational movement as part of their tactical playing style. I have always championed individualism in the game as it is through the individual playing quality of players that allows them to fulfil roles with comfort in various, alternative positions adopted during a game.
Rooney’s, ‘excursions’ into different areas of the field during a game is only a weakness if those players around him have neither the playing ability nor the tactical game understanding to fill the space(s) he has created. He might be criticised for not realising that those with whom he is playing are not able to recognise spaces that become available nor are they comfortable moving from their regular ‘foxhole’ into ‘strange territories’. This is, in my opinion, yet another indictment on development methods used over the years that have replaced street football culture. There has been a devastating lack of skill teaching that has produced a ‘simplistic sameness’ to our game producing a lack of playing confidence that has ‘glued’ players to positions.
Rooney, may have to limit his ‘excursions’ into other positions to compensate for the lack of football ‘lustre’ of his colleagues. What a shame that the creative and realistic learning method of the street has been ignored and replaced by ‘jingoistic’ pretences of football development. More concern has been attached to organisation and structured development methods than with individualism and a free-spirited approach. Our game now consists of constant speed with limited playing options. Opponents can ‘read us like a book’. It is a quick read as there is little to view and boring to an extreme.