By John Cartwright
I have been fortunate, or some might say unfortunate, to have seen thousands of football matches, both here and abroad. It has been interesting to see the changes in some many aspects of the game: covering – individual skills, tactics, fitness, athleticism and game understanding. Each of these ‘parts’ of the game are fundamental in the high standards required for top performance levels.
The quality of playing surfaces has improved beyond recognition from — from mud-laden field to pristine ‘putting greens’, but has the game made such a huge change in terms of actual playing quality? I don’t think so. If any real change has been apparent it stems from the import of foreign players. Our game has tended to become ‘stranded’ on the use of SPEED. From beginning to end speed dictates the game-style at all levels here irrespective of situations and circumstances.
The introduction of ‘Possession Football’ has complicated the decision-making ability of a multitude of players here; ‘robotic-type’ keeping of the ball too often replaces penetrative options. There is a lack of both game understanding and individual playing quality that forces players to employ simple options rather than positive opportunities. The decisions whether to play either carefully, constructed Possession Football or recognise the chance to use a fast counter attack, must be taught along with all other playing requirements.
‘ The fast in all situations’ is not what the game is about. The lack in domestic playing talent has meant that speed and athleticism have become overriding aspects and individual dribbling skills have decreased. Likewise, possession around an opponent’s penalty area has seen a decrease in the quality of both crossing of the ball and in the heading of the ball; players run fast and cross the ball – generally hard and low without looking for alternative options – but where’s the receiving players’ today who are the powerful headers of the ball?
Everything is too fast too often in our game and the ability to play it with creativity, style and understanding has, in the main, disappeared. The introduction of ‘Statistics’ into football may well ‘tell the story’ of involvement, but it fails to explain the importance of decision-making……the constant ingredient of success!