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Teach Your Children Well

By Chris Williams  : 25/1/07
I noticed in yesterday's Independent that Glen Roeder (and presumably others) was attending a course as part of obtaining the required coaching qualification for the Premiership. Such high and exacting standards! It seems that two of the lecturers were Cynical Sam Allardyce and Dead Hand David Moyes, who were presumably imparting their technical wisdom to the assembled ranks of eager young 'tyros' all keen to drink deep from this fount of wisdom, impatient to put into practice the lessons they have learned. God help us all!

These are two of the most egregious 'Prozone Clones' in the country, whose main focus is fitnees and the ability to run further than other teams in a game, and above all not to concede a goal. From this foundation the plan is then to nick a goal any way you can get it, mostly from set plays, scrambles in the box, and rarely, if ever from outside the six yard box. If you can add to this putting pressure on referees (physically in Bolton's case), winning dubious fouls near the opposition penalty area, long punts towards a target man and a goalkeeper who is instructed to punt it as far as he can every time.

This is percentage football of the worst kind. Bolton are probably even worse than we are in all respects. Midfield is seen as an adjunct to the defence, not the attack, who will typically be a lone striker with some physical attribute — speed or ability in the air, the better to win free kicks or penalties. It's dreadful!

And yet these are the teachers, so perceived by those who matter, and I'll bet, themselves. Success is getting the best you can in any way you can, and measured against the yardstick of a top-half finish. Run further, faster, harder. Close them down, harry, tackle, dive and always win the second phase, and gain ground, just like Rugby Union. Players must be fit, fast (hopefully) and fit the pattern, preferably in a number of positions. Skill, flair and the ability to pass and move is optional and should be used sparingly if at all. It skews the percentages.

It's negative and it's based on fear — fear of losing goals, points, games, jobs and Premiership status. The riches in the Premiership (soon to increase) are actively now damaging the 'product' and gates (contrary to Sky's propoganda) are dropping, as are the number of goals being scored. The 'product' is shite and the main exponents of it are teaching their black arts to others, the better to perpetuate this nonsense and to drive us all mad or away from the game.

Pragmatism is an essential part of football — always was — and it's not just limited to the the poor and needy. Both Chelsea an Liverpool play percentage football essentially, but have a leavening of better players like Robben, Drogba and Lampard, in Chelsea's case and in Liverpool's case, Gerrard and... well... Gerrard.

But if ever you wondered why the football we watch is so stereotyped, we have the reason plain before us. The Prozone Clones have won. They are the chosen people who spread the gospel and will inherit the earth.


While the author might be right in other points, do we really have to believe that Arteta, Cahill, Osmann, McFadden and Andy VDM are defensive midfielders? The only one is Carsley (and occasionally Neville) but can anybody name a team that doesn't use at least one holding midfielder?

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