The sad demise of the greedy footballer

by   |   24/03/2021  10 Comments  [Jump to last]

A wonderful post from Dave Abrahams on the FA Cup Quarterfinal game thread, along with the news of the sad death of Frank Worthington, has got me thinking about coaching.

Dave reminisced about street football and used a phrase that I had never heard but got the meaning of: "The Danny and the Dribbler". I guess many of us played street football and learned an entirely different set of skills.

What we all did was play alongside a greedy bastard. Someone who would play a one-two (wall pass) with a lamp post rather than pass the ball. Some of them had a load of skill, amazing control, dropped the shoulder, wriggled and doubled back to beat the same man again. Frustrating and annoying as fuck to play with or against.

I don't know if they had pace because pace didn't matter in street football. There was no space to run quickly and no falling over either because there was only concrete to land on.

Some of the very best of those greedy bastards made careers from it. George Best drove Paddy Crerand and his teammates nuts with his unwillingness to pass. But it was Best and Matthews, and many of the players mentioned in the tributes to Frank Worthington, who got supporters on their feet.

This really isn't a nostalgic look at the good old days. I think recent posts have raised concerns about modern coaching and the lack of joy for kids playing. I have walked past kids' games and heard coaches screaming "Hold your shape!" – whatever the fuck that means. So many talentless dads sucking the very life out of the greatest game.

I remember fondly the guy who "ran" our team when I was a kid. No, he didn't coach, he "ran" the team. Before the game, he went round us all and told us who we would be that day. “You are Banks, you're Asparukov, You're Albert, Summerbee, Ball, Best..." etc. We were most of us shite but who cared. We were star-struck and played with joy.

There was little power and even less pace. One or two lads got a chance but they were the last of the spindl- legged greedy bastards. Is there room now for a player who, when no-one makes themselves available, will try to dribble past three defenders?

More to the point, is there room now for a greedy player who will do the same when he has two or three options? No chance!

There used to be loads of them. Jimmy Johnston, Willy Henderson, Charlie Cook, Peter Barnes, Best, Bowles and so many more. With the exception of Best, I doubt any of them would get a second glance from a scout now.

Football changed fundamentally when England failed to qualify for several World Cups after 1970. Failings in facilities and coaching were identified and a lot of good was done. 50 years on, what have we got now?

Rewards are beyond what we ever imagined and it seems to me that so many kids are sold the notion of entitlement. Talent, hard work, and a lot of luck will get some kids up there. It won't for others – no matter what.

How about having fun, having mates, feeling dizzy with the excitement of match-day and being a greedy bastard?

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Reader Comments (10)

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Dave Abrahams
1 Posted 26/03/2021 at 11:47:07
Andy, your comment about the manager you played for giving all you and your teammates footballers names made me smile and recall a tale about Mike Walker after a game at Bellefield one Saturday morning, he told the young players “ You are all going to Goodison Park this afternoon, Jamie Spears ( the young goalkeeper) I want you to watch Neville Southhall, you’ll learn” Walker went right through the team telling each player who to watch until he came to Billy Kenny, he said to Billy “ Billy I want you to keep your eyes on Mike Milligan and watch what he does”. Billy looked at Walker and said “ You want me to watch Mike Milligan? You should have brought him here this morning to watch ME, HE might have learned something.
Thomas Richards
2 Posted 26/03/2021 at 12:05:39
He would have learmed a lot Dave.
What a player Billy would have been.
Must have been frustrating for his Dad, Uncle Eddie amd the lads.
All good Blues
Tony Abrahams
3 Posted 26/03/2021 at 12:46:09
I could just imagine Billy, saying that as well Dave! Seriously Andy, I’ve said I played, I was lucky because I was at a football club, that used to get the ball down and try to play, but it was all about the structure, and it was very hard to drift away from that.

I consider myself lucky now, because I never really got coached, it might have worked against me when I got older, but I don’t think so, and think it was only a lack of pace that done this!

Our training was brilliant, five a side, the smallest goals imaginable, and always two touch. I remember Ron Fenton, one day gave us a bigger pitch, and bigger goals, and wanted us to dribble because he said it had gone out of fashion, but we were set in our ways, and he never got far with this!

Sorry for going on now, but coaching is good and coaching is also bad, it definitely takes away individuality, and I will give an example of something that happened to myself. Playing a reserve game one day at the city ground, I’d scored, was doing okay, and at the time I think we were winning 4-1. I mentioned the ground because I’m visualizing it now, and just inside my own half, twenty yards infield, I received the ball, and went towards the touch line. I always had good vision, and instead of playing it to my winger, I turned and hit a 50 yard diagonal pass, that would have put our forward in on goal, only for the very outstretched leg of the defender who did well, to get enough on it sending the ball for a corner kick.

Liam O’Kane, (an Ulster-man Andy) jumped out the dugout screaming, what are you doing? play it fucking simple, and I just stood there thinking if this ground was full now, they'd have all been clapping my intent, and its not as if we are getting fuckin beat. Thats coaching, but perhaps if he had liked me, he might have shouted unlucky son! who knows?

Peter Mills
4 Posted 26/03/2021 at 14:19:46
Who do I enjoy watching now? James, Foden and Grealish. And Joe Cole playing for the West Ham youth team at Goodison was a gem.

By the way Andy - who were you in that kids team?

Andrew Ellams
5 Posted 26/03/2021 at 14:26:59
I miss blood and thunder footballers. Football is not the same game without the likes of Reid, Souness, Robson etc. flying in with proper tackles that took no prisoners and the idea that you could get the ball first and give away a penalty or even see red were not even a consideration.
Andy Crooks
6 Posted 26/03/2021 at 21:58:06
Pete, I was David Fairclough. Alas, not super sub just sub.
Dick Fearon
7 Posted 30/03/2021 at 20:21:50
I have spent many years encouraging kids to do those somethings that stands them out from the crowd. All too often Iin their later years, I see that kind of individualism has been sacrificed on the altar of "run your balls off for the team" effort.

I doubt we will ever again see another Georgie Best collect the ball in his own penalty area, run the length of the field without it touching the ground, leave three defenders in his wake and finish with a shot at goal.

Brian Murray
8 Posted 30/03/2021 at 20:38:40
Andy post 6. Still very raw over what his winner in the 76 anfield derby. Think I need therapy again now
Dennis Stevens
9 Posted 30/03/2021 at 20:45:32
Will we ever see another Robin Friday? Did anybody see him the first time 'round? Obviously not Mark Lawrenson who he kicked in the face, leading to a red card. Unfortunately for Lawrenson this just gave Friday plenty of time to take a dump in Lawro's kit bag!
Peter Warren
10 Posted 31/03/2021 at 22:42:59
My youngest just started playing. He’s 5 and in a little team and funnily enough a parent took a team over and got a white board out before they played their game. Didn’t half make me laugh!!!

Anyway, a grandad there who’s a big Spurs fan said they had this coach for one of the youth teams. Got impression coach for youngsters (ie U14/u11). I’m pretty sure he said he got headhunted by LFC and now there. I asked why. He said this coach is different, rather than passing, shape (modern methods of coaching) his coaching is all not to pass but run, dribble, shoot. Apparently totally contradictory to most of his peers.


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