Check out my interview on the Hawksbee and Jacobs show on the 22nd March 2022. It was at about 2.15pm if you go to their catch-up program on talksport.com. https://talksport.com/…/listen…/1647954000/1647957600/
I have been so busy promoting and writing my book ‘Losing my Spurs – Gazza, the Grief and the Glory’ that I haven’t had time to write any blogs. To be honest there hasn’t been anything that has really caught my eye enough to write about. Then a friend was speaking to me about his boy starting to play competitive football and how he was worried about the quality of coaching at that level and the dangers of being overcoached. I shared his concerns as I have always thought that some coaches do more harm than good and have often questioned their motivation. I did offer some advice, but when I thought about it afterwards, I felt I had not done a good enough job in explaining what to watch out for. So here is my guide to the Bluffers, Blaggers and Egos.
There are 3 different dangerous coaches to look out for:
- The Trophy Hunter
The first thing you should do when talking your child to a football club or to football coaching is have a conversation with the manager or coach. When you talk to the coach of your kid’s potential team if all they talk about is how many games they have won or how many trophies they have won then pick your child up off the ground, run to your car and get out of there! Winning trophies and matches is the by-product of successful coaching and it should never be the other way around. It should be all about how your child is progressing and whether they are enjoying their football. In my experience, the managers who are chasing trophies are doing it for themselves. They want the kudos of being a ‘successful’ manager and coach rather than developing children as footballers, the team is all about their ego, stay clear of these coaches.
2. Subbuteo managers
When you go and watch your child playing in a game, stand near the manager and just listen. If you hear words of encouragement to players who have made mistakes then you may be on to a winner. If what you hear is ‘Pass’ ‘Shoot’ ‘Kick it’ then stop the game, grab your child off the pitch, run to your car and go home! I can remember many years ago managing a Charlton Athletic academy team and we were playing against a top Premier League side and their manager was a well-known ex-professional footballer. He spent the whole game telling the kids what to do. It was like he was playing Subbuteo moving players around and playing the game for them. Obviously, they did well as he was a better footballer than the ten-year-old children on the pitch. It took everything I had not to do the same and to stick true to what I believed. We lost the game, but I walked away happy with the knowledge that the children in my team had developed in the game and were making improvements. Funnily enough, the first question I was asked by the Academy director afterwards was ‘What was the score?’ which made me chuckle. The problem with telling children what to do every time they get the ball is what happens when you aren’t there? I can tell you; you end up with a footballer who has no decision-making or problem-solving skills. In the game in question, there were times I could see the players in the other team waiting for the shout as they didn’t know what to do. If your coach is fairly quiet in the game other than encouragement but then talks to players afterwards in a two-way discussion about what they could or should have done in certain situations then you have a good one.
3. Bluffers and Blaggers
Other coaches to look out for are the coaches who just point out things that have gone wrong but with no advice about what to do about it. They would be the ones on a sinking boat shouting “Hole, there is a hole!’ at the top of their voice until they inevitably sink to the bottom of the ocean. You can spot these coaches and managers as they will be shouting things like, ‘Start winning your tackles’ ‘Stop losing the ball’ ‘Finish it’. These statements are no help whatsoever to a young footballer. They need hows, if they keep giving the ball away then coach them. Is their technique the problem? Are they panicking and need to calm down? Are they short of confidence and need building up? That is your job. If you are just pointing out problems then you are actually doing more damage than good as there is nothing worse as a player than having your faults constantly being thrown in your face but without feeling like you know what to do about it.
So hopefully this might help a few people in finding a suitable environment for their children to play, improve and enjoy their football as at the end of the day a smile on their face is the only thing that really matters.
My interview with Emma Jones about my book ‘Losing My Spurs’ on BBC radio London Sport yesterday. It is about 90 minutes in.
https://www.talkradioeurope.com/lets-talk/ So that took me by surprise! Didn’t realise I was going out live, from the Spanish coast with all the ex-pats and across Europe, until 2 minutes before it happened! Thought it was prerecorded! Good chat though with Giles Brown about the book and all things Tottenham. You can catch it if you want via the link on the 7-day catch-up. It was 9.30-10.00 if you would like to.
I haven’t written a blog recently. This is partly due to the fact that I have been selling and buying a new home, publishing my second book and with the whole Super league mania it felt like there was more than enough being written about football. I am now back putting pen to paper, or more accurately finger to keyboard. I feel a need to write this because I have been watching a lot of Premier league football recently as with the clocks going forward the time difference in China has become more manageable. For example a 4pm kick off in the UK is 11pm here in Ningbo. England certainly seems to be the place to watch football now with two teams in the Europa league league final and the two Champions league finalists both being British. But, honestly, I am finding the football being served up in the Premier league dull and soulless.
A typicle game involves two teams persisting to try and pass the ball out from the back no matter what the opposition does. I find myself watching games that are decided by which team gives the ball away in dangerous positions the most times. Time and time again, I see defenders and midfielders giving the ball away in dangerous positions trying to overplay. I would love to see the numbers for how many goals are scored from teams losing possession in their defensive third. I would imagine it is very high! Now the quality of the passing out from the back has improved immensely in recent years but there are still a lot of defenders who would do well to stick to the mantra of head it and clear it, simply put, they look like the oppositions best attacker most games. I can remember very early on in my all too brief footballing career being told that good players know their players. In other words, there are some players you don’t pass to unless they are well away from your goal. I played for years with my mate Darren who was a very gifted footballer who happened to play in defence and he used to take all kinds of risks with very rarely any consequences. The amount of times players alongside him would try and do the same thing with comically terrible results. Rule number 2, know your limitations!
It seems all the more bizarre that ALL the teams seem to try and do it in an age when data is so readily available. It makes me question what I am seeing with my own eyes. Is there data out there that suggests that this way of playing is the only way? Because week in and week out I see teams being given chances from teams trying to overplay in defence. In an age of high presses you would think that the odd clearance or long pass out from the back would prove more effective. Don’t get me wrong I do not like long ball football, but even Brazil would occasionally hoof the ball when under pressure. This pass, pass, pass and then pass some more is so boring to watch. When Barcelona used to do it they were always probing and looking for the forward pass whereas now it seems more like passing the ball for the sake of it. Here are some examples:
The ball is passed and passed and eventually gets out wide in the final third. The forward players make runs into the box and the wide player turns out and passes it back to the full back and then back to the centre half, some times then all the way back to the goalkeeper! Cross it Man! Strikers must be puling their hair out.
The ball is passed well and the team progress quickly up field they are now in the final third and the other team are short of numbers. If the player on the ball can play the right forward pass or take on their man they have a great chance of scoring. But, instead, they turn away from the opposing goal and pass it back to the midfield who turn and pass it back to the defenders, who sometimes then will pass it back in goal. They have gone from a dangerous attack to their goalkeeper passing the ball to the defenders who are now stuck on the edge of their own penalty area. Meanwhile thousands of fans are screaming at their TV!
I always thought that passing teams were successful when they passed with a purpose instead of just passing to not lose possession. A good player always looks forwards if possible. I would love to see the data the teams are basing it on. It is like man marking at corners against zonal. My eyes tell me that zonal seems to be less successful but this cant be the case as everyone seems to go for zonal.
I am fast becoming a football dinosaur. I want to see players with flair and personality, mistakes made by referees in the moment, not made by another referee who is watching it on a screen and still getting it wrong. It is hilarious that red cards given by VAR seem to constantly be overturned! I want to see tackles, not dangerous tackles but honest tackles made by committed players. I want to see crosses and dribbling. I want teams to live within a budget. I want to see players celebrating goals without worrying that it may be chalked off at any second by a line drawn on a computer screen at the point they believe the ball was kicked. I want fans back in stadiums and wouldn’t it be great if lot of them actually lived or where bought up in the local area. I want commentators talking about football like it existed before 1992, talking about the great players who went before. The Premier league is just the first division re branded. Jimmy Greaves is the best goalscorer ever, half of the young supporters will have never ever heard of him. I find myself now drifting in and out of the football as players try and bring up their pass percentages, that never used to happen when I was gripped by the football and literally on the edge of my seat.