Hollow Victory – Football without fans

The above is a quote about something that has been on the back of my mind for a while. I love the fact that there is still football to watch. I am sure that without it the series of lockdowns and tiers would have been a lot worse for a lot of people. But as much as I am glad it has not been cancelled; I find it soulless without a live crowd watching it. I find it difficult to get too excited by it. I’m also pretty sure that it has had a huge effect on the results of the matches so far.

Is football without fans better than nothing?

Soccer AM does a section where players talk frankly about their teammates. When asked whom the best players in training are, it is often a player that you would not expect. This idea is transferable to all levels of football. I am sure everyone who has played football has played with someone who looks like a million dollars in training and often two bob in a game. I saw an article on Vinny Samways on Facebook where he was described as workmanlike. I remember Peter Shreeves dropping him in the Winter and telling him it was the because the heavy pitches didn’t suit him. He was christened Vinny Sideways by the Tottenham fans due to a distinct lack of ambition when in possession of the ball. Vinny Samways was in fact one of the most talented players I have ever seen. He was a clever passer, a good finisher and appeared to run quicker with the ball than without. In training and in the reserve games, he was the best player on the pitch week in week out. Why did he fail to produce this form on the biggest stage? In my opinion it was the crowd. If he gave it away trying something difficult they got on his back. So instead he took the easy option. Players like Gazza and Chris Waddle would just shrug it off. They could give it away five times on the spin, but still do what they felt was right. The mark of a truly great player. It is why I consider Maradona the best player in my lifetime. The bigger the occasion the more he stepped up. I have no doubt that Messi is a better footballer than Ronaldo, but Ronaldo has consistently stepped up on the big occasion. Messi, particularly in recent years has not. I feel that history may place Ronaldo as the greater player of the two.

It may seem like I digress but let me explain my ramblings! This year, without a crowd, lesser players are flourishing. The very top players are often the very best because of their mentality. Think Gazza and Waddle. Now the gap has been shortened. Without a crowd affecting their confidence and decisions lesser players are taking advantage. Shortening the gap between them and the very top players. I honestly believe the best players feed off the pressure of a crowd, rising to the occasion. There are some grounds where the fans really feel like the extra man. It is why any team can beat any team this year. With the exception of Sheffield United!

Football Without Fans Is Nothing. It's a strange time to be a football… |  by Harley Thorne | FanHub | Medium

Not that it is all bad. The development of some players might be enhanced without the pressure cooker of a crowd. I wonder how the Samways of the world might have faired this season. Given a chance to show their true worth. Has the future careers of many players been changed for ever by the virus? Free of the shackles able to do what they want without the fear of feeling the wrath of the supporters.

As an aside I also blame coaches and managers for the waste of talents like Vinny Samways. Too many are happy when a player keeps the ball rather than risk losing possession. I remember Rooney when he first burst on the scene being unpredictable, capable of moments of brilliance.  I have always thought he was overcoached, turned into a safer tamer version of himself. A problem in English football for years. Chris Waddle thinks that children should be allowed to dribble, learn for themselves by their mistakes. Too many young players are told to just play the easy pass. Every week I see players receive the ball one on one against their defender with space in behind and they turn back playing an easy safe option. Joe Cole is another name that springs to mind. The truly great players never take a step backwards.

In Search of Greatness on Twitter: "To Pele and other greats, good coaching  made all the difference: "Zagallo was a coach and a player. He let the players  play forward. He let

Cheats never prosper – My guide to diving without water

In Manchester United’s game against Aston Villa Pogba can be seen telling Shaw that he should have gone down (not dived, we will come to that later) when the defender made contact with him in the area. Just before Pogba told him to go down I thought the same thing. My opinion on diving is different from a lot of people. Therefore, I have written my guide to diving without water.

The Oscar

For this think when Rivaldo got a player sent of at the world cup. The ball was thrown at him and it him on his knee. He went down holding his face. He then rolled about for a few minutes. This sort of thing gives football a bad name. It is players pretending that they have been punched or elbowed to try and get a fellow pro sent off. If someone punches or elbows you in the face, fine go down. Draw attention to it. If not get on with the game.

Verdict

Not acceptable, any attempt to get a player sent off for something they didn’t do is embarrassing and should face a huge ban and fine. Video footage is easily used because it is clear. Someone gets pushed in their chest and they go down holding their face. There are no excuses. Modern football gets a bad name through theses actions. I have even started to see big tough defenders doing it, in the same game as the Pogba/ Shaw thing there was Bailly against Grealish. Grealish nudged him in the back and Bailly went down like there was a sniper on the grassy null.

We have contact

More VAR chaos in Premier League as video rejects clear Tottenham penalty  appeal - Irish Mirror Online

I know people with disagree with me on this. If you are in the area and you feel contact, you should go down. Shaw should have got a penalty when Pogba told him. He had touched the ball past the last defender and the defender caught him making him lose control of the ball. It is a foul, but referees never give it unless the attacker goes down. In the area if you have the ball then there is a chance to score, If there is contact on you it can unbalance you or put you off and stop the chance of a  goal. The defender has made the mistake you need to make sure the referee does his job. To my mind it is a professional sport and players need to be professional. The defender who makes a mistimed tackle or tries to make a desperate attempt to put you off when you are shooting is the one who should be punished. If you stay on your feet, then the chance could be lost. I see people in nostalgic football groups say that this never used to happen. This type of “dive” has always happened. My coaches who would have a go at me if I did the same as Shaw and tried to stay on my feet had been professional footballers in the 70’s and 80’s and their coaches had been telling them the same thing. Pogba’s mistake was he did it on the pitch. I can guarantee that in the changing room Shaw will have been told more than once that he should have gone down.

Verdict

Not even a dive. The referee should give the penalty but if you don’t go down, he won’t. Make him make a decision.

No defence

Chelsea David Luiz a cheat or comedian after Rafael tackle | Daily Mail  Online

This is when defenders have the ball normally facing their own corner flag with an attacker close behind them. The defender collapses forward as if he has been hit by a bus from behind. The referee always gives the free kick even though the defenders dive is normally laughable. Think Harry Maguire trying to convince the referee that a hand on his back from David Silva is enough to throw him to the floor WWE style. The continental defenders even grab the ball as they fall to really give the referee a problem.

Verdict

Take away their defender’s licence. Defenders should show no pain, wear long metal studs in all weathers and never ever dive.

Sniper

This is the one that on TV looks awful. The attacker toe pokes the ball then throws themselves to the floor and rolls about like they have stood on a mine. A quick look on YouTube will get some hilarious results. This looks the worst when the defender pulls out the tackle but the player has already committed to the dive. You could drive a National express coach between the two players the defender is so far away. VAR should eradicate this sort of dive.

Verdict

Not acceptable. Ruins football’s reputation. This is cheating.

Big boys don’t cry

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Think Neymar. In the empty stadiums you can now hear the screams as players try to win free kicks. The danger is cry wolf. In the past a player screaming meant serious injury, so the game gets stopped. Now referees cannot be sure, so they play on. I have now seen the hitting-the-floor-in-pain being faked. That used to be another sign of serious injury. Players are clever they have realised that hitting the floor and not rolling around looks serious. They now fake a serious injury to try and win a free kick or break up a counterattack.

Verdict

If a player looks seriously injured, then doesn’t limp for at least 5 minutes afterwards then someone should be allowed to two-foot them with no punishment! Let the punishment fit the crime. Seriously though have a bit of pride and get up and run back.

The initiator

I admire the skill factor of this one, but it is as bad as the no contact dive. This is rife in the modern game and needs to be eradicated. Vardy, Kane, Grealish, Pogba, Fernandes, Salah, basically think top player and they do it. The defender does nothing wrong except get close. Vardy will toe poke the ball straight then run across the defender’s path forcing the contact then go down. Grealish will touch it past the defender then actually kick the defender and go down himself. Think Bruno Fernandes’s stamp on the defender that won the penalty. Salah will poke it past the sliding keeper and not run after the ball but wait for the keepers momentum to eventually make contact. Pogba even tripped himself!

Verdict

So difficult to stop. Think innocent until proven guilty. You can see the contact, you are sure the attacker made it,  but so hard to prove. Players need to step up and take the lead. Like a gun amnesty. No punishment but everyone just agree to stop. I know – never going to happen but it needs to as it is killing the game. In the end there will be stoppages every thirty seconds. VAR being used every two minutes.

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