Drives me nuts…

There are some things people do around football that just drive me nuts.

Most often it’s things people say, players sometimes but mostly it’s coaches, parents, or spectators.

On Saturday morning, as my youth team game was postponed (thanks British weather!) I had the chance to go and watch our Under 15’s. The game was a contrast in playing styles, one team trying to play possession football and the other trying to get the ball forward quickly at every opportunity (i.e. boot it and run :o).

I will leave it up to you to guess which I enjoyed watching however, late on in the first half, with the ball playing team 2 – 1 up and controlling the match the frustration of the opposition became apparent as their support grew into the “shouty” encouragement style that is still far too prevalent in junior football.

And then it happened, another long ball goes aimlessly into the arms of the goalkeeper, both full backs go wide, a midfielder drops deep and the goalkeeper chooses to play out to the left back.

Instantly the shout goes up “he don’t want it there“.

Actually, I can confirm that he did “want it there”, not only that, he was able to open his body out and, together with his team-mates, play a couple of precise passes that almost led to a chance on goal. I know that he wanted the ball because all of the young players at the club concerned are being taught to be comfortable with the ball wherever they are on the pitch. This, of course, makes sense because we can never be sure exactly where on the pitch our players may find themselves in possession of the ball. That is simply because they are “allowed” to learn to play by playing, by being encouraged to get on the ball and join in with the game.

So next time you’re at a game, watching young players playing, try not to shout “he don’t want it there” because he probably does.

The reality is that all players should want the ball, and all coaches, parents and spectators should be encouraging them to want the ball, mistakes will happen, goals will be conceded, games will be lost, but lessons will be learnt and players will improve.

Football is a game played by players with a ball, let them play…