Monday, 25 November 2013
Too many coaches speak with forked tongues
BY ANDY RITCHIE
FOOTBALL is basically a simple game which has become overcomplicated by systems and formations, numbers that add up to 11, whether it’s 1-4-4-2, 1-4-2-1-3 or 1-4-3-3 - or in Craig Levein’s case when he was Scotland coach, 1-9-1!
I’m a great believer that it’s about good players, not weird and wonderful systems dreamed up by coaches.
What’s the first thing you hear managers say when they aren’t getting it right? - “It’s not about systems, it’s about players.”
Damn right it is. But there’s so much political spin that you become dizzy trying to understand what the hell they’re talking about and that annoys me.
If you’ve got a good team it’s because you’ve got good players – round pegs in round holes.
But the game’s full of systems and statistics. For me the only statistic that matters is how much possession you had, what you created, and how many goals you scored.
Did we defend properly; did we get in front because we were strong? None of that seems to matter anymore and that bugs me no end.
It seems to be more about finding players to fit a certain system rather than ones who are fit for purpose to play football.
The game’s about controlling the ball and passing. But there’s a coaching manual full of catchphrases and systems that would baffle the average mind.
I get the impression that it has reached the stage when a lot of players think it’s more important to fit into a system rather than performing and producing for the team as a whole.
It’s a con. A manager will begin with a certain system and if it isn’t working he’ll change it at half-time and then if he introduces a substitute who happens to deliver a pass for the winning goal or scores himself, the manager will take all the credit for his “inspired” move.
But if the same substitute does nothing, he won’t even be mentioned. So, what’s it all about? The plan is either to confuse the public or keep them in jobs.
What we need is more non-conformists and someone like Kenny Shiels fits the bill.
I met Kenny recently at a social function and we chatted away for quite some time about his views on the game.
I got the impression that he has become less confrontational and no longer feels a need to fight the world.
I’ve heard it said that in life you learn more from your mistakes than you do from your successes and I think that might well be the case as far as Kenny is concerned.
It’s all about what happens on the pitch with your own club rather than trying to solve football’s problems. It seemed that when he was in charge at Kilmarnock Kenny was in the newspapers every week commenting on some aspect or other.
It was as if he felt a need to say what others were thinking and he might have been better advised to have kept his own council.
I think he has a natural talent as a coach and is an enthusiastic deep thinker about the game with a desire to bring young players through and develop their talents through good and bad because he sees something in them that he wants in his team.
He isn’t the type to chop and change constantly for the hell of it. He wants to mould youngsters instead of shuffling the pack and Inverness could do a lot worse than appoint him as successor to Terry Butcher.
Kenny brought success to Kilmarnock and won them the League Cup. They also played attractive football and were difficult to beat.
You certainly won’t find anyone more committed and I just hope he has learned that what happens to his own team is more important than trying to change the SFA’s mindset by having fights with faceless people.
I suspect that the media was using him as a mouthpiece when he should have been concentrating far more on what mattered to Kilmarnock.
And I think if he can stay clear of issues on the periphery and not feel that he is swimming against the tide, he’ll be a better manager for it.
We’ll only find out for sure if he has changed if he gets back into management, and if he does that at Inverness and he’s looking for a scout, I’m in the market for work.