FA Skills Coach Peter Glynn looks at alternatives to the ‘win at all costs’ syndrome.
With the global media spotlight fixated, the contrast in playing styles and philosophies adopted by Europe’s footballing elite have been illuminated, if not a little over-examined in the last few weeks.Manchester United’s athletic, unrelenting attacking tenacity, proclaimed in the face of Arsenal’s insistency on blossoming harmonious youth. Chelsea’s powerfully loaded, tactically acute mission to stifle, vilified, in favour of Barcelona’s superior appreciation and utilisation of time and space.
It seems, for the moment, whoever wins is best.
Whether you sit in the sporting corner of appreciation for ruthless tactical efficiency or bow to the pleasures of aesthetically pleasing entertainment. I think it would be a brave soul to argue against the notion that if you can develop a team to play beautiful and win; then this is the greatest sporting pursuit of all.
With the Emirates half empty after 75 minutes last Tuesday evening, Arsene Wenger, may – although he would never admit it – have doubted whether his dedication to the organic growth of total football was proving futile. Particularly, when placed on the slab of analysis against Manchester United’s assortment of multi-million pound efficient talent.
With elite football entangled in a culture of mass consumerism; the time needed to mould harmonious football teams is suffocated by the immediacy of fans desire. Incessant, demanding and irrational: most want to drink whatever lies in the chalice of success tomorrow, rather than wait to see what the drink tastes like in five or ten years time. With the media quite happy to follow suit.
Unlike European football’s major powers; junior football clubs aren’t hunched with the burden of competing as a global business. Every aspect of their existence isn’t sliced up with the precision of a surgeon’s blade; laid bare on the column inches of every last scrap of sporting press.
Unlike the paying customer at The Emirates, Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford, Mum and Dad will be in attendance next week regardless of this week’s result. The £3 ‘subs’ will continue to be collected, the kit will be washed, and the club will not go into administration.
Existing in a world where the only pressure – if I dare even call it such – is encouraging the enjoyment and harmonious development of a group of children is a complete polar opposite to the cocoon of pressure Messrs Wenger, Ferguson, Hiddink and Guardiola are wrapped in.
Separated from the backdrop of balance sheets, Russian oligarchs and vociferous season ticket holders; coaching youth football should be a liberating operation- a serene pursuit – free from all bar self imposed pressures.
I sense the tightening of frowns and frantic tapping of disgruntled emails already.
When opposition ‘managers’, parents and even children clamber on board the good ship victory-at-all-costs; some say it is difficult to avoid being embroiled in the pressure to plunder three points. The excuse “because everybody else does” should be saved for the playground and not used to justify the choices which underpin adult behaviour.
If as a junior football club you can unlock the handcuffs of winning at all costs, you may just be blinded by a celestial light refracting from the blank canvas of opportunity that exists in coaching children football. With no pressure to please the owners, or to follow the crowd, there may be a chance to create something beautiful.
Goalkeepers rolling the ball to the feet of defenders: no longer the work of the devil. Central midfielder’s necks relieved of creases. Dribbling in your own half appreciated as a dance of self expression. Defenders who dare to see what life is like over the half way line.
Football can be beautiful if you want it to be. And you may even win whilst helping it become so. The difference is it really doesn’t matter if you don’t.
Guus, Alex, Arsene and Pep can only imagine.
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