October 1, 2014
Turn up

At the weekend Kansas City Chiefs fans at Arrowhead officially became the loudest in the world. They hit 142.2 decibels. I’m guessing Guinness never visited Besiktas fans at the old İnönü Stadium.

There’s no way this was louder than this:

(wait for it)

May 23, 2014
Augmented reality in football

http://augmented-reality-in-education.wikispaces.com/file/view/avatar.jpg/350449778/374x208/avatar.jpg

I know someone who works in designing and managing an augmented reality system for a company. I got cut off quickly when I mentioned Google Glass, forget Google Glass he ordered; we already have lenses, as in micro chipped contact lenses that can be placed directly onto your eye.  Augmented reality will be part of your eye, imperceptibly; with the microchip is part of the lens.  

Augmented reality is coming, and the lenses will become a part of some sport soon, somewhere (the Quarterback in NFL being the obvious guess), and then a slightly longer matter of time until they arrive in football.

What does it mean for the player, coach and spectator?

For the player: increased performance, for the spectator: ability to be on the field with the players through their eyes, and for business: huge profits and revenues.

Players will be able to have and see information around the field of almost unlimited scope. Which players are behind them without looking, which players have run the most, who’s getting tired. It will enhance almost all spatial awareness and what is happening on the field. Players will be sent live information about what is happening on the field; computer and IT departments will become as important as the coaches, who can deliver information to the players in the best, clearest and most efficient way.

Players can be alerted when they’re about to be tackled from their blindside, when a player is offside, which player is on a yellow card, when a player is open for a pass, when and where a player has made a good run, how far away a player is in meters. Players who are looking to receive the pass can be alerted exactly on the field a long pass is going to land, whether they are offside, location of all opposing players from a top down view. What information gets streamed to who will be up to the creativity and choice of the coaches.

Fans, spectators will be able to be a part of all of this. Fans will be able to look through the eyes of any player they like, experience the game as their favourite player is. This has huge commercial potential

Coaches will have instant ability to look at a player and see how far he’s run, any stat he likes floating above all players heads at all times. Coaches will be able to see patterns of play, areas of play, areas of space, fatigue levels, heart rates, sweat rates, body temp, and hydration levels.

A.R is already in use in some sports today in a basic sense. The BBC already use it as do many other sports networks, the first down line across the pitch in NFL, rugby and cricket use it to display advertising on the pitch, and in computer generated replay situations. But A.R through the personal, live streamed contact lens will revolutionize sports, perhaps within the decade.

April 26, 2014
All FIFA World Cup tickets, 1930-2010

Inaugural World Cup, Uruguay, 1930.:

http://p2.la-img.com/500/10815/2606212_1_l.jpg

Came in variety of colours:

http://p2.la-img.com/500/10815/2606214_1_m.jpghttp://p2.la-img.com/500/10815/2606213_1_m.jpg

Italy, 1934:

http://i.imgur.com/MuG7Fxc.jpg

Lovely ticket, incredibly hard to find any more pics of it. Only other I could find is this stub from the final:

http://p2.la-img.com/500/14357/4508864_1_l.jpg

France, 1938:

http://i855.photobucket.com/albums/ab116/magyarfutball/0252_1_lg.jpg

Very classy. Came in a bunch of colours too.

http://p2.la-img.com/500/10815/2606222_1_l.jpg

(Bonus, VIP ticket for 1938):

http://p2.la-img.com/500/10815/2606220_1_l.jpg

Brazil, 1950:

http://i.imgur.com/fWScp8S.jpg?1

http://www.czechsoccernet.cz/obrazky/vstupenky/1950WC_Spain-Brasil.jpg

Switzerland, 1954:

http://i.imgur.com/fBau0Cb.jpg?1

Unique in that they all change patterns in impressively restrained ways:

http://i.imgur.com/tbUOchb.jpg?1

http://i.imgur.com/wwcpjWA.jpg?1

http://i.imgur.com/EIDNGEI.jpg?1

And also, VIP:

http://i.imgur.com/0RMsG9O.jpg?1

Sweden, 1958:

http://i.imgur.com/AN2Rzev.jpg?1

http://i.imgur.com/C6GPj7e.jpg?1

Chile, 1962:

http://i.imgur.com/ou0uBS2.jpg?1

http://i.imgur.com/vhalozj.jpg?1

England, 1966:

http://i.imgur.com/F4B6LuJ.jpg?1

Definitely my least favourite of all World Cup ticket designs, I’m not sure any ‘artistic’ effort was put into these, unlike all the others.

Mexico, 1970:

http://i.imgur.com/DGVDwH6.jpg?1

Mexico took it up a level in colour like Campos’s kits, also a new addition of a helpful clock face.

http://api.ning.com/files/9q5r98yZFob46xeG4wjH1x4LvfztCN1iYfTyVU6oWdPeX55xz4VPfKrLzrL8zi-1/wc70_ticket.jpg?width=737&height=511

^Think this one is VIP, not sure.

http://www.sportingpasttimes.co.uk/trolleyed/images/products/t_ticket026.jpg

West Germany, 1974:

http://i.imgur.com/rh4Lxc7.jpg?1

Clear font, straight lines, calm pastels, efficiently spaced, everything about German graphic design in the 70s

http://i.ebayimg.com/t/WEST-GERMANY-v-HOLLAND-1974-WORLD-CUP-FINAL-REPLAY-UNUSED-TICKET-/00/s/ODY0WDExNTI=/z/pKEAAOxyBjBTUkDh/$_12.JPG

http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Orig-Ticket-World-Cup-Germany-1974-ZAIRE-BRAZIL-VERY-RARE-/00/s/OTcwWDE2MDA=/z/8OAAAOxy4YdTTYLs/$_12.JPG

Argentina, 1978:

http://i.imgur.com/dOJ3yDm.jpg?1

Spain, 1982:

http://i.imgur.com/qlUb27c.jpg?1

http://i.imgur.com/EPZPoGr.jpg?1

Mexico, 1986:

http://i.imgur.com/lx4vSjg.jpg?1

Brilliantly, they made their final tickets golden:

http://i.imgur.com/54B7Bai.jpg?1

Italy, 1990:

http://i.imgur.com/EuKO9DB.jpg?1

USA, 1994:

http://i.imgur.com/6pR6mSx.jpg?1

http://i.imgur.com/cSAE7gJ.jpg?1

very 90s.

Media ticket:

http://i.imgur.com/bwC4GSZ.jpg?1

France, 1998:

http://i.imgur.com/oLAd7qg.jpg?1

Nice touch.

Japan/Korea 2002:

http://i.imgur.com/ZSTAK74.jpg?1

Germany 2006:

http://i.imgur.com/vcHVu7I.jpg?1

South Africa 2010:

http://i.imgur.com/3Z9XTtY.jpg?1

April 22, 2014
Metamoyesphosis

“One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed into a horrible vermin”

So goes the opening line of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Gregor, a formally respectable and successful small time salesman, finds himself incapacitated by his new guise and unable to move with anything more than a shuffle. His whole world had turned on him.

David Moyes must know how he feels. Overnight he went from a respectable, well-liked, three-timed Premier League manager of the year to a clueless, naïve, grotesque vermin worthy of the worst ridicule. A man once known for the respect and work rate he pulls from his players now apparently couldn’t motivate Richard Simmons.

He went from having one of the best relationships with one of the most supportive club owners in the country to being undermined and distanced by his new ones.  Dissatisfied customers posing as football fans were flying planes over the stadium to humiliate him. This was as far away from Everton in everything but actual distance.

The press, who once championed David Moyes weekly as “doing an incredible job” at his former club, had turned on him too. Once a sort of media darling, talked up as a prime example of a British manager who “deserves his chance” at a big club, hacks smelled a story early on with Moyes. The blood scent came from Ed Woodward, his own Chief Exec, leaking stories early on to hacks that Ferguson had previously banned.

The instant new found journalist connections was a shrewd tactical move from the Glazers and Woodward, a shielding power grab that effectively doomed Moyes at the first sign of serious difficulties.

The press, usually kept at a long-arm length away at Old Trafford have become the P.R arm of the silent Glazer family.

Moyes must’ve felt like the Kafka cockroach hiding under the sofa. Where, and how, did it all go wrong, so quickly? He had the support and backing of nearly every person in the game from Ferguson to former players, all the TV pundits and football journalists and the Glazer family. All agreed: “perfect man for the job”.

How could everyone be so wrong? How did none of these people have the slightest inkling that “Moyes was clearly the wrong man for the job from the moment he walked through the door”, (which is the journalists -who supported his appointment originally- current line of choice at the moment)?

Things were mostly steady until December, after the defeat to Everton and Newcastle, even though before those games Moyes was 12 games unbeaten. It didn’t matter. Every utterance was thenceforth analysed to the nth degree for signs of some kind of debilitating psychological weakness he obviously possessed that no one had noticed while at Everton. Problems, bad results and injuries snowballing, all of a sudden it was his humility and lack of bravado that was deemed his weakness. Some United fans were feeling small; they wanted an arrogant, angry manager to make them feel big again. Moyes wasn’t that man.

There was no time for the Glazers to simply attempt to weather this storm of disappointment; MANU PLC is a global corporation that must firstly satisfy investors in short term goals, which weren’t achieved. No time for moral or ethical matters either, or any traditional managerial arc of longevity. It’s an irrelevance.

Much of the sporting tradition of beauty, aesthetics, disappointment and failure go against every grain of modern venture capitalism you wonder where it would leave the fans. Actually, in MANU PLC’s case, they mostly surrendered willingly to what former Man United captain and proclaimed traditionalist Gary Neville decried as the “immediacy of modern life”(to many snarky sneers).  

So, meanwhile, Moyes, “inherited a squad who walked to the league title”

is the favourite term of the Glazer Pravda. He did, but facts always come in relation to at least one other, which is that they had no real challengers last season in an unusually weak league. Also shows how facts can sometime distort. He’s technically got the same squad, but a very different team. Plenty of key players last season were either on their last real season or been injured this (Rio, Vidic, RVP, Rooney, Rafael, Evra, Giggs and more).

So it’s an easy short line to repeat on twitter to discredit Moyes, but it holds no weight as indictment. Plenty of other things could be used, but not the strength of the squad, which has been underfunded and struggling to perform and impress for 4 years now, Van Persie as the massive plaster for last season, and literally everyone knew it, and quickly forgot it as part of Moyes’ nightmare.

The execution was anything but clean or swift. It was drawn out, bloody and humiliating like a pack of hyenas slowly taunting a lone, sick, lost calf from the shadows. Half a dozen selected journalists were told by an unnamed club official the day before. Moyes arrived at Old Trafford at 5:00 am the next morning, Ed Woodward, 3 hours later, at 8:00 am, 20 minutes later his sacking is announced.

Moyes at United, brief results timeline:

-Started well enough – 1 defeat in his first 6 games, winning the Community shield and knocking Liverpool out the League cup and some promising European performances. So far - so steady.

-Then United lost at home to West Brom, but Moyes’ team recovered from that game to go the next 12 games unbeaten, winning most of them, included beating Leverkusen 5-0 in Germany in a sweeping performance full of speed and style.

-Then, 12 of December, pole shift: In the 180 minutes of two games, two 1-0 losses at home to Everton and Newcastle. These two games coincided with the loss to injuries of Rooney and Van Persie.  Moyes never recovered.

-Pole shift in motion, nevertheless team bounced back from Newcastle to win their next 6 straight games,

-New Years Day, 2014 - they hit an awful run of form that never really ended, going out of the league cup and the FA Cup in January. By the time of the miraculous recovery against Olympiacos in March, he was already deemed unfit by investors, and also, less importantly to the Glazers, many of the fans.

6:26pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z2xiSu1DorcRn
  
Filed under: moyes 
April 10, 2014

Running 12,000 metres in one game, like Koke did last night against Barcelona is equal to running from one goal to the other every 45 seconds. Gabi, Atletico Madrid’s other midfielder is the Champions League top worker. Routinely covering most distance on the pitch.  Distance covered is increasingly becoming key to winning games in modern football – and clubs know it. Chelsea certainly do, recent purchases of long distance runners like Matic and Salah, to add to already impressive runners like Oscar and Ramires and Willian is no coincidence. Matic is one of the best distance runners in Europe, and Salah one of the best running forwards.  Recent Dortmund signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan also had some of the highest distance running figures in Europe while at Shakhtar, undoubtedly noticed by Klopp and Co.

Xavi is his generations best midfielder for his passing and control of games, what is less seen is that he is also one of his generations hardest workers. His running figures, along with his other Barca teammates (apart from Messi- but that’s another issue) are always among the highest if not the highest on the pitch, hitting 11,000m in his routine.

How might this change the beautiful game?

Are footballers running more than they ever have? Socrates claimed that the average player in Brazil in the 1970s ran 3.5km per game, and today we run on average 10km a game. He considered this a problem for the game, and suggested we reduce the amount of player in a team to 9 to increase time on the ball – but is he correct that players are running more, and have less time on the ball?

There aren’t many footballing legends that hold doctorates so I think we should at least be willing to consider the effects of Socrates idea.

The German Sport Academy of Cologne conducted a study of 19 World Cup games from 1958 right through to 2010. There are a lot of variables here, like the importance of the game looked at, climate conditions, amphetamines used etc, but they throw up some interesting results. They focused mainly on the pace of games and found the German World Cup team of 1974 were playing games at the fastest pace.

The German World Cup teams with the highest average pace were as follows:

Pace

1974 2.60 meters/per second
2010 2.60 m/s
1966 2.40 m/s
2002 2.25 m/s
1986 2.10 m/s
1990 1.95 m/s
1982 1.90 m/s
2006 1.85 m/s
1958 1.80 m/s
1970 1.75 m/s

To get these figures the researchers measured the playing time in relation to the distance the ball covered.

Also measured:

Average time a player spent from receiving the ball to passing it:

Avg. 1958-1990 4.64 seconds
Avg. 2002-2010 4.04 seconds

From these results we see players did seem to have longer on the ball in the past. These results are still inconclusive of course but indications are that the game has not increased in pace quite as much as people seem to think. The German 1974 team outpaced the 2006 team by almost a full second, both those World Cups were played in Germany. The 1970 World Cup in Mexico was played in stifling heat, and should be noted as a reason games in that archetypical classic era may look slower than today.

Not many would disagree players are much fitter today, there are more conditioned athletes in teams.

So we return back to distance covered in games. It seems clear it has at least increased by a few KMs per player. Figures are hard to come by and I am looking for more information on this, I know ‘Kicker’ magazine ran a study in the 1970s on this.

The increased emphasis on running distance in games might change the sport fundamentally. We may already be looking at it. If managers like Mourinho, Klopp and Pep believe a key to winning games is hard running and covering big distances, and evidence suggests they do, and they are right, we can see why the days of 2 strikers are over. In Pep’s case, and he is a reference point because he is so influential - it seems he would prefer no strikers at all. Coaches want more men in midfield, midfield/forward hybrids – and not because of defensive duties, but because of the importance of distance ran. They want as little space on the pitch for the other team to play in as possible.  We are certainly seeing that in many teams – and it’s hard to combat. Teams that play a Guardiola team are not given a moment to think. Socrates would likely despair at seeing it. Managers are increasingly marginalizing the lighter weighted, creative players as a luxury item – when once, perhaps longer ago than we think (even geniuses like Baggio were unfavoured by Italian coaches, but that wouldn’t surprise Socrates) – they were whom the team was built around.

Would reducing the number of players on a team help the creative players flourish again? I’m usually against any sort of change to the game, and this seems like one of the most drastic measures possible. But with teams already reducing the numbers of specialised forwards in their teams, the fear than coaches would just strike off a striker if the game went to 10 a side are no longer really valid. I do not believe the sport would be damaged by going 10 (or 9 a side for Socrates) a side, I think more space would obviously be created.

Franz Beckenbauer last month called Pep’s football boring to watch, like Barcelona, and criticized Pep for not allowing Schweinsteiger to have more freedom to shoot. He later retracted the statement after a storm of controversy. So are the traditionalists right? Is football less enjoyable to watch today, from an artistic sense? Should players be given more time on the ball?

March 17, 2014
A list of reasons for the sacking of David Moyes.

He failed to keep hold of former Chief Exec David Gill, who decided to retire last February. The former successful, long standing and well-connected Chief Exec had been a cornerstone in all Man Utd transfer dealings for the last decade so not to keep him around and instead bring in the likes of Phil Neville was frankly absurd.

He failed to slow down the aging process of Ferdinand, Vidic, and Evra, and instead chose to oversee replacing the bedrock of United’s success over the best part of the last 10 years with young, relatively inexperienced players, who are in a steep learning curve, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. And whatever else Ferguson left behind, like Buttner. Most of who were blunderful in defence even under Sir Alex. Nice work Dave.

He injured Van Persie for a total of 11 of United’s first 21 games.  RVP was widely accepted as being the difference last season of Champions and Europa league position.

He kept Wayne Rooney at the club after Fergie had been making admirable progress in kicking him out.

Michael Carrick, the crucial and only sad little cog present in midfield that Ferguson left behind, isn’t performing like he used to. He looks unfit, uninterested, and unfocused, and approaching his 33rd year this June. Blame Moyes? Sure, whatever.

He failed to match Chelsea, Man City and Spurs combined spending of £300 billion in the summer with a club £300 million in debt. What’s he doing?

What’s he done to Ryan Giggs? He used to be ageless. Everyone knew this and it was accepted. Moyes comes in and all of a sudden he’s turned 40 and it’s like he’s not able to stand up to the rigours of Premiership Football anymore with players half his age? All of a sudden it’s decided maybe it’s time to “give other players a chance to play”. Fergie was a master of picking Giggs to play in the most inappropriate of games, and it normally backfired in such a way that United ended up winning the match. Like against Liverpool for example, Giggs always played v Liverpool, got overrun, and United would win the game. Not playing 40 year old Giggs against a young, fast, aggressive Liverpool midfield was something Fergie wouldn’t have dreamed of.

He spent £25 million on a central midfielder. He needs to remember what club he’s at. It’s not Everton anymore. This is United and United don’t buy central midfielders.

He doesn’t move his arms around loads on the sidelines, like a Benitez or a Mancini. He doesn’t look like his physically battering officials in his head like a Mark Hughes. He doesn’t play nervously with his zipper like a Wenger. He doesn’t even walk onto the pitch to goad people or gauge out the eyes opposition coaching staff, like a Mourinho He just stands there. Or even worse sometimes he just sits there. Looking like he’s thinking hard about things. MORON.

Nani.

He’s generally improved the performances of Ashley Young from last season. Frankly pathetic.

He’s turned Danny Welbeck into more of a goal threat. Again, annoying for a lot of people, most especially rival fans who enjoyed mocking him for that side of his game.

He’s brought through Adnan Januzaj successfully from the youth team, therefore causing the league winners from last season to rely upon an 18 year to create that “little bit of magic that you need in games”.  Again no idea what he could have been thinking here. Again, Fergie was a master in not letting snot nosed 18 year olds from the youth team show up the gaping holes in your first team. Look at Pogba – he’s now a massive success at Juventus for instance.

He doesn’t come across as having a deep-rooted narcissistic  personality disorder during post game interviews or press conferences.
It’s almost like he’s humbled by the position he is in. Complete joke.

6:12pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z2xiSu1APWdgV
  
Filed under: moyes man utd ferguson united pl EPL 
January 26, 2014
A Mata Of Taste

Why Mourinho was so eager to get rid of Mata in January.

1:

The title race in England is tighter and contested by more clubs than it has been for a long time. 22 games in and it could still be argued 5 clubs are still in with a shot, and the top 3 are separated by 2 points.

Cynical commentators have tried to label United buying Mata a panic buy.  But if Mourinho sold Mata at this point in the season due to the possibility of his presence in the United team taking 3 points from both Arsenal and Man City, I’d say this might have been more of a panic sale. The immediate comments of Wenger and Pellegrini clearly suggest they think Chelsea have broken some kind of convention of fair play here.

What would Chelsea have to lose? Well if they didn’t sell him, £37.1 million as it turned out.  Mata is not part of Mourinho’s interests. Gaining £37.1 million while setting up the marginally higher chance of Man City and Arsenal dropping more points? Selling Mata at this moment could be Chelsea’s ace in the hole.

2:

Or is the reason less cynical and slightly underhanded, and more…personal? Mourinho has a clear recent history of totalitarian treatment of players he even suspects are not in total and unyielding respect of him as a leader.

Mourinho’s time at Real Madrid was certainly, at least personally, the most unhappiest of his career. He was in constant war with the unimpressed Spanish media, and most notably, at war with his own players. Specifically, his incredibly popular Spanish players.

August 2011 and Mourinho did something that changed the course of his career. During a touchline brawl against Barcelona that started due to a wreckless, spiteful challenge by one of his own players on the debutant Cesc, he jammed his finger into an eye of Tito Vilanova, gauging Pep Guardiola’s assistant in front of the packed Nou Camp.

For many Madristas, including Iker Casillas, it brought shame on the institution of Real Madrid. So much so, the widely iconic and much loved Real Madrid captain Casillas thought it necessary to call one of his closest friends, Barca captain Xavi, after the incident to apologise, and try to build bridges.

Xavi’s father later revealed Mourinho took deep offence to Casillas’ attempt at a truce between the clubs. Casillas barely saw another game under Mourinho at Real Madrid.

Disaffected onlookers will claim Casillas’ form was shaky at the time anyway. Either way, the circumstances around Casillas’ removal, and his replacement by a completely ill-equipped Adan descended into farce in the eyes of fans. Adan was sent of in the 6th minute of Madrid’s first league game, Casillas was subbed on, and Mourinho was made to look a fool.

Mourinho’s claims that Adan was simply a better option for his team were further ridiculed when Casillas broke his finger and was ruled out for months. Mourinho, clearly not so confident in Adan as he had claimed, went out and brought in Diego Lopez for the rest of the season. Lopez as it turned out, showed himself to be more than capable deputy.

The whole saga created a huge split in the Madrid dressing room, with Sergio Ramos disrespecting Mourinho on the pitch (with his straight refusal to play where Mourinho asked him) and off (“Why did I disobey Jose? Because he has never been a footballer”).

It was claimed Mourinho had lost half of the dressing room (the Spanish half) at Madrid, even at times his relationship with Ronaldo was questioned.

Meanwhile, last year while on international duty with fellow teammates Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas (and Juan Mata), close friends, the popular and usually uncontroversial Andres Iniesta made this remark:

“You just have to look at the facts,” Iniesta said in an interview with El Pais. “Yes, he damaged Spanish football, in general more harm than good. But I don’t like talking about that person at all. So if you don’t mind we’ll leave it at that.”

The Spanish World Cup winning national team, of which Mata was and is apart of (32 caps 9 goals) is famously close-knit.

Mata too, of course, has history with the institution of Real Madrid, spending 4 years in their youth setup learning his trade.

There’s no evidence that Mata and Mourinho have had any direct difficulties, but it is clear, Mourinho seemed to decide he didn’t want Mata in his team even before pre-season had started, and before he had watched Mata kick a ball. Rumors of early attempts in July to offload the Spaniard were abound.

Does Mata’s Madrid history and close friendships with Mourinho’s arch-enemies represent some bad memory of a dark time for Mourinho? Is his totalitarian paranoia worried that, perhaps, deep down, Mata is not enthralled with the personality of Mourinho, not enraptured with his very being like so many of Mourinho’s successful players seem to be? How unlikely is it that to Mourinho’s mind, Mata, due to his strong allegiances, may even not care much for the Special One?

If so, and it seems likely, then Mourinho has done the right, and logical thing. Anyone would in his position. Mourinho is so keenly aware of dressing room dynamics, man-management, and the importance of his influence on his players. If Mourinho had doubts about the loyalty to him of Mata, he had no real choice but to sell him. He put his trust in other players from the start. The fact he was Chelsea’s best player of the best few seasons is just bad luck for Chelsea fans.

January 2, 2014
Moyes’ dilemma.

It’s often stated that because David Moyes has the same winning squad from last season, that it’s a good indicator for this season, that he is personally under performing. The team sitting as they do in 7th place, 20 games in.

As if the champion squad of players at his disposal should be the least of his problems.

As if if he can take a team that strolled the league to probably not qualifying for Champion’s League, that it clearly shows he’s out of his depth.

Yet a squad of winners is Moyes’ biggest dilemma.

Moyes entered a dressing room full of league winners and some Champion’s League winners. All they know is to win. All they listening to was a man who had only ever won. Winning trophies is the language of the dressing room at Old Trafford. Moyes entered this dressing room as a man who has won nothing.

Moyes’ biggest dilemma is telling these players how they should be doing things. To do it his way. Not their way. And not Ferguson’s way.  Especially when things go wrong.

When things went wrong under Ferguson he had the unquestionable authority in all things winning to set them straight again. Everyone was waiting, listening for orders. Bad form never lasted long . Such was the trust in his standing, pressure was almost taken off player’s own minds, comfortable in the knowledge that with Ferguson leading ship, there’s no wave that can knock them down. Never has been.

You can imagine this part of man-management is incredibly difficult for Moyes at United. If they play a bad game, how comfortable does he feel reading the riot act, telling these players where they’re going wrong? And how much are these proven winners listening?

Manual Pellegrini had never won anything either with the 3 Spanish teams he coached before he arrived at Man City. But the huge difference here is he arrived to a team of losers. They struggled to compete with United over the season, only beating them on goal difference the year before, and went out of the Champion’s League with a whimper.

The City players, many unhappy under Mancini, were desperate for a new leader in the summer. The United players lost theirs.

And when things start going bad, maybe Moyes isn’t perceived as best placed to tell them what they’re doing wrong. There’s no question this is a United squad of complete professionals who have also been selected by the manager previous, largely due to their impeccable attitudes behind the scenes.  There’s no real troublemakers for Moyes to deal with. But it won’t make his job any easier.

This isn’t the transition season for Man United. It’s the transition pre-season. The real transition season(s) is when he inevitably has to get rid of the Ferguson players and bring in his own.

Moyes has taken on a job unlike any other in the history of football. A club, squad, stadium and training ground still sweating from the double decade hedonism of the Ferguson years. His challenges are gigantic but his biggest one is of course his influence on the players. It will surely take years, and will also take a big trophy. The earlier the better.

The Untied ship is steady but the endless sea of Arabic and Russian money surrounding it is swelling stronger than ever. Moyes will need all hands on deck if he is to keep afloat.

October 11, 2013
Coach or…..?

Of all the diverse coaching methods of the great and greatest of football managers, there is one nexus they all seem to revolve around: keeping it simple. It is an immense desire that has been demonstrated from Clough to Cruyff, Busby to Del Bosque, and Herrera to Happel. The amount of abstruse coaching courses you left at the top of the class is of negligible importance. It is a fact that that has been proven throughout football history and is being proven in football’s present.

Managers today are often belittled if they do not have all their carefully regulated coaching qualifications in order, and whispers of condescension circulate about managers who are not deemed to be tactically assiduous. Cave dwelling, out of date, dragging their uncultured knuckles all their way from some bygone epoch across our new glistening pristine pitches. While plenty of hackneyed and humdrum managers certainly inhabit the game, their mediocrity certainly has nothing to do with their lack of interest in any prevailing puritanical tactical system.


Being an astute tactical mind is simply a prerequisite for a successful manager in competition, as is having your own successful and dynamic system of how to play the game. But does the most technically gifted musician equal the most inspirational, or effective? Picasso was able to paint with studious precision and technical brilliance, but he learned early on that was not the most effective way of expressing his ideas.  Some of the greatest coaches may not have been putting on the most technically and tactically intricate training sessions, but the point is does it matter? The trophies prove that it doesn’t. In fact, their absence may tell us more about their brilliance than anything else.

Steve McManaman said that while he was at Real Madrid, Vicente del Bosque rarely, if ever, gave tactical talks, and didn’t speak to players after a game. He has won two Champions Leagues, a World Cup, and a European championship. How could such a modern coach, be so uninterested in explaining to his players tactical side of the game?

The reason is itself simple, there is something far more important to Del Bosque, and it was psychological simplicity. Unconditional trust in each other was del Bosque’s sacrament. An implicit belief in the player’s ability has been the hallmark of Spanish teams recent domination of football.  To go one step further, it would seem not only were highly tactical coaching sessions avoided by most of the most successful managers, their absence begins to seem principle to their success.

The style of limited management, of ferocious silence, is a remarkable recurring theme in great managers.  Bob Paisley was famously a man of little words to his players, but no one was in any doubt of his knowledge. Ernst Happel, Gunter Netzer explained, “Was able to tell you everything about the game, without ever speaking a word”.  Alex Ferguson, like many managers, farmed out the technical side of training sessions to assistants, and kept his input to a minimum. He merely observed, and corrected. We are not simply talking about great motivators. There is no dichotomy of ‘tacticians or motivators’. It is far more than that. Like Johann Cruyff can’t stop telling people, it is about imparting a philosophy. That philosophy can be one of many things, but it must be simple. “Nothing is more difficult that playing simple football”, he said.

Even Arsene Wenger, Le Professeur, who has produced teams that have gone a full season unbeaten, and revolutionised how the game is played in England, has been accused of not being “hands-on” enough during training. Wenger spoke once at an LMA ceremony about how he believed growing up in a pub in France, listening and observing how adults treated each other from a young age, was the crucial factor in his success as a manager. He said he also learned all about tactics this way too, but it was clear which one he found more important. Yet his perceived lack of direct coaching has been jumped on as a fatal flaw in the manager by fans, pundits and media when things don’t go well for Arsenal. Ferguson has endured similar whispers. This is such a grand misreading of the reasons for their success.

To even more modern times, the current crop of impressive upcoming coaches shows no bucking of historical trends. The likes of Conte, Klopp and Simeone all display familiar famous traits.  The psychology of successful man-management doesn’t change.

Dortmund’s charismatic leader Jurgen Klopp is renowned for his extraordinary man management skills, funnelling his enthusiasm and sagacity effectively into his team’s play. The bond he builds with players is unique.  Klopp’s training methods are often far from technical, focusing more on unusual psychological strengthening methods. Yet most talked about, most commented on in post game analysis, is the tactical side of Dortmund’s play. As if the secret to their success is hidden on the dressing room white board. Klopp’s teams play simple, clearly outlined football. It’s not a success of tactics. Klopp achieves his simple strategic aims by the types of players he selects; and above all else, Klopp places an emphasis on team spirit. He shares this trait with World Cup winner Marcelo Lippi, ‘The most important trait of his management’, Italian football expert James Horncastle said on Lippi, ‘is his ability to forge a team spirit.’  Tactics seem merely collateral.

Pep Guardiola, the Catalan architect of possibly the best club side of all time, and a vaunted creative student of the game fitted perfectly into the Barça philosophy of keeping it simple (tika-taka). By focusing on basic skill development and total discipline, he simply continued on the path laid down by Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels before him. Much time is spent analysing the Barcelona tactical method, yet when Xavi was asked what is their training secret, he replied “It’s all about rondos [piggy in the middle]. Rondo, rondo, rondo. Every. Single. Day. It’s the best exercise there is.” It doesn’t get any simpler as a coaching method than that.

 

August 22, 2013
Anakin Skywalker and Wayne Rooney.

You had a responsibility! You betrayed me and the Order by your actions. And your inability to see that troubles me the worst of all.
-Obi-Wan Kenobi

Be mindful of your thoughts Anakin. They’ll betray you.
-Obi-Wan Kenobi

Yoda:Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.
Luke: Vader… Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.

Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it’s a better cow than the one you’ve got in your own field. It’s a fact. Right? And it never really works out that way.
-Sir Alex Ferguson.


Both noted for their exceptional talents/force from a much younger than usual age. Rooney youngest ever England goalscorer, Anakin youngest ever winner of the Boonta Eve Classic podrace and youngest Jedi council member.

Both from difficult, often troubled social backgrounds.

Both predicted to be the “chosen one” while many casting doubts on their temperament for the future.

Both noted for being more emotional than intelligent, both having impulsive emotions that could quickly boil over and cause them to make rash decisions.

Both married childhood, er, sweethearts.

Both left their home (fairly reluctantly) under a cloud from their previous ‘employers’.

Both eventually taken under the guidance of a well known and widely respected old master for training (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Sir Alex Ferguson).

Both had fractious, heated, troublesome but committed relationships with their masters.

Both ended up feeling resentment towards their masters and their masters’, er, order.

Both felt that their masters were often holding them back.

Both in anger accused their masters of betraying them.

Both ended up feeling they had gone as far as they could with their current order.

ENTER SENATOR PALPATINE/DARTH SIDIOUS/PAUL STRETFORD

Both had a friendship with a mistrusted figure in the background, whose intentions their masters had warned them of.

Both felt strong feelings of attachment and responsibility to this shadowy well known as deceitful figure.

Both had this devious and self-serving figure telling them they must leave their old masters to truly fulfill their potential.

Both accused of being brainwashed, controlled, and manipulated by this figure.

Eventually, Anakin’s evil figure in the background won the battle for his mind, and his old master, Obi-Wan, retired and retreated away into the background himself.

Which leaves the question….

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