Another away game today, so time for a little more reflection on the state of football at Layer Road. Following the theme of the last couple of postings here I thought it might be useful to document some further thoughts on how the U's might improve on their recent performances. I'm going to suggest something quite radical, mainly because most people think it's obvious. It's a tricky technique which only a few players seem to have mastered sufficiently to display it with confidence in front of the home fans.
These observations stem from a number of years of experience of playing football at various levels from playground and street soccer, school teams, youth leagues, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning local leagues, a bit of experience at Intermediate level, and work based teams, to six-a-side, coaching youth teams, refereeing at Junior and Intermediate levels, and most importantly studying thousands of matches on TV from the comfort of my armchair. I have even experienced the joy of this technique while listening to the radio. So you can see I have an impressive pedigree which, for the record, includes watching the 1966 World Cup Final on TV, and 'I Was There' when we beat Leeds in 1971.
So please believe me when I say 'it works'. It works because it's so simple. In fact everyone who watches football knows it works. They know it's really the only way to win matches. I have a sneaking suspicion that professional players know it works, but I guess it's the embarrassment of doing it in front of thousands of fans at Layer Road in that intimate atmosphere of drama, dreams and desire that makes grown men crumble.
What I'm talking about is - passing the ball to a team-mate....
Seriously folks, no-one is going to laugh if you get it wrong or it doesn't work every time. We just want to see you trying it out regularly. Practice makes perfect so they say. Doing it on the training ground doesn't count. There aren't any opposing teams there. You know each other so you get fooled into thinking it's too obvious, too easy, too straightforward (hey, there's another coaching technique!).
What we see all too often is the almighty 'hoof' up the field to the other team's defence. We've been blessed with giant centre forwards in recent years and what we see is them rising above the rest, getting their delicate hairdos to the ball, the deftest of flicks, and ... what? The ball disappears into no man's land or to an opposing player. Why not head it deliberately to one of your team mates? Why not bring the ball under control (we are talking professional footballers here, aren't we?) and look for a team mate to pass it to. Don't put the ball into space and shrug your shoulders cos' no-one can read your mind. Don't put a long ball over everyone's heads and then look amazed at how small the pitch is. Look for the blue and white striped shirt if you can't recognise your mates' faces. Away matches are trickier of course, but let's start with the easy option and try to win some home games.
Just imagine stringing several passes together between players of the same team. You know what happens when you get beyond 5 passes. The fans lose count and start to treat it like a bullfight spectacle - cheering every pass as the bull (I mean the opposition) goes mad trying to get a sniff of the damn ball. Tease the other team for a few minutes, make them forget what it's like to touch that magnetic rolling rock that sticks to our feet, show it to them at just beyond their reach, then snatch it away at the last moment and pass the cape to a team mate. They won't like it, they can't cope with it and they have to resort to a rash tackle in that area of the pitch that has become known as Yeates' Alley. And we know what we expect to happen then. Different ball game!
So come on lads, start performing like 'Yeates and his Mates', the 'Teddy Boys', the 'KKK' (that's Karl to Kevin [W] to Kevin [L]), or dare I say it ..... Colchester United.
So what happens then? As I'm writing this the lads have just been to church (Vicarage Road) and have been absolved for all their previous sins and have come away with a cracking result. Sadly just the one point, but against the table toppers Watford and we did scare the pants off them for a while with a 2-1 lead and Deano saving a penalty. Great stuff.
We now start the next game with a clean sheet so come on lads, try out this passing stuff in front of the home fans. Amaze us with your team spirit. Pass the ball to your team mates. The rest will happen naturally. You know it makes sense.