This position I’ve held, it pays my way
The following column is an open letter to a previous manager:
There’s a club if you’d like to go, you could meet somebody who really loves you, so you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home and you cry and you want to die.
Perhaps I was played out of position or perhaps football had simply moved on and I had failed to adapt. Whatever the truth (and a huge amount has been written on it) I will always maintain that I was played out of position.
Signing for a new club is a nerve-racking experience, especially if you happen to be a big money signing. I knew I was a good player but the change was simply too much to take all in one go, not least for my wife and, perhaps inevitably, I ended up parting ways with the club on less than amicable terms while my wife and I attempted to make sense of the wreckage that we had once called our marriage.
Notwithstanding one or two individuals (that shall remain nameless) holding a metaphorical gun to my head, the move was my fault. I gambled the happiness and the wellbeing of the people I love the most for the possibility of a few more people singing my name for a few more years and for a few more quid.
You live and learn.
Aside from all the things that I could have done to prevent the move, I do wish that I’d been more vocal as to why things were not going to plan. But when you are at a new club and you don’t really know the motives of the people around you, the whole thing can become a lonely and depressing saga.
It wouldn’t have taken a lot, a carefully worded sentence to the right journalist would at least have provided a footballing reason for my slow start. Something like; ‘I am very committed to the club and although I’m happy to be part of the team, I look forward to playing in the position that I’m used to.’
You shut your mouth, how can you say I go about things the wrong way?
I have said more often than I care to remember that football at the top level, that is to say the Champions League and International competition, will only be won for the foreseeable future by teams that are prepared to abandon conventional formations (442, 433 etc.). Instead there is a crucial need to adopt a more fluid brand of football where attacking the opponent is concerned.
Typing that again now feels almost like a waste of time, so obvious is movement and ball retention to the fortunes of many teams. But when I proposed that very idea no more than 6 or 7 years ago, I was laughed out of the coach’s office. In fact I can remember the first team coach saying to me; ‘you really don’t know a lot about football do you?’ This was a man that failed dismally as a manager in his own right in a previous life.
Perhaps his reaction was less to do with what I know about football and more to do with the fact that at the time only Barcelona could claim to employ anything near the concept of six inter changeable attacking players. They fielded a combination of Edmilson, Ronaldinho, Deco, Xavi, Iniesta, Guily, Larsson and, at times, a very young Lionel Messi. But at that time even Barcelona were starting most matches with a recognized centre forward in Samuel Eto’o.
The latest ‘word’ to come out of Barcelona is that the conventional centre half will follow the conventional forward in being will be the next major change in top-level football. Javier Mascherano has already proved that a midfield player that is comfortable on the ball can play at centre half, and if you think about it, a centre back is very often the starting point of a team’s attack. Now that Alex Song has signed from Arsenal, don’t be surprised to see the Barcelona team of the future line up with two former centre midfielders as their recognized centre back pairing.
I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does.
Watching the game at Wembley last night, I felt that England actually had a great opportunity to break the mould for a change, rather than follow the herd. How refreshing it would have been to see two ball playing centre midfielders playing at centre half, players that could have brought the ball out of defence with a purpose and genuinely contribute to the attacks, upping the tempo when required.
Where was the real need to play Cahill and Jagielka? The media were dreaming if they thought that by listing England’s previous highest scoring games, they were going to get anything other than the thoroughly predictable. It was an opportunity missed and, perhaps sadder still, one that probably never even found its way in to Roy Hodgson’s thoughts.
I was struck at how little in the way of football intelligence was on show during the game, despite playing the worst team in the world. If a team are setting themselves up not to get beat, then why try to play straight through the middle of them by way of stupid little flicks and blind ‘round the corner’ passes? England did this for the entire first 25 minutes.
The ball should be moved high up the pitch as quickly as possible, from side to side and inside full backs until an opposition player can’t recover his position. Then, generally, a winger gets in behind to cut the ball back.
In five or six years time when Tom Cleverly and Jack Wilshere (ed: corrected) are hopefully able to step in to England’s midfield on a regular basis, we will perhaps begin to see the fruits of what we have learnt from the very best teams. But by that point, who knows what Barcelona and Spain will be doing.
When you say it’s gonna happen “now”, well when exactly do you mean?
See I’ve already waited too long, and all my hope is gone.
With special thanks to The Smiths.