Monday, May 30, 2011

Kiss Me Again

Sorry. I'm going to bang on about Eck again. There are those, myself occasionally included, who will defend Eck's negativity on the basis of horses for courses. We don't have the players to play a flowing, expansive game, so we have to make the best of the talents that the players do possess (Whether Eck achived this is a bit of a moot point). This is fair enough, but then I recall the year he took us up (not forgetting that it was him who took us down in the first place). We probably had the best squad in the division and we were certainly better resourced than most other club in the divison, but we still played negatively. So much so that there were howls of protest and calls for his head.

This coming season will be interesting. Assuming he is still with us. Forget all the talk of losing the telly money and losing players. Most of the departed were either not good enough or past it anyway, and we should be able to replace them easily enough; of those that are left, well, they were part of a team that won a cup, and, so their apologists tell us, were unlucky to go down, so they should be more than good enough. We get a 16 milion quid head start on most of the others, plus substantial sums for the likes of Johnson, Dann and Foster, at least 2 of whom will go. In the context of the division, we will be in a very privileged position, so we will see what Eck is made of. If we don't have a team that can compete, and play with a bit of elan (it's all relative!), it will put me in a very fucking bad mood.

Swansea play Reading today in what is hyped as the richest game in the world, given the prize. I'm looking forward to it. Both teams play attractive football and have nice kits. I like the cut of the jib of both managers.

I mentioned the other day, that to an extent, Eck seems to settle for the mediocre in his players, and can be overly loyal to them, if he likes them. I saw an interesting article with Brian McDermott the other day, in which he talked of his team settling for draws too easily. To make a run for the play offs, they had to rise above the mediocre. He held brain storming sessions with his coaching staff, and got the players to hold their own session, they then met to discuss the outcomes and came up with a plan to get into the play offs. Clearly, it worked. I know David Moyes did a similar thing a few years ago, when Everton were rooted to the bottom after about 12 games, and it worked then too. Obviously, it wouldn't do any good if everyone came up with shit ideas!

The point is, I suppose, to recognise when players and the people around them are settling for the mediocre and to do something positive about it. One of McDermott's inspirations was Mathew Syed's book, "Bounce". I haven't read it, but I have heard Syed talk a lot about it, as he seems to be a permanent fixture on Radio 4. He says that it is no good constantly telling people they are the best, because how can you then expect them to improve? He and McDermott talk about putting in the hours, doing a hell of a lot more than the bare minimum, and they refer to Alex Ferguson who would remark upon the astonishing amount of extra training that Cantona would put in. Blues best recent striker was known for it, even practising on his own in a local park.

For all I know, Eck does all this, but keeps it quiet. I am a bit of an adherent of positive psychology, and, believe it or not, I do tend to accentuate the positive, but that doesn't mean that you should ignore the negative. If something isn't working, you have to look at why it isn't working, and change or get rid of the negative aspects, Sometimes a situation looks disastrous, but only needs a bit of fine tuning to improve things, which doesn't mean that a drastic overhaul isn't sometimes required. There is a famous quote by a famous golfer "the harder I work, the luckier I get", I'm sure our players adhere to that philosophy.

I keep reading Eck extol the virtues of Cameron Jerome. This is good, it is necessary, but, as well as praising him, I hope he is also gently pointing out his faults, and helping him to work out ways in which he can improve. I hope that he does it with all of them, as individuals and as a collective. I hope that,despite appearance, he isn't willing to settle for mediocrity.

According to the recently departed chain smoker and philospher C├ęsar Luis Menotti, there is a right wing and a left wing way to play the game. Eck is a right winger. Menooti has said, "Right-wing football wants to suggest that life is struggle. It demands sacrifices. We have to become of steel and win by any method … obey and function, that's what those with power want from the players". That is Eck, in a nutshell.

Menotti, who reminds me of Gary Megson, a bit, also said, "I maintain that a team is above all an idea, and more than an idea it is a commitment, and more than a commitment it is the clear convictions that a coach must transmit to his players to defend that idea. So my concern is that we coaches don't arrogate to ourselves the right to remove from the spectacle the synonym of festival, in favour of a philosophical reading that cannot be sustained, which is to avoid taking risks. And in football there are risks because the only way you can avoid taking risks in any game is by not playing: and to those who say that all that matters is winning, I want to warn them that someone always wins. Therefore, in a 30-team championship, there are 29 who must ask themselves: what did I leave at this club, what did I bring to my players, what possibility of growth did I give to my footballers? I start from the premise that football is efficacy. I play to win, as much or more than any egoist who thinks he's going to win by other means. I want to win the match. But I don't give in to tactical reasoning as the only way to win, rather I believe that efficacy is not divorced from beauty"

This a man who won the world cup. He knows shit.
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