English football must shake off this ugly obsession with results.
One look at last week’s Bucks Herald sports pages and it is clear that grass roots football in this country is all about winning and losing.
Bedgrove Dynamos lose to the New Zealand, Aylesbury United’s spirited defeat to Staines, 100% start for Hale Leys, Risborough lose after a disputed (when aren’t they) penalty, Tring refuse to lie down, Bucks CC under 11s maintain fine unbeaten start.
Match reports follow the course of the game, mention scorers, team performances or individuals that helped their side win, and an odd comment about lucky or deserved wins, depending on whether the winners or losers are writing it.
There’s not much mention of how the game was actually played, by teams or individuals. Whether one team employed a passing style, or showed good movement off the ball. Nothing much about two footed players, players who are calm under pressure, or who make quick decisions.
Nor players who can read the game, have a nose for goal, or have a commanding presence on the field and in the dressing room.
You might get an occasional ‘well played’ to a seasoned campaigner or a promising youngster, but nothing much as to what either brings to their team.
Managers take the platitudes or make excuses, but you don’t hear so much about why their team played well or how their players might improve.
Obsession with winning and losing isn’t a Bucks Herald or an Aylesbury Vale thing; it’s an English football thing. A six year old who starts playing the game walks straight into this culture.
What they do in training, their team talk, even the ridiculous instructions shouted from the sidelines. Everything is geared towards producing a favourable result.
It’s not like that in Holland, Spain, Germany and Italy. Over there, youngsters learn how to play and enjoy the game.
They gain skills, knowledge and awareness under the guidance of coaches who are neither obsessed with results, nor judged by how many games their teams win.
Down with that sort of thing, over here, though. Breathe one word of it and barstool experts start burbling on about politically correct, non-competitive types undermining the English game.
Even though England are scrapping with Montenegro and Ukraine for a place in Brazil, whilst Holland, Spain, Germany and Italy cruise through their qualifying groups.
In its 150th anniversary year, the FA is trying to align our grass roots game with what the more successful footballing nations do. It’s up against a results orientated grass roots culture, that’s pretty entrenched, though.
Last week, The Bucks Herald ran a piece on its website about Aylesbury United’s Greg Williams move back to Thame United (see page 122). A workaholic, the piece said. Fitter than most, gives 100%, a leader who can help develop young players.
How about a follow-up piece where Greg explains what it takes to play non-league football for over 20 years?
Something that shows that grassroots football is about playing the game, not just the result.
(Sports editor’s note: Naturally we will look to interview Greg for an in-depth feature on his long service in the non-league game as and when he decides to stop playing competitively at non-league level).
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l Crispin Andrews is an Aylesbury-based writer and journalist.
He writes for the Cricketer, Four Four Two, Inside Cricket, Readers Digest, Flipside and Engineering and Technology Magazine.
He has played cricket locally for 25 years, including stints at Aylesbury Town, Tring Park, Dinton & Buckingham Town.