A RADICAL IDEA FOR THE SUMMER
I am writing this on the toilet. As I’m sure you well know, this is an arena that provides an unrivalled experience of tranquility. Indeed, the toilet has proved a space of immeasurable success when it comes to creating High Fidelityesque Top Five Lists. But anyway, here’s an idea for those who just can’t let go this summer:
Pick a new team to support.
I know it sounds like an idea from Satan himself… But why not?
The off season is a perfect opportunity to play the field and scout the market. If supporting another team in England is too much for your partisan loyalties why not look further afield? The wealth of football on TV such as it is means that you shouldn’t have any difficulty watching your new team in action. Pick a team with a bit of a backstory and you might just have a new love. For what it’s worth, because I’m greedy, I’m planning on picking a new team to support from 3 or 4 of the major leagues in Europe. Hell, I might even visit them or write about them or even both! But support needs to earned so I’ll be looking for a bit of culture, history and razzmatazz (along with completely arbitrary agendas such as kit colours and use of stripes) in picking my allegiances- I’m taking suggestions! Armchair fans have never had it so good! If you are interested in European history and sociology why not look at it through the lens of a football club, which, in itself, acts as a tremendous shorthand.
I could go on but alas I’ve now managed to drop the kids off at the pool- my time is up.
EVOLUTION, NOT REVOLUTION
Sir! Isn’t that how all letters are started?
Manuel Neuer is the best goalkeeper of the last five years, and potentially for the next 10, because he has taken, and will continue to take, the art of goalkeeping to another level. There are many who bristle at the suggestion he has revolutionised or reinvented goalkeeping, and Justin talks well about those who were known for playing as a sweeper-keeper. But it is fair to say Neuer is pushing the evolution of the goalkeeper.
For the last 18 months, my professional role has meant watching the Bayern Munich keeper on a weekly basis. Aside from excellent shot-stopping, usually after long periods of inactivity as well, Neuer’s distribution and aerial presence are second to none in Europe. But in recent times, the German World Cup winner has often been seen 40 yards plus out of his goal. Here’s the thing, 90% (with 10% showboating and having fun) of the time, Neuer is doing his job. He is tackling where his outfield players can’t and acting as the bounce pass to start his team’s attacks.
Justin, sensibly though arguably conservatively, believes in 10 years, the role of the goalkeeper will not be radically different, but why not? In a Twitter exchange between myself, Justin and the excellent David Preece, it was suggested the ability to make these decisions changed from keeper, and came to down to natural neurological ability. Some people are better than others at making quicker split-second decisions.
But can’t that be taught? Can playing as an auxiliary outfielder not be taught as a core skill alongside footwork and handling? Neuer rarely loses any challenge he makes out of his area, with the majority of them not even ending up as a 50/50, but in his favour. Can his anticipation be taught to young goalkeepers? It was pointed out that some are already trying, but at their own behest or as part of their sessions?
If former and not latter, then why not? Why not show how it can be done and develop drills from there? Neuer has shown it can be done, so why cannot it become the norm? In cricket, many followed the Adam Gilchrist model of attacking wicket-keeper (eventually), and now it seems absurd if anyone considered picking a specialist man for behind the stumps.
Times change, and sport evolves. The next stage of goalkeeping evolution is firmly the Manuel Neuer model. Hopefully, there will come a time he was considered ‘a safe pair of hands’!
Barrie White (not that one)
WEMBLEY IS RUBBISH
Nope, Phil is bang on with his thoughts on the match day atmosphere. As a Newcastle fan the Wembley experience is a distant memory from the 2000 semi against Chelsea, but the creation of the atmosphere should be entirely left to the swaying throng of 90000 fans. It’s up there with this terrible fashion invading our clubs of music when there is a goal. Nothing at all can beat a crowd in full voice. Sadly there seems less of it now.