if you have not gathered yet, the writers of this blog have disparate personalities. i wear my heart on my sleeve and mags is the professorial guru, who is concerned more with heady and measured advice than actually feeling anything. you could say we are the yin and yang, the felix unger and oscar madison, the starsky and hutch of the blogosphere. clearly there are times when we do not agree, but there are certain things to which i say word and he says d'accord.
i have watched too many games of football to remember every exciting event, or even care to remember every event. i cannot return to games two, three years ago and recount the exact number of touches so and so took before he megged the keeper, or the tackle that set up a free kick in a game during winter of 2007, but i do remember the attitudes and the commitment of players. i remember those things. i remember whether a footballer cares. i remember whether he sells everything he has to the cause. this is what mags and i will always agree on--the commitment of the players on the side. i can overlook errors, missed opportunities, even loses, as long as i am convinced that after the match is complete everything was left on that pitch.
i walked away from sunday's match against the galaxy carrying a sense of disappointment not because of the result, but because i believed the majority of the players appeared satisfied at being less than mediocre. if there is one cliche football writers love to spread it is the unimaginative headline or theme of a tale of two halves. as displeasing as that cliched description is to read it conformed perfectly to the events of last sunday's game. i watched the same timbers as everyone who reads this blog did, knowing that in the first half they dominated every statistical category known to statisticians only to choose to accept being punched in the nose in the second half. how is it acceptible to not try when down a goal? the purpose of this game is to win, right?
as much as i disapprove of spencer's continued existence at this club, he cannot play on that pitch during the game. the people out there are the professionals who receive a check to try--you know, the players. however, during a conversation the other night, it was suggested that perhaps the poor performances might be due to the fact spencer cannot remove himself from his days as a player in order to become the manager and motivator these players need.
i thought about that concept and the more i considered it, the more i understood that the basic precepts of accountability could very well be issue. to be honest, i am indifferent to the idea but for the sake of this post i will assume a stance consistent with belief. work for you? cool.
in the history of sport, the most succesful managers are not always the most popular personalities. while revered, successful managers are also feared. brian clough, ferguson, george graham, even kenny dalglish (at one point in his career), held the esteem of their players without being besties. being in that position allowed them to question the heart of their players, where being buds would only confuse the descriptions and requirements of their roles and lead to bruised feelings.
consider the recent comments made by the gaffer during training earlier this week:
I'm dissapointed that we never came out the second half and jumped on them a little bit better with more intensity.
whenever spencer discusses the result, good or bad, it is in terms of we. "we" may be the most criminally under-used word in relation to your significant other, family, and friends, but it should always remain unused by a manager when discussing the on-pitch accomplishments of his football squad. he was not out there--the players were out there. evidently spencer is more concerned about fragile egos and being everybody's politically-correct pal than holding the team accountable for their feckless, second-half display. what harm can come from actually calling out the team, the individual players? why not say jewsbury blew the corner, rather than saying:
eventually you get done by a set piece from the best free kick taker, dead ball taker, in the last twenty years of the game. You can't give up chances like that.
he is correct--you cannot give up chances like that, but jewsbury failed to mark his man. he either experienced a lapse in concentration or was completely inept at his job. regardless, he screwed up. what harm comes from either calling him out, or sitting him the next game? this unreasonable insistence that a captain must play because he is the captain is a pathetic form of athletic induced, brody jenner bromance, man-love. let me describe it a different way. my dad loves me. i know this. i knew this when i was a kid. but there was a time in our relationship when we were not friends, we were father and son because he had to make unpopular decisions about my behavior. failing to acknowledge my poor behavior would have simply condoned and reinforced that behavior. when i did not live up to his expectations, he informed me. calling a person out indicates that you believe they are capable of more. for me, that form of support is more effective than burning candles and listening to yanni records, while watching oprah reruns--the last time i checked, stuart smalley was still un-loved and unsuccesful despite all the positive reinforcement.
still, spencer persists expressing his disappointment to the media through verbal hugs and kisses:
I say it on a daily basis, you see the quality. I said to the guys this morning, we've got to have that belief in ourselves and there is no doubt about it, the team need to show more confidence in thier ability, individually and collectively, when they are on the field.
perhaps nothing will change with the performances of the side until the approach to the players changes. while i was never good enough to do much more than play rec-league, i know from experience that i fought harder for my coaches when they defined their expectations of the team and of me as a player.
this theory does not suggest the players are without fault. they should have pride enough in their game and the kit they wear to expect more of themselves than the second half of the galaxy match. considering that, i still do not accept the "we have quality, but lack belief" excuse for the second half. that let down was a resignation, an acceptance of the inevitable. and here is where the proposed theory may have weight. if the players were exposed to the threat of losing their position rather than a session of "positive reinforcment" that promotes the belief they will play week in week out, something more positive than that second-half might arise from their efforts when going down a goal.