Good old Theo Foley. I like Theo and he likes Exeter so I like him even more. What a good egg, speaking at a dinner in aid of the Supporters’ Trust. Well done him.
Oh ‘ hold on! What’s that at the bottom of the article? He’s praising old-time ECFC patriarch and Great Man Frank Broome. Mr. Broome, says Theo, ‘wasn’t one of these managers who insisted on you just lumping it up in the air’ He knew how the game should be played.’
I am sick to the back teeth of hearing how there’s only one way to play football properly, to watch football properly or to enjoy football. There are lots of ways to play football, lots of ways to make teams with varying talents work best together. And now I have to say it: I LIKE THE LONG BALL. There, I’ve said it. There is no less fashionable opinion in footy just now. Everyone seems to agree that a passing game is the only set of tactics to keep people interested, has some kind of moral superiority.
And there is some tiny truth there. There’s probably nothing better than watching a side full of brilliant players knocking the ball around in outrageous and imaginative ways, bamboozling oppositions and amazing spectators. But in English football at the moment there are maybe three sides who can play that sort of football, and I’m tempted to say that the true number is rather closer to one. The rest are try-hards who have the odd day, perhaps the odd season of inspiration and the rest of the time are simply not good enough to sustain the perception and accuracy needed to play that game properly.
The worst thing in football is ineffectiveness. You can whine about the long ball game being boring all you like but there’s nothing that bores me more than some idiot half-talented player going on some mazy dribble which leads precisely nowhere, expecting us to be impressed with the silky skills which end up with the ball being planted firmly into touch. It’s infuriating. I hate games being mired in the arrogance of would-be maestros trying to find intricate patterns through overcrowded midfields, in search of the killer pass which won’t come. I want my team to win. I want to see them score.
I don’t want games of football to be Corinthian battles between two sides to determine who has the greater array of talents judged by objective criteria. I love to see tight teams of hard-working players outfighting, out-running and out thinking unimaginative white-booted buffoons who think another few Cruyff turns will save the day. I love the thrill of seeing a fantastic long ball up the channels, unsettling and upsetting cultured defenders and I love to see the game move really quickly, the ball pinging up to the head of the big lad and the keeper left with no chance.
I’m not saying that the long-ball game should be played to the exclusion of all others, but I am saying that we could do without the snobbery, that there are lots of ways to enjoy and lots of things to enjoy. Excitement, effectiveness, end-to-end football. That’s how the game should be played.