Editor’s note: This is the first article for EPL Talk written by former professional footballer Mark Burke. Mark played for several clubs in England, most notably Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Plus he played overseas in the Dutch Eredivisie, J2 League and has the distinction of being the first English footballer ever to play in Romania.
The great thing about football, the thing that makes it so popular, is it’s simplicity. There’s a piece of grass, a few lines to guide you, a ball; now get on with it.
No rules on how you have to play, what style you must adopt, a few little points on etiquette, which we usually ignore anyway, as long as you stay within those few simple rules then you are fine.
Much like a mother who sends her children out to play, as long as they come home safely, they haven’t broke the law or hurt themselves or anybody else then it’s up to them how they play.
Which is why I find the debate that continually rages around Stoke City and the way they play so fascinating and entertaining.
“They are a disgrace,” “They don’t play ‘football’,” etc etc.
I am the biggest football ‘purist’ you could meet. I could talk your ears off about how I think game should be played, why it should be played that way and how to play it that way.
But, I will also say there is NO ‘right’ way to play football.
I will defend anybody’s right to play however they like, even if I question it myself and would not want to play or coach a team to play like that. It’s up to that team, those players and most importantly, their manager, how they interpret the rules they are given.
I don’t agree with what you say but I defend to the death your right to say it.
A football manager has to be honest with one person and one person only – himself.
He is the one who must live with the criticism if things go wrong, so any manager will tell you it’s best to do it your own way, according to your own beliefs and then if it fails to can rest your head at night in peace with the knowledge you did all you can.
Better than trying to live up to somebody elses ideals and expectations and failing, then they can expect sleepless nights visited by the ghosts of games past detailing their failings in lucid nightmarish detail.
He must ask himself what are his football beliefs, what is his vision of the game and then set out a plan to implement to his players and staff as to how they are going to achieve it.
This is what Tony Pulis has done and what a great job he has done. People may say he is doing what he can with the ‘material’ he has but I think he would impart the same vision to a different set of players and why not? It’s totally up to him.
Football clubs were set up to perform a social function, as centres of communities, a place where all could meet and be entertained.
For football fans being entertained usually means winning more than you lose.
Nowhere is this more obvious than at Stoke, a one club town where the feeling is always stronger. Stoke City and those fans are having the time of their lives.
I say long may it continue and to any fans taking the moral football high ground remember football is a question of interpretation and he who interprets, understands and implements his own vision best has a good chance of success.
As Tony Pulis might say “I have nothing to declare but my honesty.”