In this day and age it is somewhat accepted that the “big clubs” will dominate all across the board in English football. Somewhat stale air breathes on football as the stranglehold of money dictates all.
Is it possible a manager could overcome these shackles of expectations and pessimism to follow in the footsteps of Brian Clough, OBE?
Mr Clough and assistant Peter Taylor did the unthinkable of taking not one — but two — second division teams to win a series of silverware. Nottingham Forrest won the European Cup twice under Clough’s guidance.
What has happened to the belief and ability to match the game’s heavyweights? I’d like to think it is still possible for greater competition with the simple addition of belief to a side.
How can anyone deal with such dominance by the top teams?
In any given game either team can win or lose. Hunger to win coupled with the genuine thought that it is possible can often outweigh any form of quality difference. Players at any team in the Barclays Premier League should be able to execute. And the belief is something that can be seen in how the manager approaches the press.
Look at the boys from Bloomfield Road last season. Blackpool had a go at it and along the way grew in the hearts of many with a comic manager in Ian Holloway. Blackpool beat Liverpool twice in the league and also beat this year’s title contender Tottenham.
“I call us the Orange club – because our future’s bright!” said Holloway, in one of his many funny quotes.
On Sunday January 15, 2012 Swansea beat Arsenal 3-2. Swansea may have been at home but they definitely served up a performance holding Arsenal to 45% possession throughout the game. Arsenal is not used to seeing so little of the ball given they are known for passing and holding on to it so well.
When Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers was asked if Arsenal was a side he enjoyed watching given the manner in which his own team play, he replied: “I enjoy watching Swansea, I think we are fantastic, some of the football we play, the statistics are up there with the top teams in European football, so I really enjoy watching Swansea.”
Maybe teams should approach games looking to earn their own respect rather than respecting the opposition to a point of mentally discarding their own chances. As a fan it is easy to get behind a man who shows that he thinks he can lead a team above expectations.
In December 2011 Wigan Athletic faced Arsenal. Roberto Martinez found himself caught up in Robin van Persie mania in the pre-match press conference. “Obviously he’s a world class player and I don’t think you can describe many players nowadays with that title, but the truth is he’s got all the individuals around him as well that can really hurt you if you leave yourself exposed.”
Martinez went on to further flatter the opposition by saying that Arsenal can not be contained even if van Persie can be stopped. The Dutchman had scored 13 league goals at that point in the season. Instead the Spaniard was quick to note a number of other threatening players at Wenger’s disposal.
“Gervinho, Walcott, Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, they are players that are very, very good at one on one situations, so you have to be very, very careful.”
Arsenal went on to win, crushing Wigan’s 4-0 after their mini revival in the league. Wigan looked somewhat uninterested, displayed negative body language and seemed beaten from the kick-off. Martinez should probably concentrate on his own side in the run up to matches not praising the superior opposition as there are no points awarded for making friends in this league.
Brian Clough was known for his controversial encounters but would very rarely be found offering respect to the opposition. Just a thought… believe.
You may not agree with what he had to say but the way Brian Clough put it across showed real belief:
“If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there.” On the importance of passing to feet.
“I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one.” Looking back at his success.
“I bet their dressing room will smell of garlic rather than liniment over the next few months” Not too impressed with the amount of French players signed by Arsenal.
A world away from the comments given by Wigan’s Roberto Martinez, ‘eh?
In memory of Brian Howard Clough, OBE (21 March 1935 – 20 September 2004)