Swift and decisive…

January 1, 2000

Ken Masters’

Web Watch


Chris Lines

celebrates his

goal against



Watching and following football can be almost a full time pre occupation these days for the most avid football nuts.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s football fans would go from Saturday to Saturday taking in the home league game of their local Football League or Non League club. Away trips were not that common and live televised games were restricted to not much more than the odd international and the FA Cup Final.

Now we have numerous television channels and football matches played on most days of the week. The two days following our home game with Rochdale brought us three Premier League games to enjoy in the comfort of our homes, or the pub. Then there were Euro games in midweek.

I sometimes think that the performance levels of the lower league clubs are often judged against the gold standard of the Arsenals and Chelseas of this world, with their world class players in abundance, and not against the peers at their own level. Someone commented, after the Rochdale game, that we were in a false League position (9th) presumably because he didn’t think our performance measured up. I wonder if he had watched, let’s say Leyton Orient, on the same day. With the greatest respect to them, he may have held a different view. Has football watching moved on from mere expectation to take in unfair measurement as well?

The UEFA Champions League is now in full flow and checking on the UEFA official web site I find that the technical and tactical elements that make the UEFA Champions League such a compelling spectacle occupy the thoughts of Europe’s top football technicians and coaches. The fruits of their most recent labours can be found in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League technical report which is published in full on the site. Click link to the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League technical report.

The report is compiled by a team of experienced coaches and observers. It highlights the tactical and technical trends from last season, whilst posing a number of pertinent questions designed to stimulate debate about European club football’s blue riband competition.

The UEFA site says that the report features a wealth of details that will also interest the lay football fan who follows the competition. And, as a taster, the experts point out the details that can spell victory or defeat.

“In the UEFA Champions League, margins between advancement and elimination can depend on details such as a moment of genius, the woodwork, an individual decision by a player, an inspired substitution, a refereeing decision or, simply, a slice of luck.”

You could, of course, say that about any football competition in any year, and in any decade, not least the World Cup final of 1966.

The web site reports that last term’s total of 320 goals included the usual variety of long range bullets, close range knock ins, brave headers and clever set pieces. The tally, the report says;

“represents a list of the ingredients reguired by the top teams who view the ultimate victory as mission possible. Margins often hinge on competences in executing and defending set plays, in launching well drilled counter attacks, in knowing how to deal with equally fast breaks by the opposition and in developing the specialist individual skills which, translated into long range shooting, solo runs or the effective execution of set plays, accounted for 26% of all the goals scored.”

This suggests to me that modern day football is not all about out and out attacking play but as much about team organisation, good defending, pace going forward and having the skill to take chances when they present themselves. I, for one, watch football and enjoy it in a far removed way than I did in the past and I ask the question; when does being defensive and negative so called become good defending, speedy counter attacking, effective execution in front of goal and winning football matches. One fascinating aspect of the report is the experts’ view on the difference between 2008/09 winners FC Barcelona and last season’s champions FC Internazionale Milano. Inter took the 2009/10 title averaging 45% of possession, compared with FC Barcelona’s 62% the previous campaign. In the final, FC Bayern Miinchen passed the ball 643 times, against Inter’s 289 times… but Inter were more effective and won.

“The stark contrasts between the winners of 2009 and 2010 raise a question,”the report goes on:“Do players and teams need to be educated to feel comfortable without the ball?”

“The successful sides,”explains the report,“are the ones equipped to dominate play and to find swift responses to periods of domination by the opposing team.”

I feel I must relate this to recent performances of Bristol Rovers and to recent opposition. Swindon certainly responded to a long period of domination by us by hitting us on the break on the stroke of half time at the County Ground. Swift and decisive counter attacking play brought victories for us – victories against Huddersfield and Rochdale courtesy of goals from Will Hoskins and Chris Lines. Both goals are sure to feature as contenders for The Football League’s Goal of the Year award for 2010.

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