With a new series of Strictly Come Dancing having started recently, it bought back memories of when John Barnes was a contestant for the later rounds some eleven years ago. The Strictly judges were unanimous in applauding the former England star when he shook his hips Brazilian style a fortnight before and equally critical two weeks later when he was accused of not putting in the necessary work.
That situation emphasises the role of the manager and how they have to know their players. It could easily be said that judges failed to understand their player. Perhaps John Barnes was a dancer who needed a little criticism to keep him on his toes. Perhaps he was one of those that cannot take too much praise in the right way. If a player takes their foot off the gas in training, that will leak into their game.
It is important to remember that sometimes the individual, and or team, performance doesn’t happen for whatever reason. It is important to take many aspects into account, for example, it may be the effect of having the first child and the sleepless nights can massively affect an individual or some other domestic issue or apparent trivia can hinder a performance, and there are many more. The important thing to remember is not to criticise or judge but communicate with the player and find out.
John Barnes loved his night of praise and looked uncomfortable with his criticism even though he took it on the chin.
People talk about good players and teams, for it to be successful everything has to come together in the team. “You have to have the soldiers and the artists,” as Jimmy Armfield used to say, or described it by saying: “you need two piano players and eight piano carriers.” Bill Shankly or the Hod carriers and the bricklayers.
Some of the older supporters will remember players from the early eighties when Halesowen dominated most completions including the WMRL league lifting it four years on the spin. One player who played a pivotal role and used to get a lot of stick off supporters during the era was midfielder John Woodhouse, whose mistakes on the park probably got highlighted more than any other player. But overall, he made us tick.
We look back to Barcelona under Guardiola, one player went under the radar over Lionel Messi, Xavi and Alves, is Sergio Busquets, he bolstered both the team’s attacking and defensive qualities. He was the guy who made it tick for most games. Too often the engine room of a midfield goes under the radar, they are the ones that have defensive qualities to break up play, link up play and then be able to make a pass to start an attack and also break forward to score goals. Who can forget Woodhouse scoring the winner in the FA Vase Replay against Wisbech at Nuneaton to secure a second visit to the twin towers?
Sometimes, as I said earlier, the performance doesn’t happen for whatever reason. It was also important to take into consideration that no matter how we prepare, the performance might not be of the standard.
We should, however, see the bigger picture. Many factors can affect poor performance and when they aren’t at it, help and encouragement are key factors. I have often said to a manager who may not be happy how a certain player is performing and I say, ‘Have you had a chat with him?’ By doing that and sorting it out, some apparent trivia – like I said earlier, a work issue, first child, change of job, a new house, a health issue with another family member or a close relative – are all factors that we should all take into consideration when things aren’t going well for a particular individual out on the pitch.