Everyone can appreciate music, but not everyone can play a musical instrument.
The value of practical experience is summed up by the wonderful Spanish proverb: “It is not the same to talk of bulls as to be in the bullring.”
Likewise, in football, it is important to appreciate the experiential knowledge of those who have played in front of crowds, or coached, refereed in a decisive match, or treated an injured player on the field.
The pitch people, particularly those who have the communication skills to convey their know-how, have much to offer.
The players are too busy trying to win games and to survive the demanding effects of an overcrowded football calendar. They are the ones that suffer most throughout a gruelling season because they are in demand and are expected to satisfy the expectations of the public, the media, the owners and team-mates.
Managers and coaches are always saying it is the nature of their business, particularly when signing players or scrutinising future opponents.
The referees and medical staff are also people of the grass, and they too have lots to offer. One of the game’s top former referees, Pierluigi Colina, came up with referees studying teams’ tactical ploys that they often use in games and how it may or may not influence the referee’s decision-making process at both the Euros and the World Cup.
Professor Jan Ekstrand, former Swedish national Team doctor completed a study of injury patterns in UEFA Champions league by analysing the relationship of football injuries and different playing surfaces and climatic conditions.
Everyone can appreciate music but not everyone can play a musical instrument. The same applies to football.
One of the best examples of this is the standard Saturday Night; you’re on your way home from a game, and the radio is on, a phone-in starts. On they come, the armchair experts: ‘he’s taken the club as far as he can go’, ‘he picked the wrong team’, ‘he put the subs on too late’, ‘he puts his subs on too early’, ‘he’s tactically naive’, ‘he just hasn’t got a clue’.
The calls may be about Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Dean Smith or Darrell Clarke. There are two jobs everyone thinks they can do; be Prime Minister or a football manager.
It doesn’t matter how many trophies and promotions they have won; they know better. But in reality, not because they are daft – most football fans can see when a team is struggling and some can work out why, but they will never have the whole story.
Maybe a defender was left out because he has a personal problem, maybe a substitution had to be made as the midfielder was carrying an injury. There are a lot of things going on at a football club most of which, for all sorts of reasons, the fans don’t hear about it.
It’s not necessary to have been a great coach to have an informed opinion about the game. Like Joe Royle once said: “I would never tell a plumber, a lawyer or a journalist to do his job, but they all know better than me every Saturday.”
There are many officials, journalists and members of the public who have, through years of observation, developed an educated, perceptive ‘football eye’. However, those who are veterans of the battle, on the pitch and on the bench have a special insight into the subtleties and intricacies of the game.
Of course, the observer has the advantage of seeing the big picture and of offering objective analysis, but to repeat the Spanish maxim: ‘It is not the same to talk of bulls as to be in the bullring.’