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Off the cuff v tactical

When I was a kid and became interested in football in the sixties, Charlie Buchan’s Football Monthly was required reading. It had big colour photos of our heroes but some interesting copy as well. Basil Easterbrook, a football writer for 35 years would recall great games he saw with a style few if any modern journalists can emulate.

Once a correspondence began on the off the cuff football versus tactical methods and this continued for several issues.  It might have been generated by the two leading teams Manchester United and Leeds having contrary styles. The Manchester side contained George Best, Booby Charlton and Denis Law, one of the most exciting forward lines of virtuosi ever. Leeds had Eddie Gray, a stylish winger, but hard men like Jack Charlton, Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles, Norman Hunter and Paul Reaney who were adept at stopping the opposition from playing. No conclusion was ever reached which was the most successful and effective. Refereing has tightened up. It’s said the modern ref at the Chelsea v Leeds 1970 replay would have red carded most of each side to reduce the game to a five a side.

I thought of this correspondence watching Arsenal play Chelsea. John Pargiter called me for a betting view and I said 0-0 was a nail on. I’ve seen Mourinho squeeze the juice out of a game so many times in European competition. As Ivanovic said, he’s fine to work under as long as you do as you’re told. I was not surprised that more wayward talents like Juan Mata left. Talking of Manchester United, Fergie would play a maverick like Cantona and Brian Clough had his too, like Kenny Burns, but both managers were supreme motivators and organisers too like Mourinho.

Although soccer has saturation coverage and there are numerous call-in programmes, there is relatively little discussion of tactics. Reporters are far more interested in the latest controversy like  the “boring, boring Chelsea” chant and Mourinho’s riposte about how mentally and physically draining it is to play the pressing game required to shut out free flowing Arsenal.

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About Rex Mitchell

Rex Mitchell is a Brentford supporter from childhood. This has not prevented him having a distinguished Fleet Street career as a sports reporter and later deputy football editor. A widower, Rex is a bit of a bandit golfer off his official handicap of 20 and is currently chairman of his local bowls club. More Posts