We can’t all be Arsenal…

I love watching football, I love playing football (although it hurts too much now) and I love coaching football.

When I watch football I can see all the good ideas and all the mistakes. When I play football I know exactly what I should do and where I should be but my body won’t do what I want it to. It never really did, but it certainly doesn’t now! When I coach football I know precisely what I want my players to do and I know exactly how to be successful.

The problem is, of course, that what I want my players to do is to play like Manchester United or Barcelona or more specifically, I want them to play like the Brazil world cup winning team of 1970. That may be too much to ask of my Wiltshire League Division Two side, Wilton Town!

It was the same when I played. I was generally a full back or played somewhere in the back four. I thought I should be able to play like Tony Adams or Paulo Maldini. Unfortunately, I was far more likely to fall over the ball or shank my clearance into touch than either of those two were. I was probably less good in the tackle and I maybe didn’t win as much in the air.

When I go to watch my beloved Watford play I get very frustrated with their errors and their lack of flair and imagination. Together with everyone else in the crowd, I can see the seventy yard diagonal pass that should be played or the opportunity to scream one into the top corner from thirty yards but the players just don’t do it.

The point I am trying to make is that we are all spoilt by the TV coverage of the very best in football around the world. We constantly see the very elite of the game producing wondrous skill, tricks and ability. We see Messi or Ronaldo do a trick and get in a shot and I just can’t understand why my right sided forward player at Wilton can’t do it.

In a recent preseason friendly we had at Wilton I questioned a refereeing decision. The ref looked at me and said, “Ok mate. If I was any good I’d be refereeing in the Premier League, wouldn’t I?”

It really was a very fair point. It made me feel a bit silly. If I was a top coach I’d be higher up in the game and if my players could do what I want them to do, then there is no way they would be playing in Division Two of the Wiltshire League.

I think this is part of the problem for football fans around the world. We all see the best on television and then expect the best when we go to see our local team, whether they be in the Championship, Second Division, or the local park team. It is unrealistic but we all do it.

There is nothing wrong with a desire to improve and do the best you can. In fact, that is what we should all do. We pay our money to watch the games and we rightly expect to be entertained. I expect my players at Wilton to try their hardest, turn up to training, listen and learn. I expect them to follow instructions and to win their games. All of that is fine. It is when I expect them to make no mistakes or do something that only the very best players can do that I make a grave error.

I also think that is where we make a mistake as fans. We simply expect too much from our players. If we could only be more realistic we might become less frustrated by what we watch. We might appreciate the good play more and excuse the poor play without getting so angry.

I am not suggesting that we should ever settle for second best (although as an England fan you sometimes have no choice!) – we should always expect the best that the players are capable of, but never expect more.

If the only football we ever saw was our local non-league team or lower league team we would have a much more balanced view of what to expect.

I should point out to Messi and Ronaldo that Wilton Town played pretty well in their 3-0 defeat to Redlynch in last week’s preseason friendly, so if they did fancy trying their luck at Castle Meadow I couldn’t guarantee them a first team place. If they did play for me, I wouldn’t expect too much!

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