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Monday Musings - Getting ready for next year
Monday Musings - Getting ready for next year
Monday, 11th Feb 2008 16:38 by Paul Redfern

One of the reasons why we have done so badly this year is not just because the players weren’t good enough...

It was that the management that came up with the team were bereft of ideas of how to organise a team.

Watching Derby last year – even when they were winning – was often painful.  In contrast to the successful year under Burley, when we used the passing game to great effect, much reliance was placed on the bulk and head of Steve Howard and the ability of Barnes to conjure up something from nothing.

The defence was reasonably organised, but not the team.  BD made a comment once, which made me wonder as to his tactical understanding.  It went along the lines of: “Alex Ferguson gets his defence organised but he pretty much leaves his attackers to sort it out themselves.”  If I have recollected this rightly, this would be an outstanding example of naiveté.  Of course, AF leaves his attackers to get on with it – they are pretty much the best on the planet.  For the rest of us, we have to try and decide how we want to attack.

I am totally opposed to the long ball game or route one whichever you prefer – it doesn’t work.  Eventually teams work out how to counter it – whether this be by using an offside trap or playing deep, or out-muscling the other team.

For me, the start of Jim Smith’s demise was when McClaren left to join Manure and was replaced – if I remember rightly, by Harford, a long ball merchant.  Mysteriously, skilled players like Baiano and Wanchope seemed to spend more time in the treatment room than on the field. This allied to some monumentally bad signings along with ever increasing numbers of journeymen players meant that we were certainties for the drop long before it happened. For me, one of the most pitiful sights of the Smith reign was watching Schnoor, a cultured defender, wellying the ball up to nowhere.  And I always gritted my teeth when Poom launched one of his kicks down the field – usually to the opposition.

Although I didn’t see the Tottenham match – from what I have read so far, it sounds as if for the first time for many matches we actually played some football, instead of the painful hoofing up to the other end.

That gladdens my heart because if we are to get back up, we need to start passing the ball round now.  Even if we lose more matches, the more time we spend on passing the ball round, the more ingrained the habit.  Passing the ball around is a habit that has to be learned – players have to learn how to move into the spaces and make themselves available.  The occasional long ball should be what it is supposed to be – a pass in the air and not a hopeful punt that will inevitably come back attached to the feet of an opposing player.

And when things are sticky, we can defend by passing the ball so that the opposition can’t get it.  If they haven’t got the ball, they can’t score.  Simple as that.  It’s not rocket science and that’s why I detest Route One football as it often places far too much reliance on the ball running kindly for you and more often than not, it is a wasteful ball that is given – yes, given - to the opposition. 

So even if we lose more games, what I want to see is a much greater emphasis on passing and keeping the ball and we need to start now, so it becomes a habit ready for next year. 

And as Cloughie would say: "If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he'd have put grass up there."

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