Let’s blooter pos­ses­sion foot­ball out of the park

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of 2014 would have flooded in.

Pun­ters, how­ever, flooded forth to point out that Barcelona and Spain, ar­guably the world’s best club and na­tional teams, were the small­est of all and it had never done them any harm.

But this, to me, high­lighted a whole dif­fer­ent ball game: we are nei­ther Spain nor Barcelona and we shouldn’t be try­ing to play like them any more than we should be swish­ing our hood­ies in front of bulls be­fore blooter­ing them over the heid with a bot­tle of Buckie.

As so of­ten, one of our read­ers got it spot-on when he traced the blame for our sit­u­a­tion to the “blind im­i­ta­tion of Alf Ram­say’s suc­cess­ful ‘Win­g­less Won­ders’ strat­egy in 1966”. Cor­rect, sir.

Though just a child at the time, I re­mem­ber the de­bate about this dull “ma­chine foot­ball” and how it could kill the game. And it has. Ev­ery­one rushed to copy it in­clud­ing, alas, Scot­land, pre­vi­ously known for drib­bling wingers and mid­field flair.

At the same time, the ball was now to be kept on the flair no’ the air. I don’t know if the pos­ses­sion foot­ball made fa­mous by Barcelona and Spain de­vel­oped from that or pre­ceded it but, at any rate, their “tippy-tappy” pass­ing ap­proach also did its bit to spoil the game.

Sure, it’s lovely when Barcelona do it. It was a thing of beauty to see PSG do it against Celtic re­cently.

But hardly any­one else can do it prop­erly, and it cer­tainly isn’t for us.

I watched a sub­se­quent Celtic league game and they tried to im­i­tate it but, where the PSG play­ers took one touch and played it for­ward, Celtic’s took three and, of­ten as not, played it side­ways.

The re­sult is so dull it makes me weep. And it’s the same ev­ery­where. Tele­vi­sion’s Match of the Day ex­cels in skilful edit­ing of high­lights to make ear­lier played English foot­ball games look ex­cit­ing. Watched live, I can­not en­dure more than 20 min­utes of play­ers pass­ing the ball back and forth to each other in front of silent, be­wil­dered crowds.

It makes you want to watch cricket for ex­cite­ment. Rid­dle me this: what’s wrong with a long, ac­cu­rately (or hope­fully) placed ball, even one that goes up be­fore be­ing nod­ded back down by grav­ity?

To those of you un­fa­mil­iar with foot­ball, let me ex­plain how nuts it is: when a team is des­per­ate to score a goal in the last two min­utes, it lumps the ball up the park and, al­most al­ways, ex­cite­ment en­sues. The crowd wakes from its slum­bers and, of­ten as not, there will be an at­tempt on goal.

So what were the play­ers do­ing the rest of the time? Just this: pass­ing it across the way (or oc­ca­sion­ally for­ward be­fore hastily back again) to no ef­fect. It’s point­less (lit­er­ally so, on the score­board).

What’s the point of pos­sess­ing the ball in your own half? It tires out the op­po­si­tion? Here’s an idea for the op­po­si­tion then: don’t run aboot af­ter it. Let them pass it back and forth while you light up a cigar and read the rac­ing pages.

A for­mer Hibs man­ager said:

“The ball is round. It’s meant to roll along the ground.” Wrong. The ball is round. It’s meant to bounce. And the more un­pre­dictably the bet­ter.

But, in Scot­land, we’ve taken our eye off the ball. Here’s an­other way to get it up the park: run with it. That’s what we used to do. That’s what we ex­celled at. Scot­land should never have given up its tra­di­tional game, when there was an “ooh” and “ah” ev­ery 10 sec­onds in­stead of just an “oh dear” at the end. We should, like we used to, boo play­ers who pass the ball back.

As for size, here’s your spec: big cen­tre-half, full-backs whose width ex­ceeds their height, tiny wingers, mid­dling-sized mid­field­ers, a lithe cen­tre-for­ward with one stocky in­side-right to hold up the ball and a taller in­side-left to head it down.

The only ge­netic prob­lem with Scot­land is our lack of be­lief in our­selves. You don’t have to be Billy Big Baws to win games. Just get the baw up the park. As for pos­ses­sion foot­ball? Thanks, but I’ll pass on that.

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