Too many experts will confuse players – it smells like box-ticking

DANNY MURPHY: Too many of these expert coaches will just confuse players – it smells like a box-ticking exercise to me and clubs risk giving players mixed messages

  • Working on specific parts of the game is fine but let existing coaches deal with it
  • Asking players to respect a completely different, unproven voice is nonsense 
  • What is next? A penalties coach to tell us how to keep calm? Where will it end? 

Using data and analysts in modern football is great. I was always the first to check my Prozone stats as a player. But when it comes to the new army of specialist coaches creeping into the game, it smells like a box-ticking exercise to me.

In fact, by bringing in extra voices to dissect throw-ins, set-plays and defensive shape, you risk giving players mixed messages. I’m not saying teams shouldn’t work on specific aspects of the game. 

But let the manager and coaches you already employ take responsibility for them. Asking players to respect a different, unproven voice more than the capable full-time people they already work with is nonsense.

Liverpool throw-in coach Thomas Gronnemark (second right) helps with their organisation

AFC Wimbledon have started to use a specialised substitutions coach too, but Sportsmail’s Danny Murphy believes too many coaches will confuse players and send mixed messages

There was a strong reaction when I questioned on Match of the Day the benefits of specialist coaches. This column gives me the opportunity to explain my position. 

I’ve spoken to successful managers and coaches who agree with me. They feel people are being drafted in because it sounds cutting edge when the regular coaches are fully able to do it themselves.

As a player I reaped the benefits of managers working on detail to gain those small advantages. Sports science was developing and Gerard Houllier left no stone unturned at Liverpool.

He would use all the information available but the difference was he would see it as his job, and that of coaches Phil Thompson, Sammy Lee and Patrice Berg, to educate the players. If Houllier had decided he needed a third party, he would essentially be saying the people on his payroll weren’t good enough.

Liverpool’s Gerard Houllier (right) was forward-thinking but he and his coaches did the work

When England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003, everything Sir Clive Woodward did took on some mystical value. Over time, football began to think they had to emulate the NFL and rugby union even though the way the game is played is very different. Football is far less stop-start.

I’m told the England football team once brought in a forwards coach because someone at the FA wanted to be seen as forward-thinking. The idea that they would improve Harry Kane’s gift of being in the right place at the right time is laughable.

If Roy Hodgson suggested a free-kick routine to me, I would listen because of the rapport we had built up working every day on all aspects of the game. 

But I can imagine what would happen if an outsider who wasn’t proven tried to convince me and Damien Duff we should try a new set-piece. The pair of us had been inventing free-kick patterns since we were 10 years old. Today’s players would be equally sceptical.

If Roy Hodgson suggested a free-kick routine to me, I would listen but I can imagine what would happen if an outsider who wasn’t proven tried to convince me to try a new set-piece

Damien Duff (right) and I had been inventing free-kick patterns since we were only 10 years old

Premier League coaches already have a great eye for detail. They communicate with club analysts, they don’t need some flavour of the month to take over on throws or subs. What is next? A penalties coach who is going to tell us how to keep calm and strike the ball in front of 60,000? Where will it end?

Clubs already have at least three capable coaches on their roster. What is the benefit of removing jobs from them and giving it to someone else with a new title? If I was chairman, I’d be asking the manager what his existing staff did if he wanted an extra person to organise corners.

I am not naive. Of course having sessions on defensive shape or set-plays, for example, is necessary. An exercise in which you try to win the ball back at throws would be beneficial. But the point is you don’t need more people in the building to work on those kind of things.

When you start delegating too much, you start losing responsibility. Too many voices on the training pitch will cloud matters for players, not improve their understanding. 




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