While watching England pull off a massive shock in Seville this week, defeating Spain 3-2, it occurred to me that the word ‘bravery’ is a much used – and abused – term when analysing performances in games.
For people who like their football of the ‘blood and thunder’, ‘take no prisoners’ variety, the word implies blood-soaked bandages dripping onto bright white shirts as their side battle against the odds in a bid to grind out a favourable result.
But as meritorious and worthy of mention such performances are, real ‘bravery’ in a footballing sense is much more than mere brute force and battling against the odds. It’s also about having the courage to use your intelligence to prevail against an opponent; it is about taking chances, wanting the ball, being prepared to fail; it’s about accepting the fact that you might end up with egg rather that blood on your face.
That’s what really impressed me about England’s performance in the first half and, had they carried on in a similarly brave mode for much of the second half and attacked effectively as a way defending, I’m sure they would have gotten over the line far more convincingly than they eventually did.
And it reminded me – unfortunately – of our reversal against Holbeach United in the FA Vase where we somehow contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
From Fran Constancio’s Academy right up to the first team, our philosophy has always been to ‘be brave’. It is a mindset we try to instil in all our coaches so that they, in turn, can teach it to their players. We know that at all levels of the club we do not have the best nor the strongest players but we do want to try to help them become the most intelligent.
What our game against Holbeach showed was that we are a team that, when we play the ball to feet, distributes it quickly and intelligently and then creates the space with runs. That’s when we are at our best.
But when we decide – as we did for about an hour – to play it long, effectively panicking, we play into our opponents’ hands, and then it becomes patently clear that we are still very much a work in progress.
We need to be brave even if it means we end up making mistakes and the old maxim that ‘fortune favours the brave’ is as appropriate in football as it is in any other part of life.
But we move on. Tomorrow (Saturday KO at 3pm) we travel to Stotfold and on Tuesday night (KO at 7.45pm) it’s another derby night when Biggleswade FC call into Second Meadow for the first round of this season’s Bedfordshire Senior Cup.
See you there.