Passing game has won both fans and matches this season
This Premier League season may not have produced the most enthralling football. The argument goes that too many top teams have let in too many goals suggesting woeful defences. But this season could well be seen as the moment when English football changed for good.
I know this is a huge claim to make. But for evidence I turn to the bookies. As we know they never get things wrong otherwise they would not be in business. So what did William Hill do on Sunday night after Newcastle had beaten Liverpool and Tottenham beaten Swansea? This is what they said:
“William Hill are betting on who will win the coveted LMA Manager of the Year Award and make Swansea’s Brendan Rodgers 6/4 favourite despite his side’s defeat by Spurs today. ‘Rodgers has impressed most observers by steering Swansea into Premier League mid-table’ said Hill’s spokesman Graham Sharpe, ‘But he is likely to be pressed all the way by Newcastle’s Alan Pardew who guided his side to yet another notable victory against Liverpool’ and Pardew has been cut from 5/1 to 7/2 second favourite as a result.”
These odds compared with 6/1 for Sir Alex Ferguson; 7/1 David Moyes; 8/1 Paul Lambert; 12/1 Harry Redknapp; 16/1 Coyle, Hodgson, Wenger.
Pardew has been a surprise at Newcastle but it is Rodgers’ rise that marks the really game changing moment. He manages a side that has just been promoted. Until recently such a side would have relied on brawn not brain for its football. Its role model would have been Wimbledon. The game plan would have been a lot of hard work, graft and very little skill to be admired. In fact such teams would make it their business not to be admired by the world at large.
Their most coveted players would be box-to-box players, how I hate that phrase. Such players, prepared to run all day, would have dominated the play. The team would have presented itself as part of the poor, unwashed, who nobody cares for but who, in turn, care for nobody.
Think Vinne Jones.
Yet as Rodgers’ Swansea showed, you can win promotion yet play football as it should be played. That, let us not forget, is a passing game played on the deck. He seems to accept what Brian Clough said that football was not meant to be an aerial duel with players playing head tennis all the time. More than that, Rodgers’ team is not afraid to pass the ball even in defence. This is in marked contrast to most English teams, certainly from the lower reaches. Their first reaction to danger is to hoof the ball into row 52.
So impressive has Rodgers been that for large periods of the match his team dominated Tottenham and at the end of it Harry Redknapp had no doubts of what the Swansea manager had managed to do. In effect said the man who may soon be managing England, Rodgers had engineered a football revolution and one that Redknapp feels could well become the blueprint for the game in this country. Redknapp’s words were, “To start the kids playing like that from a young age, all the way through – without a doubt, that’s what’s needed. You can’t have the England team playing one way and the Under 18s playing another way. No one plays like he plays so I think it would be fantastic.”
Now the cynics may dismiss this as the sort of praise a victorious manager can afford to shower. In this case Redknapp had seen his team win after a long winless run and may have felt even more generous. But I believe the Spurs manager was being genuine, and Rodgers represents if not a revolution then a change for the better.
Now what is needed is for English football to bottle and market what Rodgers is doing so that the awful shadow of Wimbledon will be finally exorcised from this country. That is when this country will begin the long journey to reclaim its place in world football.