Pompey no Mickey Mouse club

The news this week that Michael Eisner, 75, the former Walt Disney chief, is interested in buying Portsmouth, suddenly doesn’t sound like make-believe after the club entered into a 70-day period of exclusive negotiations.

Walt Disney, so the story goes, started a number of business’s that didn’t last too long and ended with bankruptcy and failure.

He kept persevering and eventually found a formula for success and the rest is history.

His most famous icon, Mickey Mouse, was based on the success of the little guy against all the odds.

Portsmouth and Mickey Mouse appear to have more in common than you think!

It is about time this great club had something to chime about.

Play up Pompey

That was one for the Fratton Park fans; credits The News

I joined Portsmouth in 2013 after leaving their south coast rivals Southampton.

The Saints were flying on their way to The Premier League, whilst I was on my way to a League One club who were in free fall.

I was 35, my body had taken a battering, and I had a right knee which was in a brace after suffering a bad medial ligament injury.

I needed a helping hand as much as Portsmouth did!

Once I arrived though, I realised I was just one of many waifs and strays who had found their way aboard this ship, heading into the most troubled waters.

Each and every player there was new, after the entire squad from the 2012-2013 season had left the club following relegation to League One.

The Pompey physiotherapist Steve Allen was a long time friend whom I had known since my days at Wimbledon in 2000.

He invited me down to the club to try to get back playing.

I worked on my rehab and slowly started to think about turning out for this great club.

I began playing again, albeit in fleeting moments and happily, once I was back up to speed, ended up signing a month’s contract.

Everything must go

The iconic exterior of this great club; credits Getty Images

Every player was on a month to month contract, as anything and everything was up for sale whilst the club tried to navigate its way to safety.

They couldn’t risk or afford to sign players for any longer than that.

I remember leaving Fratton Park once, after renewing my month’s contract and the chairs from the boardroom were piled up outside the stadium entrance, waiting for someone to collect after being sold.

It was surreal times as this great club, which regularly had crowds higher than most Championship sides, appeared destined to go out of business despite having 16,000-17,000 fans coming through the turnstiles, regardless of its perilous position.

In the background, the carousel of players joining and leaving on one month contracts continued, until the club exited administration.

At one point there was something like 40- 50 players used in a matter of months and wins were hard to find.

I scored against Crewe in a 1-2 victory, to give Portsmouth its first win in over 23 matches and the relief was enormous.

Shortly afterwards, with the debts paid off and The Pompey Supporters’ Trust ( PST) now firmly part of the club’s ownership structure,the club exited administration.

Portsmouth salvaged 

Singing in the rain; credits Getty Images

We played Brentford just after the club was saved, and despite scoring, we fell to two late goals to lose 3-2.

The result on the pitch didn’t dampen the fans’ incredible passion and as the rain poured down, they invaded the pitch at the final whistle, ecstatic that a deal had finally been done to save their club.

In the dressing room afterwards, the players were absolutely gutted, we had been leading with only a few minutes to go, although once more, we had not lived up to our side of the bargain.

We made up for this defeat with a brilliant victory over Sheffield United in the last game of the season at Fratton Park and I scored again to cap a good end to the season.

Nonetheless, League Two beckoned, although that didn’t deter the fans.

10,000 bought season tickets, a record for a club in the lowest division and I will never forget the queues snaking round Frogmore Road.

Despite starting well, the season was a disaster as we struggled to adapt to life in League Two, something which has continued ever since, until now it appears.

The club are currently in the third automatic spot and six points clear of Stevenage in fourth, with seven games remaining.

This nightmare tale may just have a happy ending after all and let me tell you, Portsmouth is no Mickey Mouse club.

 

 

Have your say on Eisner’s proposed takeover below.

 

 

 

 

Living in a material world

Eriksen celebrates after giving Spurs the lead against Southampton at the weekend; credits Getty Images

What does Madonna and her hit song Material Girl have to do with football?

I was driving in the car when it came on the radio, have a listen, and the line about experience just struck a chord with me.

It is so relevant nowadays with British players seeing less and less game time at the highest level.

The paths different players choose and the effect this can have on their development is fascinating.

After watching Christian Eriksen score and play so well for Spurs against Southampton at the weekend, I was reminded of his career path and one of his contemporaries, Josh McEachran now of Brentford.

I already knew about Eriksen before I read a brilliant interview with him  in 2012.

In it, he talks of how he looked around Chelsea as a 14-year-old but found the closed nature of the training ground and environment almost too suffocating, in comparison to what he had experienced in his homeland Denmark.

He chose Ajax for various reasons, an easier route to the first team being one, whilst Chelsea already had a similar player in-house, Josh McEachran, therefore their interest was not as strong as that from Ajax.

The rest is history.

That history in 2012 had already consisted of 131 games for Ajax, whilst McEachran had started just one in the Premier League for Chelsea.

Not long after this interview, Eriksen moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 for £11.5m after amassing over 160 appearances, whilst McEachran had made just over 20 for Chelsea before leaving for Championship side Brentford in 2015.

In the build up to Brentford’s game against Chelsea in The FA Cup Fourth Round tie at Stamford Bridge in January, McEachran was interviewed in the Telegraph and was in bullish mood ahead of the match  However, he was replaced after 78 minutes as Brentford were beaten 4-0.

Making comparisons between players is difficult, however, in terms of game time, I feel Eriksen’s amount of games had given him a vast wealth of experiences.

McEachran in contrast was left to beg and borrow for matches which left him penniless in game time, by comparison.

In monetary terms, both players have probably accumulated similar sums and are extremely wealthy, although for Eriksen, as Madonna put so succinctly; ‘Experience has made me rich and now they’re after me.’

Now, they are all after Eriksen.

The people’s game?

UEFA said: “Charges against FC Bayern Munchen: Throwing of objects – Art. 16 (2) of DR.”

Bayern fans walked the talk, and re used the banner from their protest in 2015; credits Getty Images

As I sat in the crowd at The Emirates waiting for the last 16 Champions League tie to re-start, I had sympathy for the travelling Bayern Munich fans who had started to throw tissue and toilet paper onto the pitch.

Arsenal staff attempt to clean up the toilet paper, at least it wasn’t used; credits Getty Images 

Despite this being a dead rubber, tickets were still expensive and a friend and his son joined my son and I in catching the German champions on English soil, albeit at a cost.

With the Arsene Wenger protest outside the stadium before the game, it felt at times like this game was now being used to make political points, and of the two protests, the German one made more sense to me.

The crowd though became less tolerant as the tissue paper rained down on the pitch, delaying the game continuously, although Bayern have been here before.

In October 2015, a group of Bayern Munich supporters staged a protest against high ticket prices at Arsenal by boycotting the first five minutes of the two clubs’ Champions League clash.

Fans of the Bundesliga champions organised the protest after learning that the cheapest ticket available to away supporters for the Group F fixture was priced at £64, rising to at least £74 with fees and postage taken into account.

In the week beforehand, the BBC’s annual ‘Price of Football’ study revealed that Arsenal had the highest priced matchday (£97) and season tickets (£2,013) in the Premier League.

By contrast, Bayern offer a season ticket at a price of just £104.

Bradford offer hope

The Valley model can be a template to follow under Rahic; credits Thomas Gadd

Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp, both Germans ironically, bought Bradford City in the summer of 2016 after an extensive search for a club to invest in.

Rahic was the financial director for Bosch before becoming a private investor and has sought to bring a little of the German ticket price model to England.

Season tickets at Valley Parade are capped at £149 wherever you sit in the stadium.

The economics behind the move being, by keeping season ticket prices so low, more fans will attend and Bradford’s attendances are testimony to that.

The extra money in their pocket will see those fans spend the surplus on merchandise, food, beer, shirts and so on.

Saturday’s win over Swindon Town was watched by 17,916 fans, which places them 17th out of the 92 professional clubs from the weekend’s games in terms of attendance.

Rahic has also stated he will reduce ticket prices to only £1, if and when, Bradford make The Premier League.

He reasons the £100m windfall in TV revenue, even if you are relegated, will make the need to charge higher prices unnecessary, so why not give back to the fans?

Such a viewpoint would bring a tear to many a football fan who has had to fork out such significant sums following their team.

Someone pass the tissues.

Too much too soon?

Lee Hendrie has had his troubles; credits Getty Images

Premier League wages were published recently, with the average salary now £1.7million rising to above £2m with routine bonuses.

Thirty years ago a top-flight footballer earned on average £25,000 per year or just two-and-a-half times as much as the average household income.

Now it is more than 40 times as much.

Former Premier League player, Lee Hendrie, was one such player.

At his peak he was earning £40,000 per week whilst at Aston Villa.

However, he managed to lose it all through a combination of gambling, excessive spending and financial mismanagement.

He is not the only one, 40 per cent of footballers go bankrupt within five years of leaving the game and those who do remain are challenged to handle vast sums of money with very little experience in how to do so.

The drive to succeed can veer off course, with guaranteed wages from long contracts the norm as clubs seek to protect their assets.

With such long, lucrative contracts, the moral dilemma of how players stay motivated and committed when they only need to roll out of bed to collect their wages is an interesting one.

Show me the money

Stories such as those from the likes of Hendrie were at the forefront of my mind as I attended a Think Tank of The Professional Footballers Association recently.

Held at the offices of Peters and Peters, a law firm which counts former footballer and ex Ireland team-mate Gareth Farrelly as one of its lawyers, it was an interesting afternoon.

The people assembled included staff from The FA and The Premier League, with the intention of learning how ‘the city’ manages its young staff and the comparisons with young footballers.

The parallels between the young professional footballer and the young city trader are obvious; ambition, money, expectation, pressure, distractions, recruitment to name a few.

So how does the city manage to retain the hunger of the wolves of Wall Street?

Using deferred payments is one method, with a reduced but sensible basic wage plus a bigger bonus based on performance, not potential. If you leave or are sacked the money is terminated.

Will this catch on in football?

Liverpool have paved the way with a £40,000 cap on salaries for academy products, whilst Tottenham Hotspur have always paid its academy players sensibly, in contrast to their London rivals Chelsea.

Dominic Solanke in action for Chelsea; credits Chelsea.com

One Chelsea product, Dominic Solanke, was criticised in the press for demanding £40,000 per week after playing 17 minutes of first team football.

Nobody questioned the fact he was already earning £400,000 a year as a youth team player, ten times what Liverpool pay their first year professional players.

He appears to be one of the lucky ones, with a financial adviser for a father, although at the end of his current contract he need not work another day in his life and he will still be in his early 20s.

So, what can we learn from the city?

After the banking crisis something had to change and the measures put in place for young city traders appear to be working, it is time for football to follow their lead in motivating the millionaires of football.

Spot the difference?

Southampton players are given instructions by their manager in the dressing room, March 1949

An email pinged through to me the other day from The FA Boot Room online magazine, which contained an article by new England U21 coach Aidy Boothroyd.

In it, he describes how one of the tools they use to help their players work through problems on match day is a Subbuteo table.

“We’ll have the Subbuteo table there which has become quite popular now because players are quite kinaesthetic and they want to grab hold of things and they want to shift them around. We also find the players will talk more when it’s about them in that particular position.” said Boothroyd.

I remember seeing a picture posted on Twitter by Chelsea youngster Izzy Brown in March 2016, which showed a Subbuteto table in the dressing room after England U19s reached the UEFA Under 19 European Championships.

67 years later, can you spot the difference?

Smoke and mirrors

If your child is trying out for a team, look beyond the promises and seek a place of positive significance.

A club or environment that values human beings, not only the player, should be the first port of call.

This struck me as I dropped my children to school and was faced with a flyer, attached to a lamp-post, that sent a shiver down my spine.

Its placement on a road which has numerous schools in the vicinity, was cunning and calculated, like the premise behind it.

The title of the company is a tell-tale sign, whilst the allure attached to it of endorsement from so-called professional scouts, allied to links with Chelsea is very disconcerting.

Some people will get sucked into this, although I would urge parents to try to find an environment where the child is valued as a person, not a player.

I cast my mind back to the time I was playing, at a similar age to the players this flyer is targeted at.

I cannot remember wanting to ‘be a footballer.’

I do remember loving the game, playing it non stop after school and at weekends with friends, whilst my happiest childhood memories are of playing football.

I knew my Sunday league club valued and looked after me, like all the other players, firstly as a human being and definitely not as a trophy to show off as a result of their work.

I was not there to be moulded into something, whilst I doubt many of todays players were ‘made’ by a coaching company either.

Kasper Dolberg

Kasper Dolberg in action for Ajax; credits Ajax.nl

What Dolberg does best 

Kasper Dolberg has made a name for himself by cementing his place in the Ajax side at the tender age of 19 and is a typical dutch number 9 in how he functions.

He plays the lone striker role very well and a lot of the build up from Ajax is to try to get the ball into his feet, from where he can be deadly in setting up his team-mates.

Where he differs from a lot of number 9’s is how he tries to avoid being directly marked until the last moment, which helps create space in front to receive.

He did this excellently in the build up to Ajax’s first goal against ADO Den Haag recently, assisting Hakim Ziyech’s goal with outstanding centre forward play.

Dolberg here comes out of the shadow of his defender brilliantly so as not to be easily marked

With Ajax occupying the ADO Den Haag defence with four attackers in the ‘hot zone’ they are able to penetrate in behind once Dolberg manipulates the ball as he does so well

With Ziyech now running off the back of his marker, the left-sided attacking midfielder is put through on goal to finish with ease

Sometimes though, he will need to be facing forwards to be a more regular goal scorer rather than a supplier, and his previous goal drought could be down to having his back to goal too often.

He is still young and will no doubt learn to mix his game up to keep defenders guessing and with Dennis Bergkamp as his mentor, you can bet he will mature into an even better centre forward.

Which begs the question, is he capable to make the step up to England like his fellow Dane Christian Eriksen?

Time will tell, although Eriksen had amassed over 160 appearances by the time he left Ajax for Spurs at 21 years old, with more than 20 of those appearances coming in The Champions League.

I feel Dolberg has the qualities, although another Dane is currently out scoring him in the Eredivisie, Nicolai Jorgensen of Feyenoord.

Penetrating runs would reap rewards

To be considered a reliable centre forward at the highest level, Dolberg needs to be a more regular scorer, and I feel some tweaking of his runs would help.

In the current Ajax system, with inverted wingers often driving inside with the ball, he should be making diagonal darting runs into the box, although too often he supports behind the ball.

 As Ajax winger Amin Younes cuts inside, Dolberg needs to make a diagonal run across the central defender

Dolberg still has the time to make the run…

Instead he supports behind the ball and another opportunity to get a strike at goal is missed

If I was coaching Dolberg I would make him aware he does a fantastic job in building play in the middle third, although in the final third he must try to be facing the opponent’s goal more often and break defensive lines with his runs.

 

Brentford v Wolves

Matt Doherty draws Wolves level; credits REX FEATURES 

Wolves scored twice in the last 10 minutes as they came from behind to beat Brentford and move four points clear of the relegation zone.

Full-back Maxime Colin fired low into the corner from Konstantin Kerschbaumer’s fantastic flick to give the Bees a half-time lead against the run of play.

Nouha Dicko hit the bar and Lee Evans had a shot blocked on the line for Wolves, before Matt Doherty deservedly levelled.

The visitors continued to dominate and substitute Ivan Cavaleiro crossed for ex Benfica forward Helder Costa to volley in a deserved winner.

The defeat for Dean Smith’s side was their second at home in the space of four days, whilst Wolves are now 18th in the Championship, having picked up seven points from their past three games, and sit just five points behind their opponents.

Wolves kept knocking on the door

Header Costa celebrates his winning goal; credits REX FEATURES

Despite going a goal down, Paul Lambert’s side were far superior and caused former Walsall boss Dean Smith’s side plenty of problems.

24 shots was the result of their dominance, although only scoring twice will be a concern for Lambert.

Lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Nouha Dicko was the lone striker with Dave Edwards behind in a supporting striker role, whilst Heldar Costa operated on the right and Andreas Weiman on the left as inverted wingers.

Although Brentford took the lead, Wolves refused to be knocked out of their stride and despite losing on their two previous visits 4-0 and 3-0, Paul Lambert’s side showed plenty of character and quality to get back in the game.

Brentford had kept just one clean sheet from their league games in 2017 and this could have been one reason why, despite going in at half time 1-0 down, they had hope as they pushed for the goal their play merited.

Wolves bench blows Bees house down

Ben Marshall supports on the inside and delivers a brilliant cross for the equaliser

Lambert’s team were even more proliferate in the second half than the first, and it seemed they were destined to end up with nothing but the change from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 and the introduction of some super substitutes, reaped its rewards.

On the hour mark Lambert made the first of his three changes to try and turn the game around.

George Saville made way for £7m signing Ivan Cavaleiro, who partnered Dicko up front, with Edwards moving beside Evans in the centre of midfield in a traditional 4-4-2.

Costa and Weiman swapped wings and now worked off their stronger foot, which I felt was needed to get around the Brentford defence.

Despite this change Wolves still couldn’t a way through, so with Dicko tiring, Lambert sent on Ben Marshall, a player he worked with at Blackburn Rovers previously.

This change was much needed as Dicko at times was so slow in getting back onside, Wolves were sometimes playing with a player less as he was not an option for the player in possession.

It was from a cross by Marshall that Wolves equalised, Matt Doherty  tapping home at the back post, before Cavaleiro crossed for Costa to volley home and send the Wolves fans into a frenzy.

Throw ins present pressing opportunity

Edwards presses the throw to win possession in the build up to the Wolves winner

There were signs in the first half that Rico Henry was unreliable with his throw in selection.

He was often guilty of releasing the ball when his receiver wasn’t ready and also offering no signal, either verbal or non verbal, as to tell the receiver what to do, for example to turn out or set back first time.

With a full back having anywhere between 10 and 30 throw-ins a match, it is so important full backs are able to make the right decision on throw-ins, particularly when in your own half and often the success or not of throw-ins can be overlooked.

In the image above, Wolves’ Edwards recognises the throw from Brentford left back Henry has too much height which was his trigger to press the ball.

If Henry had coached his team-mate to set him back first time or hook on, Brentford may have still have ended up with something, however the receiver took a touch and that enabled Edwards to win possession in the lead up to the winner.

Brentford (4-3-3): Bentley; Colin, Dean, Egan, Henry ; Woods, Yennaris, Canos; Jota (Clarke, 68), Vibe (Jozefzoon, 61), Kerschbaumer (Sawyers, 80).

Subs: Bonham, Hofmann, Barbet, Field.

Goal: Colin (31)

Wolves (4-2-3-1): Ikeme; Coady, Batth (c), Hause, Doherty; Edwards, Evans, Saville (Cavaleiro, 60); Costa, Dicko (Marshall, 82), Weimann (Gibbs-White, 90).

Subs: Lonergan, Stearman, Saiss, Bodvarsson.

Goals: Doherty (86), Costa (89)

Referee: Keith Stroud

The pull of grassroots

 

If only these scenes were just from a film; credits REX FEATURES

“Raise your s**t.”

No, not a scene from a film but from the touch-line of an u8 football match I was at recently.

I took a sharp intake of breath before catching eyes with my son, then I walked away to reflect on what I heard.

What drives these parents to put this much onus on their children to perform to such a high level, at such a young age?

Is it any wonder there are more and more articles appearing in the press regarding the dropout rates of children in football such as this one.

Did this parent become frustrated because his son wasn’t shining as he expected?

If you analyse the situation, his seven year-old son was playing against equally talented boys, therefore it was hard to stand out.

This was an Academy game between two very well matched teams, so two very capable sets of players, and with the final whistle approaching, in a 40 minute game heading for a 0-0 draw, the parent in question blew his top.

Which leads us to question, is it right to put children of this age, in such an environment?

The great grassroots game

credits; EMPICS Sport 

When I was 8 I was playing for my local grassroots team with my friends who all lived locally where there was a mixed ability level.

We all mucked in, sometimes there were matches ending 10-5 or 8-3, I cannot recall too often a match where teams cancelled each other out to the extent a game ended 0-0.

Some players were steady and reliable who were the glue at the back, although they were often instructed to ‘get rid of it’ in case they spent too long on the ball and lost possession.

Others were keen as mustard who got stuck in, whilst there would be the odd one or two very talented boys who stood out.

Nonetheless, it was mixed ability, so those who could shine were able to do so, whilst those who were less able improved by playing with better players.

Some matches ended with high scores, whilst the players had lots of shots on goal and got used to scoring goals.

Some spent a lot of their time looking off into the distance and had to be brought back into the match by an opponent running past them, however, this was the beauty of grassroots football.

There was no pre-arranged arrival time for a meticulous warm up.

The boys knew the kick-off time and parents would drop them off at a sensible time without being instructed to do so, it was common sense.

I cannot remember too many substitutes, possibly one or two players on the sideline waiting, so all the players had high game time , I imagine around the 80/90% mark.

There were no whiteboards or tactic boards.

There was no rallying pre game speeches by the coach, who was usually the father of one of the boys, and I cannot recall sitting on the damp grass in a pre match huddle whilst the coach went through pre game challenges or tasks to accomplish.

Some semblance of a warm up took place, albeit unsupervised but fun, and the boys would play until they could run no more.

I reflected on this as I asked to report one hour before kick off for the u8 game above..one whole hour?

What would my seven-year old son do for an hour in a small changing room? Go over the game plan? Go through tactics on a tactic board? More to the point, what would I do?

To whom did this process benefit?

All aboard the road to ruin?

credits; Getty Images

The opposition team from the south coast had travelled two hours each way to London, excluding drop off times for the customary Premier League bus, for a 40 min game.

All the boys were decked out in the clubs tracksuit, of course, whilst the only item missing was a wash bag.

Is this really best practice for children of this age?

If you look at it from a learning point of view, the children from the south coast had spent the best part of half their waking hours travelling for a 40 minute game of football.

They had to rotate with substitutes, so each players’ actual learning time on the pitch was probably closer to 25 minutes maximum.

Had these boys played for their local grassroots team, they would have walked/ cycled/ been dropped off locally with minimal travel time.

They would have then played a much higher percentage of game time and still been home to play with their friends, all within two hours.

Is there really a valid reason for children to be in academy football so early?

I have withdrawn my son out of the academy system at present, and instead take him to the local grassroots team where the coaching is good enough, he gets high game time and he is home 10 minutes after the training and matches end.

Will it hurt his development? What development?

He is just turned 8! I want him to develop in so many ways, not only football.

I want him to help out around the house, to do his homework and play, not to be in a car or bus away from home for hours.

He is no more special than the rest of the family, who also need time with him and me.

I don’t want him in such a professional environment so early, unless it is less professional!

Silence is golden

“What should we do?” said one of the parents, as we watched our boys 5-a-side team go 0-3 down.

“Do nothing, let them work it out, just give them time.” I replied.

The opposition coach was prowling up and down the touch-line, barking orders, whilst voicing various coaching terminology, which gave the appearance he knew what he was doing.

Meanwhile, we remained tight-lipped, although the vow of silence we had undertaken a few weeks ago was being severely tested by the opposition coach’s behaviour.

No doubt imbued by the score, he was becoming increasingly animated as the game progressed.

It reminded me of this brilliant clip below.

The easy option would be to vocalise what to do, as the opposition coach had done, but where would the learning be for the players in giving them the answers?

To get something out of this game, it would take the players on the pitch to come up with the solution. And they did.

0-3 became 1-3, then 2-3, before we equalised as the half-time whistle sounded.

What a response!

Now we had our chance to talk. First though, we encouraged the players to discuss and see where the problems lay, and how they could overcome them.

With a no subs policy in force to ensure each player gets 100% game time,  we couldn’t bring on fresh legs.

The opposition team had 3 subs plus a tactic board and a coach, who had them sat down, around him, as Phil Brown did famously whilst in charge of Hull City.

Our boys didn’t sit down, which I feel is unnecessary and can be demeaning, particularly on damp grass, plus, they didn’t want to sit down.

The boys spoke, we offered a nugget or two of information, although it was mostly to say they had found the solution so far, without our help.

The challenge would be for them to find the answers again in the second half, without instruction, and with no subs to come on and make an impact.

Our team were made to wait on the pitch to start, whilst the opposition went through their tactics once more on a whiteboard.

Shortly after the referee restarted play, our boys went 4-3 up, then were pegged back to 4-4 ,before we scored twice to go 6-4 ahead.

The opposition scored two to make it 6-6, before, in the dying seconds, we made it 7-6 and the final whistle blew.

Wow!

The boys were exhausted but so happy. We tried to have some form of a post match talk, but they just wanted to carry on playing in a free goal one of the boys spotted.

As we walked away, I looked over and saw the opposition sat down in a post game debrief, with a tactic board again in use.

They eventually had to be ushered off the pitch, as they were holding up the next game as their inquest continued.

One of the opposition parents offered warm congratulations on how we conducted our team and behaviour on the side.

I imagine this parent wistfully wondered about the amount of direct instruction his team faced and what good it did  them.

The victory was irrelevant, it was how our boys learned through 100% playing time, with no coaching, only the odd encouragement with applause, that was the most pleasing aspect.

Our players had total freedom without recrimination, and were able to express themselves without fear of a mistake leading to them being brought off.

The turnaround was nothing to do with coach intervention or a stroke of genius by the rotation of players or positions or substitutions, only the boys figuring out the who, what and how.

Never has silence been so golden.