Monday, August 14, 2006
Cliché Central, Part 2
I would be a rich man indeed if I had a dollar for every time this phrase was used, in Australian journals, in close proximity to the name of a certain Dutch coach.
Any substitution, tactical shift, even selection (or non-selection) that has a positive effect on the performance of the team can attract the above accolade, particularly if the coach is one favoured by the writer (or commentator, although 99% of “masterstrokes” are only acknowledged as such in retrospect).
Sadly, we are generally not told exactly why the decision in question had such a positive effect. Did it give the team much-needed width? Provide support for an isolated striker? Nullify the opposition’s most effective player? Or was it simply a lucky gamble?
In my humble opinion, the majority of “masterstrokes” owe more to the subsequent intervention of Lady Luck than anything else. To paraphrase Richie Benaud: “Management is 90% luck and 10% skill…but don’t try it without that 10%”.
“...failed to clear their lines...”
Somehow I always think of Robbie Fowler and his infamous sniffing celebration when I hear this phrase. The chaos following a set-piece usually renders any concept of a defensive “line” rather subjective in any case. Why not just “failed to clear (the ball)”, “failed to get the ball upfield”, “failed to get the ball out of the area”?
This one, of course, is not specific to football. Amazing that none of the other bywords for smoothness are ever used with reference to admirable footballing technique. How come we’ve never heard of “baby’s bum skills”?
“...shuffled the pack...”
I must make a small confession here; I too have been guilty of falling back on this phrase. But there are many other ways to express alterations to the line-up. “Made some changes”, “rested X and Y”, “gave P and Q a start”, “decided to use his reserves”, “altered his line-up”, and so forth.
After all, we don’t want to give the impression that football managers are merely card-players, and hence gamblers, do we? They are, after all, capable of masterstrokes.
Any I've missed, fellow tragics?
I often laugh when many of the unconditional Guus lovers seemed to think he was both masterstroker AND gambler.
I personally think he's more the latter, with his clever use of Josh Kennedy as a good example. The matches against Japan and Croatia in particular showed that many of his initial selections were flawed, but then he took some real gambles which seemed to provide his fawning admirers with ammunition to treat every aspect of his coaching as 'masterstroke' quality.
Isn't it strange that Arnie and Neeskens' half time changes against Bahrain were not afforded the same accolades....
Guus was on the phone to them at half-time. What, didn't you know? ;-)