Sunday, August 29, 2010
Ten Men and a Left Foot
What struck me particularly about the game was that although Blacktown scored their goal only eleven minutes from the end of normal time, and were playing against ten men for the remainder of the game, they went awfully close to conceding an equaliser on no fewer than four occasions. And that was due to one thing and one thing only: the left foot of Daniel Severino.
Severino remains one of the great enigmas of Australian football. His set-piece delivery is, quite simply, the best in the country. No-one in the A-League comes remotely close to his incredible accuracy, and indeed there would be few players at any level of the game who would produce better service from free kicks and corners (especially from the right wing). In the closing minutes of this afternoon's game, he swung in a series of pinpoint corners and free kicks; four of them met a Bonnyrigg head, four times the ball flew tantalisingly wide of goal.
Yet, for all Severino's dead-ball mastery, there is a running joke in the NSWPL that when you play Bonnyrigg, you play against ten men. And this is because Severino is legendarily ineffective from free play; he offers no pace, little effective movement, and his idea of a pass tends to be a thirty-yard dink in the general direction of the forward line. His right foot, as the saying goes, is used chiefly for standing on.
The fact remains, though, that Bonnyrigg would hardly have been in a position to contest the grand final were it not for Severino's contributions during the season. He has scored a few goals directly from free kicks, but his specialty is the dipping, inswinging corner or free kick from the right, which frequently causes chaos in opposition penalty areas.
It got me thinking: should one be able to get away with being such a specialist in football? In baseball, there are the gun pitchers who need designated hitters to bat for them; in cricket, a player can be a hopeless fieldsman and a dunce with the bat if he can spin his side to victory on a regular basis.
But football? Goalkeepers are specialists, of course, but otherwise footballers are always expected to be adaptable these days. Can a team really afford to carry a player simply in the hope of nicking a scrappy set-piece goal?
I don't pretend to have an answer, but Daniel Severino's continuing presence in the Bonnyrigg first team is, if nothing else, another testament to the vital importance of set-pieces in football, however much the purists decry them.