This season has been a bit of a stop-start affair. Like the Premier League has become something that’s squeezed in between international games rather than the other way around.
Before last Friday’s game in Rejika I bemoaned the interruption to our football bread and butter mainly because it’s can often be an interruption to my actual bread and butter. This one has been pleasantly different though. Not just for the inquisition we gave the Spanish either.
The Croatian experience was a stark example of what football would be without the fans in attendance to make a spectacle out of what is basically 22 people chasing a ball around a field.
But that wasn’t the only lesson we learned. For those interested in the game beyond six-second clips, the chance to listen to what information is fed between players on the pitch and the coaching staff off it will have been fascinating.
And just as interesting was to hear who was the most vocal amongst the England ranks. It was for me anyway. Then again I know I’m not normal.
The older I became, if there was one thing I noticed about younger players it was the decline in the amount they spoke to each other on the pitch, other than to criticise.
Now, you’d think today’s footballers would be the least shy of their sort, what with all the confidence they exude, but like any walk of life, you get a wide spectrum of characters ranging from painfully meek to those that should be locked up for their own good.
What I found was there was more to it than just than being naturally quiet. As time wore on, it became clear it was a case of an abdication of responsibility rather than anything else.
Being vocal on the pitch isn’t just about shouting at team-mates and geeing them up to encourage them, although that is part of it. It’s about coaching your team-mates on the pitch and directing those around you. To do that means taking responsibility that what you’re telling them is what’s best for the team.
Basic instructions when you aren’t in possession of the ball are crucial to the defensive structure of your side, so whether you’re repositioning someone in front of you or just making them aware what the opposition around them are doing should be as natural as passing the ball but it just isn’t in the make-up of some players.
Some players would rather not say anything because of the risk they might be wrong and just allow any negative consequence.
On the other hand there are just those players who didn’t talk too much simply because they weren’t tactically savvy enough. By that I mean they weren’t confident in their ability to tell others where they should be and what they should be doing.
What was no surprise is that it was two Sunderland lads who were the most vocal in that England side. Jordans Henderson and Pickford never stopped barking instructions and encouragement at their team-mates and I loved listening to them.
At the pinnacle of football, every player will be willing to take responsibility. It’s a given. That’s why they are there. Solemnity isn’t an issue among the elite but those sticking out even more so from the rest tells us something. It tells us these are the characters who will look at themselves first when facing defeat, sometimes to their own detriment. They are the ones who will think that if others aren’t doing their jobs then it’s partly their fault for not making sure they did.
Losing lies heavier with them but the will to rectify wrongs is stronger too.
Not everyone seen shouting on the pitch are the heroes. There’s a distinction between the two types. There are those who throw their arms up or point the finger of blame to make sure the crowd know who’s to blame. Or perhaps more so who isn’t to blame. No, not them.
Those aren’t the winners. They’re the toxic element that hinders team synergy. Selfish individualists who are loathed by the selfless and feared by the timid.
That’s not Henderson or Pickford though. As players they might never go on to be held up against the true greats of the game, but within the confines of the dressing room you can guarantee they have players wringing every ounce of energy out of themselves to make sure they don’t let them down.