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The Ben Smith column: Sticking to what you believe in

It’s funny how when you get older your ambitions and plans for the future change.

If you had asked me five or six years ago if I would be interested in some sort of career in coaching or management I would have said no chance.

However over the ensuing years I have been preparing for the future with no specific plan. First a degree in Business Management then the accumulation of my coaching badges.

As I gain more knowledge I find myself questioning decisions that are made and thinking to myself what I would do in that circumstance, sometimes I agree with the manager, sometimes I don’t.

During the unconventional season I have had, moving from club to club on a temporary basis, I have worked under different managers who employ different techniques.

Nomadic life

I haven’t enjoyed the nomadic life I have been leading this season but it has allowed me to learn off these different managers and also understand why other managers I have worked for make the decisions they make.

Every manager has his own footballing philosophy. This is something you are encouraged to do when you take your coaching badges. There is no right or wrong footballing philosophy, everyone has their own beliefs and you then coach and manage your players according to those beliefs.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a massive fan of Barcelona and the philosophy they employ. If I ever become a coach or a manager this is the way I want to play. I know some people will read that and say this is an idealistic approach and isn’t realistic, especially in the lower professional leagues. I beg to differ.

A couple of weeks before Christmas I sat down like millions all around the world and watch El Clasico, Real Madrid v Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu.

It was a fascinating game with two elite teams employing contrasting styles. Barcelona stuck rigidly to their philosophy and beliefs of the centre backs splitting and Victor Valdes passing the ball out from the back irrespective of the pressure coming from the opposition.

Shrewd man

Jose Mourinho being the shrewd man that he is instructed his team to press Barcelona high up the pitch and force a mistake or make them play long balls up the pitch. This plan worked a treat in the first minute when Real forced a mistake from Valdes and took the lead.

Now a manager who didn’t have such a strong philosophy as Pep Guardiola regarding the way he wants his team to play would have instructed his keeper to stop playing out from the back and get the ball forward as quickly as possible. Barca however stuck to their beliefs, didn’t panic and continued to retain possession.

They knew that if they kept possession of the ball Madrid would have to keep chasing it, eventually tire and space would open up for Barcelona to exploit.

This is exactly what happened and as usual by the end of the game we had ran out of superlatives to describe their performance. Would this have happened if they had panicked and changed their style? I doubt it.

I think most of us would agree that the way Barca play is beautiful and we would like our team to play like that. However a style like this takes years to evolve and one thing we know is not in abundance within football is time. This is probably a factor in why a lot of managers do not try and apply such a style.

End to end action

I also think to play in such a style you need to educate supporters. Football supporters in England like to see end to end action much like basketball.

It always surprises me when I hear supporters moaning and grumbling when a player passes the ball backwards and retains possession rather than hoofing it forward and losing the ball.

Yet a player can take a poor first touch and as a result of that have to launch into a tackle to win the ball back and get a huge round of applause.

Of course we want a player to be progressive and pass the ball forward but if nothing is on surely it is better to retain the ball than give it away?

Every time you move the ball players from both teams move as well. This means the picture changes when the ball moves and gives another opportunity for space to open up.

Physically demanding

It is always a lot more physically demanding when you are out of possession so not only are you moving players about but you are also tiring them.

Also supporters and managers have to realise that playing a style like this means you are going to make mistakes. However if a player makes a mistake trying to do the right thing they should be encouraged rather than lambasted.

As I said earlier I am a realist so appreciate that my style of coaching, which I hope will help players to develop, may be best suited to younger players where they are given the time to learn and make these mistakes. This is why I am such a staunch supporter of Futsal.

It is a small sided game which gives kids lots of touches on the ball and allows them to develop their skills in a fun environment.

I am keen to network with fellow Futsal coaches so please visit our website at or contact me @bsmudger7 on Twitter.

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