The game is changing in the UK and not everyone is intent on launching it down the pitch.
Craig Foster's recent concerns over the appointment of Jim Magilton as Melbourne Victory coach were based on stereotypes of British football, whilst these are far from baseless the game is changing in the UK and not everyone is intent on launching it down the pitch.
British football has long been associated with intensity, pace, power and a direct approach with a short passing possession based game being far from the norm on pitches across the UK. The limitations of such an approach have been demonstrated on countless occasions with a possession based game performed by technically proficient players continually proving to be the most likely way to ensure success.
Despite continually coming up short, a long ball approach still exists in Britain and is the philosophy of many UK coaches. However, there is evidence of a change starting to emerge in the UK, and not just in teams dominated by foreign players and coached by foreigners such as Arsenal. Swansea under Northern Irishman Brendan Rodgers play an extremely effective style of football based on possession and short passing with the vast majority of their players British. Everyone from the goalkeeper to the lone striker play their role in maintaining possession, which was highlighted when they dominated possession against Arsenal in an extremely impressive performance. The mantras of ‘do not take risks at the back' and ‘play in the right areas' is absent from Swansea's game as they play their way out of trouble all over the pitch to execute Rodger's football philosophy.
Other smaller British coached teams such as Blackpool have also shown an appetite to play a possession-based game free of the fear that results in teams wanting to get the ball as far away from their own goal as quickly as possible. In Scotland where the SPL is often labelled a ‘hoof ball league' there are promising signs of change. St Mirren and Kilmarnock have both played a brand of football this season that is based on maintaining possession. The Welsh national team under the late Gary Speed were evolving into a very good footballing team with the technically gifted Aaron Ramsey central to their approach.
This is not to say that everyone is evolving, there are plenty of Stoke City approaches still in practice in the UK, where physicality and long balls are the basis of their game. However, those in power such as England's Football Association and the Scottish FA are intent on ensuring such approaches are no longer the ‘British way.' Development programs are now aiming to produce technically proficient players rather than focusing on physicality.
The media is also playing a role in changing the UK's football philosophy with bravery now being talked about as constantly seeking to maintain possession regardless of the risks or pressure, rather than being associated with tearing into tackles and playing through pain. This change may perhaps be derived from the prevalence of foreign leagues on British Television with the public now just as capable of watching Barcelona or AC Milan as they are of watching Stoke versus Blackburn, and in many cases more interested.
Craig Foster was right to scrutinise the appointment of Jim Magilton as the health of the sport in Australia will be greatly affected by the quality of its coaches. But objections based on him being British are founded on stereotypes of how its coaches are perceived to want to play the game, and these stereotypes do not reflect all in the UK and offer far from insightful analysis.
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