Now the season has ended, Jon Rogers has expertly detected that it was in fact the DEFENCE which was the main reason we didn’t go up this season. I know! The good thing is, he has an solution and it involves MOTIVATIONAL THEORIES.
Many a writer has flown the flag for the handsome defensive stylings of say Franco Baresi or Paolo Maldini, but with Norwich’s defenders being further away from being Italian masters than a mob of kangaroos, I’m going the opposite way. I don’t want handsome. I don’t want style. I want ugly. I want gritty. I want Tony Adams punching Robert Huth in a gravel pub car park as old girls from a bingo hall pour pints of stale bitter over them. That sort of defending.
I have absolutely no idea but I guess defending takes oodles of concentration, controlled aggression and acceptance of the fact your face, body and goolies are going to get a ball, fist, knee and elbow thrust into them repeatedly. Managers and coaches have come and gone at Norwich and despite them encouraging players to shepherd, jockey, push up, drop off, squeeze in, get close, hold back, get behind, get in front, and press, press, press – our seasons have been leakier than a cocky soup. It’s really is time to get back to basics. Nail that first, and then play out from the back. That piece of advice is your leaving present, Ryano Bennettiti.
Simplicity is king. I’m talking knocking the ball out of play when under pressure. No risk, solid clearances from the goalkeeper to the wings. Picking up your man and making it as hard as possible to get a good connection on any set-piece. Getting your goolies in the way of a shot. If you think of all the games where goals could have been saved by those four alone, we’d be thinking of Wembley as our saviour right now, not Webber.
Of course, every team has a tendency to concede a goal or two in a Championship game, but goals should only come about when the opposition have had to work extra hard to produce an excellent passage of play, not gifted to them by a hesitating defender or goalkeeper who gambles with the ball which brings the crowd’s arse up to their elbow.
OK. A big Wes-esque change of direction, so hold onto your underpants. I’m about to dip into the sexy world of motivational theories. I can hear the glistening slick of eye rolling but stick with it. PLEASE!
No, seriously do stick with it.
A theory was developed by a chap called Douglas McGregor. Lovely guy, I’m sure. Bit too much time on his hands. The worst person in the world at naming things also, as his two well-developed philosophies were called Theory X and Theory Y. Catchy.
What are they? Basically, they are techniques of getting the best performance from a range of unrelated individuals. A motivation strategy. Different ones work for different people everyone. A rough and crude example is thus:
Theory X: I need a wall built. 6 x 4 using 80 bricks done by 3pm in this location. Hurry up.
Theory Y: I need a wall. I’ve got 80-90 bricks here. And I need it a good size so its covers his area, as soon as you can please. I’ll let you work it out. Thanks guvnor.
So strict rules, or pure freedom. Some thrive on each. It’s like being told ‘can you clean the kitchen, hoover the stairs, and dust the front room?’ Or simply, ‘do the housework’. Still with me? I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t.
Moving these theories into football, Theory Y is the attacking third. How do you tell Mr Hoolahan to do what he does? You can’t, basically. You just sit back with the loose instruction ‘Go do a Wes.’
Midfielders. They have a strict job to do, but must have the freedom to do what Jonny Howson can do. ‘Go do a Jonny, but…if Ivo goes forward, cover the right-back’. Both X and Y.
Defenders – Theory X. There should be one simple instruction. Get that white round thing away from the white rectangle thing. Pick him up at a set piece. Don’t let him turn. No expression, little freedom.
If Russ Martin twats the ball into Row Z, the crowd may be a bit grumbly, but we shouldn’t penalise him for it. Yes it’s a bit Barry Fry, but let me give you FOUR examples where a good old-fashioned ‘AVE IT would have been much more beneficial than what came instead.
Brighton’s first, Rotherham’s first, Huddersfield’s first, and Wednesday’s first. All away from home. No coincidence that each was when the game was at 0-0. If the simple instruction of ‘clear your lines’ had been followed, none of those goals would have happened.
The first goal versus Brighton away – Michael McGovern gets fouled by Glenn Murray maybe, but an early foot through the ball into the crowd, and it’s 0-0 still. And who knows?
The first goal versus Rotherham – Timm Klose is shuffling the ball out of play and get bundled out the way. Clear your lines into the crowd and it’s 0-0 still. And who knows?
Sheffield Wednesday. Fantastic finish but it is still 0-0. If John Ruddy finds touch while hovering near the touchline like a loose crisp packet in an updraft, who knows?
Finally, first goal at Huddersfield, if Ryan Bennett takes control of the situation and put his foot through it, it’s 0-0 still. And who knows? Each one of those goals were avoidable errors, all of them swung the game into the favour of the opposition. We all know the importance of the first goal.
After the 3-0 Huddersfield game, David Wagner was being interviewed by the side of the pitch by Sky Sports’ Simon Thomas. I was surprised Simon didn’t dive on the floor and hold onto one of David’s legs refusing to let go until he managed Norwich, but he remained professional throughout (although I’m sure I heard him mutter the words ‘smug prick’ a couple of times). I had slumped into a bitter coma of sorts knowing the season was over so the noises David was making hardly resembled an actual language. But, the one thing I did hear was David talking about how him and his team treat the players.
Hudds had lost a couple before that game and Wagner was asked if he was worried they were slipping away from their good form this season. He replied in a beautifully German tone and a confidence which made him sound like he was the one who invented Vorsprung Durch Technik. To paraphrase, the players are humans and not robots but humans are much more beneficial to work from, because robots can’t learn from their mistakes. However, if the players don't learn from them and continued to repeat them, that’s where he has an issue. Very theory Y.
Let’s say it's lucky both Michael McGovern and Ryan Bennett weren’t playing for Huddersfield, but because if they did, they wouldn’t be playing for Huddersfield Town anymore.
So, to sum up, if it’s 0-0, if it’s tense…
‘Y’ not theory X it right into row Z? Capiche!