Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Butchering Our Chances

Butchering Our Chances

Greetings loyal readers. I know your patience has been tested, but spare a thought for my own. It is now approaching three months since I arrived in Inverness. It seems it will be close on another two months before my stuff arrives from Australia. So still no computer, no recording studio, no guitar, no ukulele, no bicycle.

But I’m making do and couldn’t be happier. Really.

I’m going to launch into today’s topic with the studs showing on two raised boots. Today’s topic is Terry Butcher.

You new readers may be unfamiliar with my previous lives, one of which is football pundit. Please rest assured that when I use the term ‘football’ I am referring to the World Game, the Beautiful Game, Association Football. Soccer. So one of the first things I did upon learning of my upcoming migration to Inverness was to do a little research of the local football team. One of the first things I learned about my new club was that Mr Terry Butcher is at the helm.

This is, of course, the same Terry Butcher that was in charge at Sydney FC in 2008. The same Terry Butcher who couldn’t convince the players, the Sydney board, the Sydney media, or the Sydney fans that he was worth keeping around for a second season.

So what is my problem with Terry Butcher? If you look superficially at the progress of Inverness Caledonian Thistle (ICT) under his reign you will find a team that has appeared to have over performed. Winning promotion to the Scottish Premier League from Division One, and holding down a league position slightly better than mid-table for most of their return season. Winning through to a Cup face-off against either Celtic or Rangers in a few weeks time and, amongst all that, the incredible achievement of going through the entire calendar year of 2010 undefeated away from home. A truly remarkable statistic.

How could I possibly be unhappy with that? Well, I’m about to tell you.

Terry Butcher is something of a legend in UK football. I’m not going to waste space here describing his entire career (something you can quickly wiki yourselves), however one of English football’s enduring photographic images is of Terry Butcher leaving the pitch in his white England shirt tuned red with blood. A true warrior. The image indicative of a tough, no nonsense, uncompromising defender. And here we have the crux of the problem that is Terry Butcher the manager.

The modern game is not one of big tough defenders. It is not a game for lumbering sloths crudely hacking at passing legs. It is not a game of blind hit-and-hope. It is a game of speed and endurance. Of skill and finesse. Of youth gambling its destiny within systems of order and repetition. It is a complicated world.

So when I heard Terry Butcher last week telling his players to ‘put their bodies on the line’ I died a little death. This is the same Terry Bucher who told the media at Christmas that all he needed was a couple more bodies before the close of the January transfer window and everything would be fine. And why did ICT need more bodies? Because enough had already been sacrificed playing the ‘bodies on the line’ kind of game their manager demands.

There is a romanticism to this war-like rallying of troops. I see the way the players look at Terry; I hear the way they talk about him. They hold him in such regard that they would do anything for him. The way he screams at them from the sideline, and on the training track, he commands respect. So when he tells them to get stuck in, when he yells to do more, when he pleads to put the body in the way – they do. But when this is plan A, B & C you can start to see your season quickly unravel. And like it did in Sydney, it is now happening here in Inverness.

And failing to learn the lessons of Sydney, Butcher seems intent to blame everyone and everything else for his failures. Buying new players to replace players wearied and injured as a result of your game plan is not good man management. Continuing to appeal to the players fighting qualities is not the answer when that tank has been exhausted by Christmas.

For once your players have given their 100% they are spent. They are done. Without tactical second nature they are lost. And lost is what they have appeared to be since December, when St Mirren spoiled our Boxing Day. If you enter the field of battle prepared with tactics that rely on skill and guile, pace and endurance, you can face the final minutes of each half confident that digging a little deeper, or putting your body on the line might get you to the line ahead. But when it’s been your only tactic for 45 minutes it makes the ref’s whistle seem a long way away.

Look to recent results, and the number of goals conceded within a few minutes of the halftime and fulltime whistle. It makes for damning reading. Bad teams concede goals at these times. Inverness Caledonian Thistle, under the watch of Mr Terry Butcher, is becoming a very bad team indeed.

I thank you all for allowing me to get all that off my chest.

In other news I am back on the training track. I’m trying to get enough ks under the belt to a) tighten that belt slightly and b) achieve a personal best time for the 5km in a couple of weeks at the Inverness Half Marathon. My preparation has been going so well that I actually considered entering the half marathon instead of the 5k, but who am I kidding? Much as I’m trying to get published in the local papers I’m not too keen for that to be in the obituaries.

So long for now, dear folks.


No comments: