Sports Letters: Drop in standards

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The Independent Online
Sir: I write in support of Mr Delaney (Sports Letters, 8 April) and in condemnation of British football establishment attitudes. Commentators confront us with debates that should have no place within a heritage that boasts Best, Charlton, Dalglish and the like. (1): The myth that for every Gascoigne or Hoddle, there must be a ball-winner. The solution is simple: keep the ball instead. Our so-called top professionals give it away with the kick-and-rush abandon I remember from the junior school playground. (2): Debates such as that fashionable in the 80's - whether Hoddle should play for England - he is now admired at long last for his philosophy, but why so late? No other country would have considered leaving such a rare talent out of their national team. Consider also whether Barnes would be the uncertain maverick so often seen had he been allowed to get on and play without having 'that goal' brought up every time he fails to go round six international opponents and produce tap-in final balls.

(3): Why is there not universal condemnation of forwards who cannot control the ball first time - watch Ian Wright for 90 minutes and consider if he has the credentials to rank alongside Van Basten, McCoist, Lineker etc. (4): Stoppers: one echoes all Mr Delaney says about Adams, Butcher and, Watson, remembering Moore - comparisons with such as he may be invidious, but it is there that standards should be set. (5): Sweepers: in this country, we do not even understand the role. A country that refers to Baresi as a sweeper betrays its own ignorance. A sweeper should be the most attacking player on the field, because he is released from all marking responsibility. Unless the football coaching and managing establishment is shaken out of its misplaced complacency, we will never again compete on the same level with international opponents who are outreaching us already.

Yours faithfully,

NIGEL CUBBAGE

King's Langley

Hertfordshire

8 April

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