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By Tony Attwood
I’ve rambled on here before about the fact that I have never played semi-pro football, never refereed, never managed a team, and that my highest achievement in the world of active football was at the very amateur level. And even then only if others didn’t show up.
So by and large you can take it that I know bugger all about actually playing the game.
But I do know a little about performance and personal delivery “on the day” as it were, and in this area maybe there is a little common ground between myself and those who play.
Over the years I have earned my money either as a musician or as a writer, and I’ve occupied my spare time as a dancer (which explains why I was useless as a footballer – people who can do one can’t do the other). And my point is that as anyone who works in any creative field where individual talent has to be put on display knows, you get bad days and good days. But curiously, it is often difficult to know quite why one day is good and one isn’t.
In my days on the road as a musician playing with small time rock bands that acted as warm-ups for the stars of the show, I could never really tell in advance if I was going to just get by on stage or actually turn in a performance something that was worth writing home about. And from my conversations with other musicians, I think many of them found the same. Likewise today, I never quite know if the commercial writing I am going to deliver for a client is of the “I guess that will just about do” variety, or whether I will look at it and say, “I don’t care what the client thinks, that’s bloody brilliant.”
Such, I guess, is the situation with top of the range footballers. They can be brilliant, stunning, and just overwhelming, and then it fails to happen.
Some of it I think is mental, and some of it is the old “rub of the green”. We seem to have hit the post and bar a few times recently, and been up against keepers who seem to be able to find just the right place at the right moment to stick out a hand or leg. In each game, even when we lose, we have more attempts and more attempts on target than the opposition. That must affect the mental process – knocking back our players, pushing the chests out of theirs. You could almost see this on sunday against Newcastle – as we didn’t make it happen in the first half, they started to look at each other and (as if little bubbles came out of their heads as per the comic books) think “we could get something from this”.
Belief in yourself, when you are on any sort of stage before an audience, is everything. Lose it, and you lose the ability to perform, be it as an actor or a musician, as a stand up comic or a footballer. Indeed there are thousands of mind coaches in the wider world trying to deal exactly with this issue, although I have never come across a single on who can change a performer who can’t do most of the work himself or herself.
So it is with writers – when you stop believing in your ability to sit at the computer and to come up with words and phrases that actually use the language in an interesting and exciting way, you give up. It’s called “writer’s block” and virtually every writer under the sun gets it some time or other.
And this I think must be a bit of the problem. The players know that everyone is going to raise their game against Arsenal, as well as engaging in that awful timewasting that is now the destruction of top level football. But when the Arsenal players utterly believe in themselves again, it will all come out ok. Not least because the only way to beat timewasting is by scoring first.
The Invincibles had this belief in themselves totally during the unbeaten season – but if you recall what happened after the defeat in the 50th game, you’ll know how fragile belief is. Could they lose one and then pick up and start another run? Could they hell! It was painful for a few matches, and as a result we lost the league title.
What ends a bad run of non-belief is generally a spot of luck – a ball that at this moment would hit the post and go out, hits the post and goes in. Suddenly everyone feels they can do it, and off we go again.
Shouldn’t Wenger be able to lift the team? Well, up to a point, but if he could every time there’s a dip, he would have made himself not only a brilliant manager but also one of the greatest psycho-therapists of all time. The fact that Sir F Word and Arsene Wenger use such utterly different tactics to motivate players, and that indeed Sir F Word seems to vere violently between being a father figure and the deliverer of wholesale abuse, suggests there is no answer.
Of course in the stadia and on the blogs we can make it worse by moaning and groaning, or we can try and help the club and the players by being positive. It depends how you feel I guess.
Forget the present, just buy a present, and live in the past: Making the Arsenal: available from Amazon.co.uk but for a signed copy dedicated to whoever you want just order from the publishers (follow the link) and add details of the dedication wanted to your order.
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