English football switched its focus, this weekend, to the FA Cup for the annual rigmarole that is the third round. Given the lack of importance that seems to be placed on the Cup by some clubs and managers the third round now is an occasion where lower league clubs are willed against their more illustrious counterparts on by all fans and broadcasters alike to secure the now obligatory ‘giant killing’.
Two of the more unlikely results, however, did produce a couple of choice quotes from the post match interviews. One was brilliant and the other ridiculous.
Let’s start with the positive. Graham Westley, having just watched his League Two Stevenage side outplay Newcastle and beat them 3-1, gave an excellent account of how he managed to fashion the victory. Not content with doing what many other teams would do and defending the 18 yard line and hoping to pinch a goal, Westley said he aimed big and asked his players to provide details on how they could win the game 5-0.
This sort of coaching style is not only presumably incredibly motivating for the players, who must be filled with self-belief by a coach who has so much faith in them, but touches upon a technique, which is popular in behavioural change projects at present that try and influence people’s actions (say smoking or how they travel) to the positive.
The theory goes that by letting someone feel like they are in control of what they are learning and allowing them come up with the answers themselves while providing support, they are more likely to take the option that is better for them and continue longer into the future. Whether Westley fell on this method by accident or on purpose, I think it is quite an innovative approach and shows that he probably has a long career ahead of him.
The second interview I find really bizarre. Theo Walcott talked to the BBC after Arsenal’s disappoint one all draw with Leeds on Saturday apologising for a dive he had taken attempting to win a penalty.
He uses the phrase “It’s one of those things that I do not like to see in my game” and I find this particularly strange. It sounds as if Theo Walcott has some kind of schizophrenia with the footballing part of him under no control of his normal self. It would certainly explain why he seems to choke given a chance in front of goal with some time to think about it!
I just think that if a player is so worried about diving that he has to come out and apologise to the media, then why did he do it in the first place? Admittedly you can get caught up in the game – Arsenal were pushing hard for an equaliser at the time – but surely you would think if it matters that much to you, you would stay on your feet.
That’s not the only thing. Comments like “I said to one of their players. Would you have done it?” and “I’ve heard people say that if you get the slightest touch, you should go down so it works both ways” suggest that he is trying to defend his dive so is this an apology or not?
This interview in some ways confirms my view that young players’ concepts of respect towards fans and other players is being distorted. I suggested in a previous piece about players not celebrating that “players, in particular young ones, are having to worry about their conduct superfluously”. Could it just be that Theo is so worried about how he is viewed in the media and amongst fans that he feels trapped into offering such crazy excuses and apologies for something that looked to most spectators quite innocuous anyway?