Ask anyone who has never played the game, managed, or run a football club, and they will tell you how easy it is. In reality, success and failure on or off the field is determined by complex and interdependent factors. You need to be a footballer to understand, that even in this modern time of sports science, how fatigue affects your performance late in a game.
You need to be a manager to know that scoring more goals is not just about putting two up front instead of one, or that encouraging players to pass with more urgency can cause undesired outcomes. Few of us have the benefit of these experiences.
Then there are those who should know these complexities, and at one time, maybe did know, but are now lost in blissful ignorance. Alan Shearer, you have been called out.
Martin O’Neill distilled his 31-years managerial experience into eight words for Shearer, who criticised Fulham’s Ireland international right back, Cyrus Christie, saying, “Maybe that’s why he [Shearer] only managed eight games”.
Alan, if you knew more about football management than you did, perhaps you would have recorded more than a single win in the business. Your knowledge of management is not sufficiently useful to extend your game experience to double figures. Worse than that, despite an illustrious playing career, you have forgotten that all those complexities and interdependencies exist.
There’s a debate to be had (another day) about who makes the better analyst, a former player or a trained journalist. The journalist will never know just how hard it is to make a 20 yard pass when you are so exhausted you can hardly see. But too often, former footballers do not use analytical skills, which is pretty important when analysing.
Easy answers are offered for complex problems continually. Why did Fulham ship five goals to Arsenal? Maybe it was because Cyrus Christie took it upon himself to play as wing-back for the day, as Shearer suggests. Or maybe it was a combination or several players actions, as well as tactics, counter-tactics, relative economic resource, the break of the ball and a dozen other things.
Martin O’Neill added, “[Shearer] should have prefaced things by saying ‘I don’t know what the manager has said’ because, at the end of the day, the manager has asked him to stay up the pitch and not worry about getting back.”
Be like Martin, not Alan. People who offer simple solutions to complex problems usually have a huge knowledge gap.