If you’re involved in managing or coaching a team then you’re bound to have come across this type of player on a regular basis. The guy that trains like Tarzan but plays like Jane (famous quote from Mike McGurn). This is a common theme in football teams the length and breadth of the country and it is a conundrum to many management teams.
There are many reasons why players perform at a higher level in training than what they do in a match, and I suspect that one of the most common reasons is simply because it’s a much more relaxed environment therefore there is less pressure to perform.
If a player responds greater to a relaxed environment then that is exactly what they must do for themselves on match day. Another reason for non-performance in matches can be the way our game has developed, particularly in the last seven or eight years. There is more of an emphasis on creating athletes than there is on footballers; the athlete is selected ahead of the guy with more natural footballing ability.
This can actually be a positive thing depending on the area of the field that the athlete is playing in but you would want that athlete to be a baller too. James McCarthy is a great example and blend of both. A talented player with a tremendous engine to get up and down a football pitch at ease. Aaron Kernan, Tiernan McCann and Graham Reilly are others that spring to mind. Another reason for a match-day Jane is players have got to learn to play using their heads and understanding game management more. A player with a good footballing brain is a valuable asset to any team and quite often he won’t be the most athletic player but he will be the one that makes the whole team tick. You can almost guarantee that this type of player performs as an eight out of 10 rating week after week.
I am a firm believer however in how you train is exactly how you will play in a match. This is what worked best for me but everyone is different. Training sessions on the pitch, gym sessions, speed sessions, fitness sessions and extra skills sessions all serve a purpose. That purpose is to improve each player and to make them a better footballer therefore providing them with a greater chance of winning. In the modern day game, all of these type of training sessions must be done to compete. Players have to find out for themselves exactly what it is that makes them tick on a match and the place to tinker with this is on the training field. Tweaking things here and there is a normal thing to do. It could well be the timing of your pre-match meal, the duration of a warm up, your focus on the managements instructions. All of these things might seem minute on the overall scheme of things but I can assure you that they are all critical for maximum performance.
There is a shooting exercise that I often do with teams and this is a clear sign to me if players can focus themselves or not. It’s fairly simple where half the team are out around the D area shooting and the other half are behind the goals getting balls out as fast as possible.
The main reason I do this is because the majority of scores in any game is taken from around that zone. The other reason I do it is to look at body language. Players often see it as an area where it’s easy to score from therefore they are lazy in their approach. What happens is that balls drop short and some are ballooned wide. From the D area, that should not be the case. A lazy approach here leads to a lazy approach in a match. Playing how you train and playing like Tarzan can become more consistent but only if the real work is put in on the training nights.