From: Fr Neil McNicholas, Redcar, Cleveland.
READING Tom Richmond’s reflections on the demise of “the beautiful game” (The Yorkshire Post, May 2) brought to mind, and not for the first time, my experience as a sports coach in my pre-priesthood days working in the Middle East.
We were contracted to the military, providing general fitness training through a variety of sports but also preparing teams for national inter-forces competitions.
The over-riding imperative for our military bosses was success at any cost (that and saving face) and this now seems to have become the imperative also of our national game, especially in those clubs where policy and control is in the hands of foreign owners who have no appreciation of the tradition of the clubs they own and who expect instant success in return for the money they have spent.
We (returning to my Middle East days) might achieve a degree of success in a match but then the next morning the players (soldiers bear in mind) would be allowed to stay in bed and sleep as a reward for their efforts!
Bang would go a day’s training and then, when we went into the next match less than well-prepared as a result, it was always our fault as coaches if we lost.
But if as a result of such interference we failed to achieve the success that was demanded, coaches were simply sacked and put on a plane home.
And the “success at any cost” policy resulted in mysterious additions to the squads (without any reference to the coaches) in the build-up to national competitions, players with distinctly un-military haircuts who had obviously been drafted into the forces from local club sides for the duration of the competition.
What we seem to be seeing increasingly in our national game is a “revolving door” of managers dismissed for not instantly achieving what financial outlay was expected to buy.
No one seems to hold the players to account and it is they, after all, who are actually playing the game (in return for often obscene salaries) not their manager.
When was the last time we heard of players being sacked for under-achieving?
It’s a crazy system whereby some of the supposedly greatest players in the world are bought by club owners and then, when they don’t perform to the level that was expected of them, it’s the manager who gets sacked. You couldn’t make it up.