Manager’s Word 24 Oct 2011
Monday 24th October 2011, 6:19 PM
It’s been a difficult two days. Dealing with defeat is always a challenge. If you are emotionally attached as I believe all managers should be then there is no point in denying that you do feel a low when you lose.
I was at a wedding yesterday but I have to confess that the circumstances surrounding Saturday’s result was never far from my mind. Within minutes of one of my best pal sealing the deal with his better half news was filtering through of Manchester City destroying United. I was interested of course, it was a pretty momentous score line but I was not really bothered about it. I just wanted to think and talk about Harrogate Town and the game I’d just witnessed the day before.
It was a dramatic game. From my point of view the performance of our team was very good. The attitude was outstanding. Everything matters- all the lads that were unavailable through suspension did a running session prior to the game and the players that were playing were really wired in and focussed in the changing room prior to the game. I was confident that we could at least claim a point.
We dominated the early stages and really should’ve been awarded a free-kick six yards from Worcester’s goal when their goalkeeper held on to a cushioned back pass from a defender. Quite how this wasn’t given I shall never know. Frustration was exacerbated when we conceded a soft goal moments later. All that good early possession was for nothing as we switched off at the back and went a goal down. After this however, we really did play some great football. The midfield and front two were linking up so well and winning their battles. At half-time Macca and I just had to keep the spirits up because we knew that we were doing everything right.
We equalised straight after the break, Jonny Allan getting the final touch from a great ball in from the left. It was great to see Jonny on the pitch for us. It’s been a frustrating few months of injury for him so far, but he has a huge character and 1 goal from 1 start should give him a boost.
We were right on the offensive now, and should definitely had 2 penalties given within the space of a minute. First, a handball ensured we didn’t score and then a blatant pull of a shirt was mysteriously unnoticed by the referee and her assistant. At this point even Worcester’s subs were looking surprised at the referee’s inactivity. Still, we couldn’t change anything and we had to keep disciplined. The defence switched off once again and we suddenly were 2-1 down. This was no fault of anyone’s but ourselves and this lack of authority and organisation needs to be addressed because the defence were not put under any real pressure on Saturday and yet succumbed twice to two easy goals.
We again reacted positively and went on the attack. The pressure eventually told and Luke Dean scored a fine goal. Surely, we thought, this was our game for the taking, unless the referee decided to take centre stage and take the game away from us. And she did. 5 minutes were left when the referee over-ruled her own decision and she awarded a corner kick after the assistant referee had flagged, when she had been 10 yards away from the ball. This worried me as it displayed a lack of confidence in her own decision making. The Worcester fans were pretty vocal and I feared that the referee would not be focussed and confident enough to carry out a professional job. 2 minutes later a penalty was awarded. From my perspective, Worcester’s no.9 was adjudged to have brought down by Zac, our ‘keeper. It is true that Zac did leave a leg out but the lad did a professional job and made sure he made up the ground and dragged his trailing leg over Zac’s. The referee pointed to the spot, she’d been sucked in and buckled under pressure from the supporters. Not only was the penalty given, the referee then sent Zac off despite the ball running away and out of play, and one of defenders being on the goal-line.
Paul Heckingbottom stood in and actually managed to save the penalty. However we knew we had a tough couple of minutes left and we were out of balance and down to 10 men.
Worcester had one final move and stabbed a shot in that, no offence to Hecky, would have been saved by one of our 3 trained goalkeepers.
We still had a go at finding an equaliser, the spirit was superb, but in the end we lost the game.
To be fair to the Worcester manager and his assistant they both knew and understood why Macca and I were both seething. They advised me not to approach the referee whilst on the pitch. I know that the F.A. are trying hard to implement their Respect campaign and one thing that they do not condone is a heated confrontation on the way back to the changing rooms. I paused, a huge part of me wanting to do exactly that: confront the referee and question what exactly had just happened out on the pitch. I looked over and as the referee was walking off I watched as she was smiling and laughing to her assistant referees and the Worcester fans. I marched back to our room and faced 16 of our players; everyone was beyond anger, stunned.
Lessons have to be learned. Defensively, we need to be better. If we had kept a clean sheet then we would have come back with 3 points, not even an inept performance from the referee could have prevented that.
Also, despite scoring 2 we should have been more ruthless and scored more.
After the game I did manage to grab 10mins with the referee’s assessors. One of them was an ex-Premiership referee. For what it was worth he agreed with all mine and Macca’s frustrations. In fact, the ex-ref told me he didn’t even think Zac should have been given a yellow card, never mind a red and a penalty. I asked the question why the referee was put in a situation that she found was too hot to handle. I also asked why the referee clearly lacked the awareness and emotional intelligence needed when you are an officiating 2 teams. You wouldn’t find a rugby referee laughing and joking as he/she was walking past players after one of the teams had lost in the final minute, would you?
In the summer I completed part 1 of the UEFA a course. 2 weeks of in-depth learning of the game, and how to improve as a coach. There was a lot of research into systems and styles of play. It was very thorough and intense. For example, we spent several hours one day on the role of a winger. We watched videos of examples of good wing play, examining the role of the player both on and off the ball.
The reason I mention this course is that I’ve really only just begun to realise just how much depth you can go into if you want to strive for self-improvement. There is so much learning to do and studying of top players and top managers.
I am hungry enough to pursue all angles so that I do improve, and I know that Macca, John Gray, Phil Lee and Matt our new Physio have the same mentality.
One question I have to ask though:
Will the referee from Saturday have gone home and reflected. Will she study top referees, incidents in games, and her own manner in an effort to improve from Saturday’s performance?
The Conference North is a serious level now and respect works both ways with officials.