Without the right combinations it is impossible to build a successful side, no matter the individual talents, writes former Bafana Bafana and AmaZulu forward George Dearnaley in SoccerClub magazine.
There are a lot of variables when it comes to putting together a winning team. Firstly, you have to find a good balance in your attacking and defending units. You have to match your style of play with the players you have. There is no way you can be successful if you force a style of play or a system on players who are not suited to it.
Then it takes hours of training to get the players to understand their roles in defending and how your team attacks. You can’t expect players to work together if they don’t know what their teammates are going to do. This is called combination play and, again, it takes hours of practice.
Now, imagine you have a few difficult personalities in the team; a few players who are very talented, but don’t have the same work ethic as the others. There are also players who learn quickly and others who take a while. Some players are better at communication while others are shy and quiet. You have to work with all types of players and get them to believe in what you are doing as a coach.
But just when you think you’ve got it all sorted out, you have to deal with a few players who speak different languages. This is often the situation at the highest level of football, where different nationalities and cultures are all integrated into a squad of highly paid players.
There’s also the question of age; every squad has youngsters and a few players at the end of their careers. The age gap can be as much as 15 years from youngest to oldest. This is also a crucial variable in the makeup of the squad.
Lastly, you have to factor in the personality of the coach and his staff and how they relate to the individual personalities in the squad. You get the ‘father figure’ coach who puts his arm around his players; and you get the disciplinarian who rules with fear.
There are the technical coaches who are always talking about the game and the tactics and techniques that make great players, and there are the coaches who feel like they are part of the squad and join in the training sessions and share jokes with the players. All these personalities, all the variables of the squad and the type of football you want to play … it takes hours and hours of practice and lots of testing before you find the winning combination.
– This article first appeared in Issue 77 of SoccerClub magazine