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A little extra would go a long way

After experiencing extra time this week when we lost 2-1 at Everton, I have to say that I wonder whether the 15+15 formula is the best way to decide a game.

Players do expend a phenomenal amount of energy in 90 minutes. To add 33 per-cent to the demand on their bodies isn’t the best way to produce really fast and entertaining added time.

I can imagine a straight 15 minute extra time period providing huge excitement as energy levels enable sides to truly go for it. Is it time for a review?

I also had a quiet laugh to myself on Wednesday night at Goodison Park. Our team had arrived and, as is the routine, I followed the lads out to look at the playing surface with a trademark coffee in my right hand. At Goodison, there is a set of steps leading up from the tunnel to the pitch. As I casually sauntered up them, I managed to catch my foot and stumbled forward into a ridiculous heap.

Somehow, I held onto the coffee. And despite all the pre-match stuff going on in the tunnel, I was pretty sure that nobody saw me. Phew! My pride and image were both in tact. I emerged onto the pitch and enjoyed my walkabout as usual.

But as I made the journey again, when the teams were going out at match time, one smart looking and softly spoken steward moved alongside me. I looked towards him and he quietly whispered ‘Thought I’d stand beside you boss, in case I need to catch you’. Cheeky sod! Timing is everything.

IT’S THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST MORE THAN EVER

It is staggering to consider how far things have come in the science that lies behind the development of football teams. Even in League One where clubs do not have Premier League resources, the extent of the detail behind match and player preparation and support is astonishing.

Whenever I read my intelligence report on competitors, I find really smart new methods and systems being used that break the mould on how things have happened in the past. The investment being made in gaining inches is encouraging for the English game.

There are all the usual things going on at a nutritional, match analysis (pre/post/in game)and planning level. Those are not the keys anymore; those are the givens. Strategies for recovery, biomechanical development schemes and the use of breathing systems to develop player fitness levels are now pretty universal. Finding ways that create a sustainable advantage is the challenge for every manager.

Tactically, teams are producing much smarter attacking strategies. The movement plans and positional deployment of players I have seen recently are much more advanced than League One has produced previously. Teams are far less predictable and producing much more cleverness in their  play. That is a definite development. I’m sure technology will be playing its part there to help that along.

My belief is you should always be searching for the 20 per-cent of things that make an 80 per-cent difference. Small things; big outcomes. That is where our latest investments are going.

Teams have always admired Stevenage sides for their physical power and strength and their tactical organisation. I suspect the speed and reactions in the play of our squad will move to much heightened levels in the next period and will be the feature of us that gets talked about. At our level, you can find huge gains by studying Europe’s best and their processes. When you find a key; the key is to turn it. Hopefully, we will.

TIME FOR A POINTS CHANGE?

The big games between the big clubs do have a habit of turning into stalemates. I am sure that I wasn’t alone in being disappointed in the United/Chelsea spectacle.

With the stakes so high, the desire to avoid defeat does so often lead to a tentative tactical approach.

In the big picture, I would love to see something done in the points system to encourage attacking play. So what do I have in mind? Well without thinking it through in any huge detail, there are some obvious things.

Imagine football if a team knew that two away goals or three home goals would be worth a point. How would an away team play if victory was worth four points, not three? Would sides be more aggressive if a score draw was worth two points?

Over a ten-year period, I’m convinced we would watch more entertaining play if the reward system was changed to encourage managers to go for newly available points.

We changed things before by introducing three points for a win rather than two. A good, thorough re-think now could help to modernise the game still further and improve its long term appeal by introducing a new ethos into the tactics.

WHAT A WAY TO FINNISH A MATCH

I flew to Finland recently to watch a transfer target play. Conveniently, the game was played on a Sunday evening. It was a really interesting trip.

There was one striking moment for me. Apart from the game time, which it seemed brought a very relaxed atmosphere to proceedings, that moment came once the final whistle had blown. Both sides and the officials lined up in front of the main stand after the final whistle and repeated the pre match handshake. It was a rugby-styled gesture and an organised way of bringing respect to the closure of the game.

For me, it was a great way of ending things. I’m not a massive fan of these formalities normally. When I played we got on with the game and shook hands afterwards. That was that. But now that these symbolic gestures are being made to bring a more gentlemanly feeling to things, I truly felt that the concept of post match closure was a positive one.

We could do worse than to introduce it to the Football League.

DARREN’S DAZZLERS

Peterborough have struggled to crack the Championship in recent times. But they know how to get it together in League One and their 6-0 victory over Reading in midweek suggests they might be onto something again.

With a perfect points total in the League and 12 goals scored Darren Ferguson deserves massive credit. It can’t be easy to pick up a club after relegation and bounce straight up to those kind of standards.

They have a pure footballing ethos, tonnes of pace and a relentless mentality to attack and score goals.

Not a bad template to take into the Championship I would think.

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