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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Raves and Rants – “Total Football” A Cut & Paste Guide, Ruud Krol and Winter Vindicated?

Written by on October 12, 2011 | 10 Comments »
Posted in General

Some of the best of the soccer web with an atrocious piece thrown in now and again.

Mohamed Moallim with an article on one of the greatest defenders ever to play the game – Ruud Krol. I remember reading a piece many years ago that said that while at the Vancouver Whitecaps of the old-NASL Krol could hit a pass through the air and still make it stick on AstroTurf.

The Jay DeMerit story is coming to a theatre near you next month – if you live in the US.

Rob Bagchi writes about a very good but not very lucky Leicester side of the early sixties.

That decade is remembered for the Spurs double winning side, the emergence of Liverpool and Leeds United and the great Manchester sides.

Everton was also extremely successful during that time but for some reason they have rarely received the sort of recognition their record suggests they deserve.

Leicester came very close to winning a trophy more than once but were destined to be the bridesmaids.

With crossover sport owners it can be interesting to read and listen to comments they make about clubs they own in other sports. Liverpool’s John W Henry appeared on a sports radio station in Boston and talked about the Red Sox.

While reading the article it reinforced how difficult it must be to manage interests across a number of different sports. It is easy to talk of taking care of “big picture” stuff but in sports so much depends on the nuances of the small stuff.

It must also be difficult to resist the temptation to transfer knowledge gleamed from one sport to another without trying to apply it in the proper context.

Clemente Lisi has an interview with David Wangerin on Klinsmann, MLS and how little we really know about the history of the game in the US.

John Molinaro with a farewell column at before he moves to Sportsnet. Molinaro suggests that statistics and numbers don’t properly reflect the progress that Toronto has made under Aron Winter this season.

That may be true but you can’t ignore the numbers you don’t like. Numbers like fewer points than last season even with more games played.

Numbers like only once winning two games in a row in MLS this season.

“Winter was also brave to stick to his guns when results did not go his way in the first half of the season. The Dutchman stayed the tactical course, confident that his players would soon grasp the nuances of the Ajax-inspired, possession style game he has preached since coming to town.”

“By June, Winter and Mariner had the full picture and began to shape the roster. Trades were made, youngsters were given a chance, and European players with pedigree were signed.”

I think this is called sucking and blowing at the same time. You cannot give Winter credit for sticking to his guns and then turnaround and offer praise because he traded players right, left and centre. (Many who have yet to show that they are up to the task).

Winter vastly underestimated the task he had in front of him back in February and the mid-season avalanche of trades was proof.

Winter deserves more than one season to show whether he can indeed turn the club around but that doesn’t mean that we all have to forget the basic errors he made.

The testing system for doping across all sports is still patchwork at best and “cheats are getting better at cheating”.

The Scottish Premier League is again considering the idea of cutting out the traditional broadcasters and getting into the business with an exclusive channel.

WSC asks why is it so difficult for referees to apply the laws of the game at dead ball situations.

I promised on the podcast that I would provide a link to the Freakonomics podcast on the folly of prediction.

Simon Kuper writes about the intrepid pub owner, Mrs. Murphy and the possible ramifications of her case that was ruled on by the European Court last week.

WSC on fans, pundits and the medias reaction to Carlos Tevez…. a foreigner.

FIFA is now offering an interactive feature for their world rankings. Wonderful, now we have interactive rubbish.

Unless someone can explain to me why performances from years ago impacts on how a team is playing today I will continue to shun this twaddle.

As Richard Conway states – Chuck Blazer, an unlikely change agent.

John Beech at the Play the Game conference expresses a mild hope that change at FIFA might be happening.

James Montague with an article that ran just before Libya qualified for the finals of the African Cup of Nations but well worth the read anyway.

This apparently is a what refers to as a primer on how the USA can play “Total Football” under Klinsmann.

“Primer” is not the description I would use.

Apparently “the US are now lining up in the 4-3-3 formation inspired by the Dutch concept of Total Football.”

Someone needs to tell Brazil and a number of other countries that apparently they were not playing 4-3-3 around the time the Netherlands were getting their arses kicked by the likes of Luxembourg.

While we are at it there seems to be a few other pieces that are missing. I didn’t see anything that talks about why the role assigned to the sweeper was so critical to the Dutch success.

Or how the ability to use the back pass that a keeper could pick up impacted the way the game was played.

Or for that matter the impact that the offside law at that time had on the pattern of play. All relevant pieces but all sadly ignored.

Ignored perhaps because “Total Football” was a concept rooted in its time. It is not something that can be cut and then pasted into a game that has evolved and changed significantly in the last four decades. To suggest otherwise is asinine.

And we conclude with another from

The headline tells us “LA may be the favourites for MLS Cup, but stats say otherwise.”

Then the article tells us “So now that they’ve clinched the Supporters’ Shield, are the LA Galaxy automatically the odds-on favourites to win MLS Cup 2011 at the Home Depot Center on Nov. 20? The stats may say so, but history does not.”

So boys can you please tell me what the bloody stats are actually saying?

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10 responses to “Raves and Rants – “Total Football” A Cut & Paste Guide, Ruud Krol and Winter Vindicated?”

  1. Soccerlogical says:

    The Jay DeMerit story is coming to a theatre near you next month – if you live in the US.

    A middle class white boy with a college degree, EU status and financial support who becomes a mediocre defender who can’t read the game, has 2 left feet and who chooses to head the ball even when it’s rolling on the ground.

    “Goal IV”, mediocrity crosses the pond… at a theatre near you!

  2. John Bladen says:

    With all due respect, I for one won’t miss Molinaro’s pointless diversions. Anyone who devotes most of their attention to power rankings in wk 1 of the season needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Or perhaps not at all.

    Re: ‘total football’ nonsense, I agree completely. Why stop with a 70’s ‘innovation’ (though there are some who would say it was no innovation even then)? Why not dredge up a tactical setup from the 50’s, or maybe even from the Chapman era???

    With all the short sightedness in the modern game (in N.A. at least), the funny thing is that that approach might actually be successful…

  3. John Bladen says:

    “…“So now that they’ve clinched the Supporters’ Shield, are the LA Galaxy automatically the odds-on favourites to win MLS Cup 2011 at the Home Depot Center on Nov. 20? The stats may say so, but history does not…”

    “Err… they might win… or, err, they might not. Not sure, really. Hard to say. Who has my *%^$&in’ check? Anybody? Anybody?”

    Ah, the MLS insiders…

  4. CACuzcatlan says:

    I’m guessing you already know what the real meaning behind that convoluted phrasing is, but if not, here it is.

    What they’re actually saying is that current season stats say LA is the best team in the league this season and should therefore be able to beat weaker teams and take the cup. Although historically, the best team in the league during the regular season does not win the cup.

  5. Soccerlogical says:

    LA win the MLS Cup and Hans Backe (for all the NYRB talent) finally goes away and is replaced by a proper manager in Steve Coppell.

  6. Joao says:


    The 4-3-3 is easily the most overrated formation in football. If executed perfectly it is a joy to watch and tremendously effective. However, if misused it is a trainwreck(toronto fc) because you need technically gifted players as well as positionally aware players. The brilliance of the formation is in its fluidity and the interchange of positions by different players. I fail to understand why everyone is enamored with this formation because the dutch lost both world cup finals in the 1970`s. In 1974 they lost to a more displined and hard working West German side. In 1978 sans Cryuff they lost to a Mario Kempes inspired Argentina.
    The 4-5-1 is a more effective and easily more adaptable as it can switch to a 4-4-2 if you add a forward or a makeshift 4-2-4 or 4-3-3 if the players are verstaile and the manager can react quickly to different situtaions in the game. Jose Mourinho uses this formation at Real Madrid and with CR7, Ozil,
    Di Maria, Kaka, and Benzema it is hugely succesful. In international level it was used by Aragones` spain during euro 2008 after villa`s injury and it was crucial to establishing possesion in the victory over Germany in the final. I also wonder why everyone blames catenacio on the italians when it was truly perfected and turned to an art form by Helenio Herrera`s Inter? In Italy`s world cup triumphs in 1982 and 2006 they were not particuarly negative {especially in 1982} the defense was just excellent. I personally feel that this is a greater innovation than total football because of its simplicity and ease to incorporate into a team. I understand football purists hate this concept,but even Brazil changed their apporach to football after the painful loss in 1982 and te rewards are 2 world cup wins, 5 copa america triumphs, 3 confederations cups, and a winning mentality. I better end this digression here before barca fans, purist jump on my throat…

  7. Roberto Manita says:

    “A middle class white boy with a college degree, EU status and financial support who becomes a mediocre defender who can’t read the game, has 2 left feet and who chooses to head the ball even when it’s rolling on the ground.”

    The Jay DeMerit story should be an inspirational story that all aspiring footy youngsters in the US and Canada can draw on — regardless of their skill level, be it actual, perceived, or otherwise.

    My word, that SL is a very difficult man to please. Ain’t he? Can’t you get inspired by “a middle class white boy with a college degree, EU status and financial support?” Because my best guess is that SL is “a middle class white boy with a college degree and financial support” who does not have EU status but who is a wee bit jaded and prepared to eat his own 🙄

  8. Soccerlogical says:

    RM – I’m sorry but I don’t rate ANY defender who falls to the ground to head a rolling ball when it can easily be cleared with a kick as DeMerrit did quite a few times.

    “Athletic” players who started playing soccer at 6 years of age and have made it to top level are a dime a dozen. Unfortunately, most most can’t defend or read the game to save their life.

    * People in all walks of life display a determination to survive or overcome difficulty so DeMerrit’s “European Vacation” of mediocrity does nothing for me… sorry.

  9. brklynstrr says:

    how about we watch the movie before we judge….i am going to support it…more things like this need to be done to support the sport in the US….they could make a movie about a disgruntled soccer fan who bashes an american kids soccer dream and i would go support it so Hollywood can say, hey…these soccer movies really have a fan base…..lets make more

  10. […] Aron Winter following his lacklustre first season with Toronto FC, something you did with your post on John Molinaro’s farewell article for the CBC. Why do you think TFC fans have been so […]

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