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Bob John, 1930: Teamwork

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-02-07 05:28:36

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
— Bob John | 15/11/1930 —

You never can tell what is going to happen in any football league until the Christmas and New Year holiday matches are over.
As the season is shaping, though, I think we can pick out two or three teams who will be "there or thereabouts" when the honours of the season are claimed. And I am not giving any secrets away when I say that there is quiet confidence round Highbury way that Arsenal will be one of them.
Mr. Herbert Chapman set out to build a great team. If the "Gunners" continue as they are going his hopes will be realised.
It sounds easy when written down in cold blood. Yet you have to consider that the Arsenal are not the only team with ambitions. Of the many managers who have begun intensive team-building, some have succeeded and others have failed. Is it just football luck — or is there some deep reason?
Obviously, team-building is no easy job.
Nowadays, especially, the ball travels at a fast pace, and the career of the footballer is shortened accordingly. A player must be capable both of quick thinking and quick movements. Unless a player acquires a reputation very young he is likely to feel the weight of years just as he thinks he is reaching his prime. The clever team-builder has to find his men just at the right moment, when they are just old enough to be equal to the strain of first-class football, and just young enough to have the best of their football in front of them.
A waning star, no matter how great his reputation, may prove a disappointment.
I think footballers mature earlier nowadays than they did at one time, but there are not so many budding internationals about that the manager has only to pick and choose between them. WHERE ALEC JAMES EXCELS.
The more you see of first-class football, the more you realise how it is that team-work wins matches.
A big reputation will draw the "gate," but the team must win the matches.
That is where Alec James has been such an acquisition to the Arsenal side. He is a team-worker from start to finish. He has no passion for being in the limelight; all he wants to do is to make openings. This he does by every subtle tactic of which an inside forward can possibly be master. Many footballers could learn from him that knack of holding the ball for exactly the right length of time — waiting for the adversaries to tackle, then passing it away without a hint of the direction in which it will go. It is compelling the defenders to tackle, and then passing round them, that is one vital secret of making openings. GIVING AND RECEIVING.
Perfect ball control is seen in the way Alec James gives a pass. Anybody can kick the ball in the direction of a companion and blame him if he fails to take it. The good pass is one that is easy to take. It finds its man after the defender marking him has been drawn, and it finds him at just the right pace.
Sometimes there will be a short pass along the ground; at another time there may be a swinging pass over to the other wing.
Let the ball do the work by all means — but give it those guiding touches that keep the defence on the stretch.
A fast game of football is best played by taking your time. You may not have seen it in this light, but it is so. Nothing slows up a game more than passes that go astray, bouts of heading due to "ballooning" of the ball, and reckless shots at goal. The ball can be kept moving very fast with a minimum of individual effort if all the passes are finding their mark.
I have chosen Alec James here not so much as an individualist as an example of Arsenal team-work.
All the other "good men and true" of the team deserve mention.
No team will get very far unless its defence is sound — hence the importance of the right kind of backs and goalkeeper; there can be no combination without a sound half-back line, that is why so many managers begin at this point when they consider building a team. And, finally, opportunities in front of the goal must not be wasted.
That, I think, is one of the real secrets of the great team. FLOOD-TIDE OF SUCCESS.
People tell me we have no great teams in these days — no teams like the invincible Preston North End and Sunderland combinations of years ago. Perhaps not, but no doubt another such combination will develop, and when it does it will be because the forwards seize the opportunities that good team-work helps to make for them.
A team that is on the flood-tide of success gains greater confidence with every match, takes long shots with verve, and makes no mistakes with the "sitters."
One of the best examples I have seen of seizing an opportunity was by Johnnie Crosbie, of Birmingham, inside-right, in a cup match against the Arsenal. A good movement on the Birmingham left wing sent the outside-left off with the ball, and he centred. Apparently there was nobody in position, but Johnnie Crosbie leapt up from nowhere and almost seemed to fly to the ball to get his head to it, just steering it into the net. That goal won the game.
Three seasons ago, in a cup tie at Port Vale, we were losing 0-2; just ten minutes from time I managed to get a pass through to Charlie Buchan, who made no mistake with his shot. Just on time J. Brain got the equaliser. We won the replay, and eventually went to the final.
Every footballer remembers great opportunities that were accepted. If ever we get the perfect team, though, every opportunity will be accepted.