Former Boro favourite Mark Burke has agreed to write a regular column for miniboro.com giving his views on the wider stories surrounding football. This feature will appear as and when Mark has the time to contribute but I hope it will become a mainstay of the site going forward.
This month Mark takes a look at winning ugly, so what better place to start than the Britannia Stadium.
The great thing about football, the thing that makes it so popular, is it’s simplicity. There’s a piece of grass, a few lines to guide you, a ball; now go and get on with it.
No rules on how you have to play, what style you must adopt, just a few little points on etiquette (which we usually ignore anyway), so long as you stay within those few simple rules then you are fine.
Much like a mother who sends her children out to play, as long as they come home safely, haven’t broke the law, hurt themselves or anybody else then it’s up to them how they play.
Which is why I find the debate that continually rages around Stoke City and the way they play so fascinating and entertaining.
“They are a disgrace,” “They don’t play ‘football’,” etc etc.
I am the biggest football ‘purist’ you could meet. I could talk your ears off about how I think game should be played, why it should be played that way and how to play it that way. But, I will also say there is NO ‘right’ way to play football.
I will defend anybody’s right to play however they like, even if I question it myself and would not want to play or coach a team to play like that. It’s up to that team, those players and most importantly, their manager, how they interpret the rules they are given.
A football manager has to be honest with one person and one person only – himself. He is the one who must live with the criticism if things go wrong, any manager will tell you it’s best to do it your own way, according to your own beliefs. Then if it does all fail you can at least rest your head at night safe in the knowledge you did all you could.
Far better than trying to live up to somebody elses ideals and expectations and failing. Those managers can expect sleepless nights, visited by the ghosts of games gone past, detailing their failings in lucid nightmarish detail.
The manager must ask himself what are his own football beliefs, what is his vision of the game. He can then set out a plan to instill this into his players and staff and decide how they are collectively going to achieve it.
This is exactly what Tony Pulis has done and what a great job he has made of it. People may say he is doing what he can with the ‘material’ he has but I think he would impart the same vision to a different set of players and why not? It’s totally up to him.
Football clubs were set up to perform a social function, as centres of communities, a place where all could meet and be entertained. However, for football fans to be entertained this usually means winning more than you lose.
Nowhere is this more obvious than at Stoke, a one club town where the feeling is always stronger. Stoke City and those fans are having the time of their lives.
I say long may it continue and to any fans taking the moral football high ground remember football is a question of interpretation and he who interprets, understands and implements his own vision best has a good chance of success.
As Tony Pulis might say “I have nothing to declare but my honesty.”
NB: this article has also appeared on EPL Talk