“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”
Mark Twain, American author and humorist
No explanation needed – you just have to look at all the great small players who are now flourishing, not just because of great technical skills, but also because of their fighting spirit: Xavi, Leo Messi, Andres Iniesta, Wesley Sneijder, Luka Modric, Jack Wilshere, Eden Hazard and more.
“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax”
Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States
Preparation is essential for success. With proper training and good preparation, games will be easier to win. A good preseason on the sporting and transfer market fronts are essential for a great season.
“Courage is grace under pressure”
Ernest Hemingway, American author
Victor Valdes made a horrible mistake against Real Madrid in the opening minute of the last “El Clasico”, but he and his teammates kept their grace and continued playing their game. “The perfect image of this game was that after the goal Víctor Valdés continued playing the ball,” Pep Guardiola said. “Most goalkeepers would boot it. But Víctor kept playing the ball. I prefer us to lose the ball like that but give continuity to our play. Valdés had shown commitment to our approach”. “The key was not forgetting our philosophy,” said Xavi Hernández. “We don’t know how to play any other way – and Victor was brave.”
“Money can’t buy friends, but you can get a better class of enemy”
Spike Milligan, English comedian
Manchester City and Chelsea proved that money, loads of it, change their status and bought them new enemies of different class. Suddenly the Manchester United fans start to care about their local derby game.
“Patience is a bitter plant, but it has sweet fruit”
Arsenal fans know all about how bitter patience could be. However, if grown properly, this plant could give sweet, sweet fruits. One must also remember “Patience has its limits. Take it too far and it’s cowardice” as George Jackson once said.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
Charles Darwin, an English naturalist
Staying stubborn might make you look like a man of principles, but one must always evolve, adapt to the surroundings around him in order to survive. Football changes all the time. Formations come and go; Sheiks and oligarchs invest and buy; Players’ whims and desires are getting crazier each season. Those who adapt better are the ones who succeed – Like Alex Ferguson. Those who might be highly intelligent but fail to adapt, like Wenger – are left trophy-less for six plus years.
“You don’t learn to hold your own in the world by standing on guard, but by attacking, and getting well hammered yourself”
George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright
As the old football cliché is going: the best form of defence is attack. Shaw just said it better.
“When there is no vision, people perish”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American essayist, lecturer and poet
Pretty straight forward: Vision defines the way a sporting organization will look in the future, and without it, the present looks pretty dull.
“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise”
Sigmund Freud, Austrian neurologist, founder of psychoanalysis
A good honest team-talk, in which players speak their mind without any fear, is usually the turning point for any struggling team. Emmanuel Petit said there was a team-talk like that in Arsenal’s 1997/98 double winning season, which started not-so-brilliantly. Frank Lampard has also revealed that such an exercise helped Chelsea’s dressing room at the worst times. Another example from this season is that a good, open and honest talk between Real Madrid’s players and their coach, Jose Mourinho, helped them get on the right track after a 0-0 draw at Santander in September.
“When you are winning a war, almost everything that happens can be claimed to be right and wise”
Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister
The winners write history, but one must remember that winning doesn’t make you right about what you are doing on the football field. Doing things right, using football as an education tool and playing with certain values are also the wise things to do. As the 1978 World Cup winning coach, César Luis Menotti, once said: “Those who say that all that matters is winning, I want to warn them that someone always wins. Therefore, in a 30-team championship, there are 29 who must ask themselves: what did I leave at this club? What did I bring to my players? What possibility of growth did I give to my footballers?”
We’ll finish this post with a great quote from the greatest American football coach, Vince Lombardi:
“Winning is not everything, but wanting to win is”
That’s the very foundation of professional sports.