Monday, August 4, 2008

The use of captains in football

After a couple of days dominated by the departure of England cricket captain Michael Vaughan and the appointment of Kevin Pietersen it got me to thinking how important is the captain of a football side? In cricket the captain is vital to the success of the team, he picks the 11 players that go out to play and decides the tactics that side will use. A lot of responsibility rests on the shoulders of a cricket captain, but how much rests on those of a football player?
When I was a kid growing up being picked as captain for your Sunday league side was an honour but you never really had to do anything. Once in a while you shouted at your team to sort itself out or mark up but apart from that nothing. Now I understand that in professional football a captain is supposed to set an example to his team on and off the field but how many captains can you say actually do that? In terms of performances the likes of Steven Gerrard at Liverpool and Ryan Nelsen at Blackburn can inspire with their displays on the pitch but surely that isn’t enough. See what odds you can get on those two to inspire their respective clubs here.
The position of a manager seems to me to make the position of captain fairly redundant. The manager is the one that organises the squad, lifts them when they are down and deals out the discipline. The captain is supposed to lead the side on the field but how many times have you seen a captain loose his cool and have to be restrained by his fellow players. Roy Keane was always a classic example of this, ending Alf Inge Haaland's career certainly wouldn’t have inspired me to victory along with his continuous battles with referees.
I know it has been sited many times before but in rugby it’s the captain that can only talk back to the referee and for years people have asked why this isn't implemented in football. I think it would be a great idea but it wouldn’t work in this current climate, players are too use to giving the officials verbal abuse. That is something captains should control on the field but they don’t, any example of the ineptitude of captains in football. I know in England that Barnet have tried looking at the idea that only captains can talk to officials but I am unsure how successful that scheme was so the debate rolls on.
It’s not just on the field antics that show captains to be failing to do their supposed duties but off the pitch as well. ‘Mr Chelsea’ John Terry was reportedly so drunk at the last club Christmas party than he ended up peeing on the middle of the dance floor in front of his team mates. Now I can appreciate that players need to be allowed to let their hair down but having a man who urinates on the floor leading me out onto the pitch wouldn’t sit well with me. Terry may be a greater leader on the pitch but when he’s off it things look like they go down hill in terms of setting examples.
Perhaps it’s the current culture that we live in that Terry or Rio Ferdinand are being considered to captain England. To be fair to Fabio Capello he does seem to be picking from a bad bunch of possible leaders, even David Beckham was given another crack at it, albeit for a friendly.
The idea of a captain is an intriguing one because its part of tradition now, everyone wants to be a leader but hardly any possess all the right qualities. I mean I always thought Tony Adams was a great captain but off the field he was ten times worse than John Terry before he got himself sorted out. There probably are great captains out there but the only ones I can think of are in the past such as Bobby Moore, although he only springs to mind first because he lifted the World Cup for England. What odds on England lifting the World Cup again, see their World Cup qualifying odds here.
So is there any point to a captain now other than to lift a trophy when his team has won something. At the moment I would say no because many current captains don’t fill the criteria of being a captain. Perhaps captains should be given more responsibility, like being the only ones to talk to officials or perhaps giving the team talks before a game as they do in rugby. Until that point captains will be nothing but glorified players in an already over the top game.

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