‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.’
Everyone knows the above quote is from the mouth of the great Bill Shankly, one of the best managers to grace the game and someone with whom the self-styled Special One, Jose Mourinho draws a huge amount of comparisons to – and both of whom share a similar ‘win at all costs’ attitude to football.
On more than one occasion, both overstepped the line and went too far either during or after a game because of their intensity and desire to win – in fact, name me a top manager who hasn’t at one time or another lost control due to a game of football. Even players get in on the act; crying or getting overwrought on the field, or even getting a little bit emotional off it and showing exactly what winning does mean to them.
As fans obviously we can understand this, as our hearts and emotions are tied so deeply to our teams that we get frustrated when we think they are making the wrong decision (think Arsenal fans with the Arshavin sub) and get emotional if a game goes the wrong way. More than one of you reading this will have been in tears at one point due to a failure in a massive competition and get elated and beyond words when a huge trophy is won – Liverpool fans in Istanbul for me take the plaudits here, yet just how much does football really matter and is it really ok to genuinely use the mantra of winning at all costs?
Of course this totally depends on how far you take the ‘at all costs part.’ If this means throwing everything including the kitchen sink at a game in order to get the goal and go all out to win – literally having nothing left at the end of the game, then of course this should be the case in every single game, not just cup finals or derby matches, but week in week out.
There is nothing a fan dislikes more than a player who cannot be bothered and is half hearted in his attempts to change a game. Likewise with a negative manager who would rather go for the draw or lose by a single goal than really go for it and risk conceding more.
However, should the ‘at all costs’ bit become more than that, then there is a problem. Even as an ardent supporter of Mourinho, I would struggle to defend his conduct at certain times, none more so than in El Clasico when poking Tito Vilanova in the eye – something that Mourinho may have done in the heat of the moment and in the desire to win, yet is still not acceptable.
A certain amount of mind games is a given, yet lines can be crossed and this is something that should not really be allowed to happen. Managers like Fergie who are renowned for their passion and will to win have often crossed the line, and at times fined accordingly.
On occasion however, they can lose sight of the fact that football is at the end of the day just a game. A fantastic one don’t get me wrong, but just a game, and there are ways to win – and crossing the line is not necessarily one of them.
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