Last September, the BBC announced that it would help out local journalism by sending its staff to local papers. Aunty Beeb may be criticised for not doing enough to help the little guys in their attempts to maximise pageviews and ad revenue, but maybe their tactic is a little more subtle. Something like this:
— FootballFanCast.com (@FootballFanCast) March 14, 2016
Because it seems that Garth Crooks is kept in a job at the BBC simply in order to give other journalists fodder for viral articles and all-round hilarity. Crooks’ team of the week is a constant source of viral nourishment, and today we’re crawling back to the well to marvel at the great man’s choices.
In this latest top-heavy installment, Crooks has handily shown us the players who scored the most goals this weekend. Basically. Thanks, Garth.
Troy Deeney in the midfield anchor role is a particularly inspired piece of tactical ingenuity, whilst, if you’re a defender, scoring a header from a corner will increase your chances of inclusion majorly – like Steve Cook whose Bournemouth side conceded twice, but he scored the winner. So it’s OK.
But it’s not entirely Crooks’ fault that his team of the week resembles your FIFA 16 Ultimate Team when you’re a goal down with a minute to go. It’s not like he is actively trying to pile everyone forward, frantically pushing the right-button even though it’s already set to ‘all out attack’. It just looks like it. But it turns out that it’s more of a societal malaise.
Yes, poor, feckless Garth is only really a product of his time and place: not to be blamed for displaying his unadulterated ignorance through an exercise in free will, but rather to be pitied for having such a risible place in a deterministic universe. The zeitgeist was always going to be against our lovable idiot.
You see, football remembers the attacking action-provokers and forgets those who occupy a more sedate position on the pitch. Those who fly high are lauded, but they never soar without the groundwork laid by others. Crooks praises the master builders; the under labourers are distinctly missed. Such is life. It’s not his fault.
For example, only five non-attackers have won the Ballon d’Or since it started in 1956. Football has always been about scoring goals, naturally enough, but without good defenders you’ll have to score even more goals if you’re going to win. It’s that simple. But those good defenders don’t provoke action as much as attackers. Not even in an attacking sense, but in a defensive one. If you’re out of position, you’ll end up having to tackle.
Paolo Maldini made one tackle every two games, on average – it’s a sign of bad positioning if you have to make a tackle. Instead, get into the right position and more often than not the ball will just come to you. If it doesn’t, you can make a stand tackle.
Defenders are doomed to mediocrity in our footballing culture because crunching tackles are the things people remember. But as Bobby Moore once said, ‘you can’t defend on your backside’. Those tackles are last-ditch affairs. Indiana Jones sliding through the closing door with just enough time to grab his hat before it closes. Exciting, but hardly an exercise in control.
Defenders are doomed to mediocrity in the same way that Crooks is doomed to overload his team with attackers week after week like some sort of constantly-irate Sisyphean anti-hero, forced to repeat the same meaningless action for all eternity.
So here’s to the defenders, the unsung heroes, the men who labour all game long, covering ground and making sure their positioning is perfect – they’re the men who should be praised. Like every Oscars acceptance speech, the star getting the plaudits thanks those who made it possible.
It is easier to destroy than create, it’s easier to attack than defend. And so we just fall into the trap. We forget what really matters.
It’s not Garth Crooks’ fault that he’s a product of a bad system, he’s just a buffoonish waif just trying to make his way in a world that dooms him to a fate he never knew existed. He is Sisyphus pushing the boulder, he is Jim Carrey in the Truman Show. He never had a chance.
Still, I’m sure his team could beat Aston Villa.