The Perfect Substitute

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No Manager in amateur football will tell you that he wants a player that is happy to be a sub for his team.

Players deal with being on a substitute’s bench on a match day in a variety of ways. In my experience the majority of the time it’s not in the way I would like them to. When you decide your team you take in a variety of factors. Obviously you want to put out a side that is going to win you the game. That goes without saying. You then have to consider who played in the last match and if they did enough for a start the following week as well as how they performed at training. I think I touched on this in my “I’m not going to beat about the bush” blog so I won’t cover old ground. Ultimately you choose your fairest and best team as a Manager.

How a player deals with being named amongst the subs says a lot about how valuable he is as a team player. I have had instances where boys have been subs for the majority of a season, however, they have continued to work hard at training and waited for the opportunity to claim their place in the starting eleven. These guys probably accept that there are better players in the squad than them and that they must be patient. The rest of this blog does not refer to these types of players.

What really irks me is a player, who nine times out of ten is a first team player, finds himself out of the team one week for whatever reason. I’m sure we have all been there. You name the team and make eye contact with him to tell him he isn’t in it. His head goes down and the shin guards get thrown onto the floor. He switches off and doesn’t listen to another word of your team talk. He is last out of the changing room and doesn’t give himself a proper warm up. He watches the game with his arms folded, blatantly in a huff until he is told he is going on. When he does get his chance he doesn’t play to the game plan and would rather concentrate on taking his anger out on opposition players by kicking them than trying to win. The game then ends and he showers and drives home without speaking to you. You then get a text about three hours later to say that if he is going to be a sub then he will find another team who will play him every game. What can you even say to that other than the obvious? Who do these guys think they are? The easy option is to let them move on but teams are loaded with players with this attitude these days. Most boys now think they have the God given right to start every match and how dare the Manager even consider leaving them out.

If you think this applies to you then let me educate you a bit.

You play most games for your team therefore your Manager trusts you and believes in your ability. You should never take this for granted though because you aren’t always going to have that good a game that your place is guaranteed. You need to keep working hard in games and at training in order that you keep your place. If the gaffer leaves you out of the team then maybe it isn’t because he has suddenly decided he thinks you are a poor player. Maybe he wants to have a look at another player or give one of your team mates who pays the same money as you every week his opportunity to play a bit. Maybe you had a bad game last week and he has dropped you because he wants the right type of reaction from you. Or maybe it is because he is the Manager of the team and it is his job to keep his squad happy. When he does tell you that you aren’t starting don’t take the huff about it and throw the toys out of the pram. Get out onto the park and do the full warm up with the team. Be vocal and let your Manager know you are up for this game. When the match starts keep warming up and run regularly so that you are at least close to the speed of play. Get involved in helping your team on the park by encouraging the boys and prove your commitment. When you get the nod to get stripped you need to make sure that you stamp your mark on the game for all the right reasons. Harass the opposition, make runs, tackle hard and play your part in the win. This is your chance to show that you didn’t deserve to be on the bench. When the game is over speak to your Manager face to face rather than texting him hours later and tell him you were frustrated about being left out but that you hope you have done enough in the minutes you did get to merit a start the next week. Nobody expects you to be happy but don’t let yourself or your team mates down by having a bad attitude because that has a tendency to run right through the team. It isn’t embarrassing being a substitute because it happens to everyone and that is why we have big squads for long hard seasons. Take it on the chin and work harder to show the Manager up rather than showing yourself up. There is a bigger picture in amateur football that sometimes I think players need to have a better appreciation of.

Prove him wrong.

The Gaffer

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