Barnes on Beckham

It’s a good feeling to have my own thoughts echoed by Simon Barnes. Of course, he says it so much better. Perhaps I’m echoing him, or just distorting his echoes.

But without more ado, the final word: A Life Spent in Limbo .

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6 responses to “Barnes on Beckham

  1. George Szirtes

    Barnes as ever has it, more or less, right. There were times when Beckham was great, but his was not the Ronaldinho at his best, or Best or Pele or Maradona etc kind of greatness. He did not beat players (though I remember his consolation goal for Manchester United against Real Madrid at Old Trafford where he beat three then hit a marvellous shot.) He was – and probably still is – a great passer of a ball, of the class of Haynes, of Bell, of Netzer and so on.

    Are great passers of the ball ever reckoned to be great players? Suggestions of some that were? Probably just not spectacular enough.

  2. That’s a very interesting question – as to the status of great passers of the ball, and you name one, Haynes, whom most modern football writers would probably struggle to place. Sepia-coloured person, used to play for Fulham? Yet, but for a serious car crash in Blackpool in the early ’60s, Johnny Haynes might have been the eminence grise of Ramsey’s ’66 winners.

    Passing has been, quite straightforwardly, undervalued specifically in English football, where the ghost of the dribbling game, allegedly extinct by the beginning of the twentieth century, keeps turning up on the pitch.

  3. George Szirtes

    That is surprising in the land of the long pass and route one. I have a faint memory of the very successful Wolves team of the late fifties. The long pass there was usually provided by – was it Peter Broadbent? Bobby Charlton also belongs among the great passers of course, but he was a notch higher still, a great in more than one area of the game.

    Sepia is the enemy of time. Puskás has more or less drowned in it, as has Di Stefano. Never mind the generaltion before them. Pele survived by playing on into the seventies.

    Nice to have YouTube for a few snippets here and there. (Some nice bits of Cruyff there by the way).

  4. George Szirtes

    ps. talking of YouTube, whom God Preserve of Utrecht, there is a certain Michel Platini in a compilation there (can’t link directly for some reason, but it’s about 5 minutes long) that has some examples of great passing.

    And a rather nice unusual soundtrack.

  5. God indeed preserve YouTube, for all that it sails under the most almighty Jolly Roger. It says so much that the great foreign players are all richly commemorated there, but not so Peter Shilton, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton or Billy Wright, to name four Englishmen with a century of caps.

    Watch an English park kickabout amongst children and you’ll see a dribbling game (they’ll all be chasing after the ball); then find some Cocapabana footage, and watch the ball being moved around on the ground from player to player. (The Scots had the first passing game, but then, we are as good at the English in the role of the pioneer who never follows through on an invention).

    A long pass is a spectacular sight, and I’d want to distinguish that idea – call it Hoddle, or Beckham – from the long ball game or route one football – call it John Beck. But it’s the latter that gets the approval of John Smith’s bitter. But Beck’s long gone now, and the no-nonsense beer has that subtle widget in the can..

  6. George Szirtes

    The distinction between route one and the Beckhamesque long ball is the difference between hope and design. Route one – a Graham Taylor method too, using the 6’7″ George Reilly as target – is to pump the ball up high where you hope your centre forward might be. It tends to be straight up the pitch.

    The long ball is more likely to be diagonal I think, from centre to wing or vice versa.. But everyone loves a dribbler, don’t they? Best andMatthews, Jimmy Johnstone and Garrincha and Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo…?(5-1 today seems a good start, by the way)

    Yes, the Scots did play more of a short passing game in the sixties. And it may be that the Rugby Union game is essentially a kind of dribbling, the archetypal English try being by Richard Sharp, while the French game is interpassing.