I loved this Jonathan Wilson piece on Andros Townsend’s performance against Montenegro. Wilson basically argues that the simple question ‘why did he do so well?’ has no simple answer, because football is a hellishly complicated beast:
Anybody who watched it can dissect Townsend’s performance according to their own biases. Those who believe in individual talent see a great individual. Those who focus on motivation see a player playing with great confidence. Those who prefer to look at the overall tactical structure can find reasons he had the space in which to express himself. A case can even be made, for those who prefer to explain the hurricane by finding the butterfly that flapped its wings, that England’s victory over Montenegro was caused by the development in the 1960s of the electronic calculator by the Japanese company Sharp.
Atvidaberg won the Swedish league in 1972 and 1973, playing a style of football heavily influenced by the Total Football of Ajax. Atvidaberg is a town of only 6800 inhabitants, but its club was funded by Facit, a local company that made mechanical calculators for the global market.
When electronic calculators became widely available it failed to react and, amid financial problems, it cut funding to the football team. Stars such as Ralf Edstrom and Roland Sandberg were sold, and the way was cleared for Bobby Houghton at Malm? and then Hodgson at Halmstad to dominate the Swedish game with their Allen Wade-influenced football, complete with such unfamiliar concepts as an offside trap, zonal marking and long balls to the centre-forward. So was launched Hodgson’s career and the beginning of the international reputation that led to him being appointed England manager.
This more than anything explains football’s enduring appeal to me. I’ve watched so, so many games where I’ve been completely?bewildered by what I’m seeing. Why are they playing like that? Can’t they see how wrong it is? And the answer is: no, they can’t. They’re protagonists in a complex system. They don’t know how it works any more than we do.