Two of the biggest lies propagated by the fraternity of ex-players-turned-pundits are that, to play good soccer, "you need to have played the game at the highest level" and "you need good players."
The first part, by now, has hopefully been banished forever.
The second part is nothing more than a lame excuse trotted out by panicky, insecure managers of bad teams who either hide behind the "long-ball, kick-and-rush" tactical mantra or the ultra-defensive, "10 guys behind the ball" ethos.
Sure, it's easier to play attractive, entertaining soccer if you have the odd
Take, as Exhibit A,
The club had little money and few prospects of staying up. The "safe" route would have been to pack the team with veteran defenders and holding midfielders, put 10 men behind the ball and pray for the best. Marino doesn't do "safe."
He built a side predicated upon all-out attack. He couldn't afford big names, so he found creative, offensive-minded guys from the lower divisions, like
The result was a 4-3-3 formation which released all his players' creativity. Suddenly, guys like
Because Marino had uncovered one of the fundamental truths about the game. Most top-flight players can do what Kaká or Ronaldo do. The difference is that the superstars might do it six or seven times out of 10, the ordinary player might manage it once or twice. But if that's enough to create a chance or score a goal, it's more than enough.
Catania proved last season that this approach works. For much of the year it was safely in mid-table. Then, following the tragic death of a policeman in the rioting that followed its clash with Palermo in early February, everything fell apart. Catania was banned from playing home matches and it won only two of its final 16 games. But that had nothing to do with Marino.
He was rewarded over the summer with a move to Udinese which now sits a surprising fifth in Serie A, despite being without the services of its two best midfielders --
The players love it. The fans love it. The media are coming around to the idea that ordinary players can, if given the right instructions, do great things. All this comes at a price, of course. When you set out to attack from the very first minute, you can leave yourself exposed at the back. This became obvious in some high-profile defeats, like the 7-0 pounding Catania took at the hands of Roma last year. But so what? The number of points you get for losing by seven is the same as the ones you get for losing by a single goal: zero.
Winning, of course, is the top priority. But how you play the game should come a close second. Marino's teams are living proof that if you have faith in your players and are willing to gamble a little bit you can achieve great things. One can only wonder what will happen if and when he moves to a big club with big-name players.
• You are England boss
A.) Stay in England and watch games like Arsenal vs. Manchester United and Manchester City vs. Sunderland so you can evaluate the likes of
B.) Fly halfway around the world, not watch any Premiership games in person and, instead, watch
Whatever sympathy I had for the man has now evaporated. Supposedly McClaren flew to Los Angeles last weekend to evaluate Beckham's fitness. This is absurd on so many levels. He could have sent his fitness coach. He could have realized that watching Beckham play against a bunch of B-list actors wasn't going to tell him anything.
He could have waited a week for Beckham to join the England squad. He could have understood that a 32-year-old man who has played 56 minutes of competitive soccer since August wasn't really going to make a difference to England.
But then, that's why McClaren is McClaren. At least I hope he enjoyed the weather in L.A.
• The sound you hear in the background is me eating my words regarding Rosenborg. Like many, I thought the Norwegians were in the Champions League just to make up the numbers. Instead, Rosenborg has a real chance of advancing to the knockout stage after beating Valencia home and away. Hats off to them.