Friday, 10 April 2009
There was a time - long ago it seems now - when two sides, trusty and true, were put out to battle (as it were) to determine which side was the better. The skill of the joust was as important as the result. Sometimes, two or three "jousts" had to be played in the same number of days, in the days of old. Once, two "jousts" were played on the same day. Sometimes, a side that had a lost a player or two (through injury) still won. There is a marvellous account of how the black knight (Frank Barson) once played like 4 men to fill the gaps left by THREE of his side that had been injured and had to leave the field. Then they said that the injuries at the big occasions were getting too numerous, and it was unfair that a side should have to play through perhaps three-quarters of the match with the handicap of less than the full number. The age of the substitute was born. Of course, the manager with the nous and the win-at-al-costs mentality encouraged a player to feign injury so that the substitute could come on. And then the number of substitutes started increasing. And then they started bringing substitutes on with 3 or 2 or 1 or 0 minutes to go ... just to slow things down. It's a sham. Yes, and when they bring on a skilled 17/18-year-old (coming on 27) with just a few minutes to go, of course the daisy-fresh young man is likely to turn a match that was just before going against his team. The guile-less opposing manager also has a 17/18-year-old that might just have similarly achieved a score, but he opts for safety-first. Yes, that man - it could be said - was at fault for not being as brave as his opponent. But, perhaps there is an alternative to this last-10-minutes lunacy. Perhaps we can go back to a more level playing field. A return, please, to the fight to the end. Okay, not perhaps as it used to be, but instead in not allowing a substitute on in (say) the last 15 minutes of a match, unless there is a case of serious injury. In such a case, if the red knights had been behind and still won in the last 15 minutes (+), we would probably have said that the best team had won. Wouldn't we?