For most fans the World Cup on television is their focus at the moment and I certainly understand that. However, you still can’t beat live football, and my third game in as many days saw me visit the George Salter Academy in West Bromwich to watch Oldbury United and Gornal Athletic battle out a 3-3 draw.
With temperatures in the high 20s, a cloudless sky and no breeze ensured that it was a testing time for everyone involved in the game. I was feeling it just sitting there by the pitch watching on, for the players themselves it was definitely pushing them to the limit.
I enjoyed the match as both sides looked to play football. Aided and abetted by the 3G surface they took full advantage of that to pass the ball, rather then the route-one approach that you often see in the West Midlands Regional League.
A draw was a fair result and certainly for Oldbury, their late equaliser was well-deserved. A defeat would have been hard on the reds, as overall they had the better of the game. However, full credit to Gornal, they battled away and when it looked like they may have the match beyond them, they never gave up and did well to turn it around.
Having been to a number of friendlies myself in the last few weeks, especially when I’ve been doing post-match interviews, one of the questions I usually ask is whether the result matters. Of course, with no points at stake, only in that sense does the game have no meaning.
Following Friday’s fixture between The New Saints FC and Falkirk, I asked ex-Dundalk and Linfield striker, Kurtis Byrne, whether the game was important and suggested that it had confidence-building value. His reply included the words ‘hitting the nail on the head’.
Answering my own question, as per the heading, as far as I’m concerned friendlies are anything but meaningless. Individual players have the opportunity to impress the manager, and especially with trialists on the pitch, it’s anything but trivial as far as they’re concerned.
How you perform in the pre-season friendlies will determine where you will spend the next nine months of your playing career. For the aforementioned TNS FC, at this stage the outcome could be either on the pitch in Macedonia in less than two week’s time or sitting at home following the game via the club’s media.
The staff watching on also get great value from friendlies. As well as getting the players back into the swing of things with valuable pitch minutes, it gives them a chance to watch individuals as well as to experiment with different tactics and formations.
Although managers will have an idea of what the starting line-up will be for their first competitive game, they will still be open to persuasion. That’s why the notion some have that friendlies are not important just isn’t true.
The result may not be but the performances, both individually and collectively, most definitely are.
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2018/2019: 10 games. 4 new grounds.