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Parking the bus is no easy football manoeuvre

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Jack Ross | 12:28 UK time, Monday, 20 September 2010

There has been one phrase dominating Scottish football this week. The term "parking the bus" and its connotations have been discussed and debated by pundits and fans alike.

There is, of course, a division of opinion on the merits of a side producing a defensive display, but how do players feel about it? Do they not enjoy being part of a side that is aimed at restricting the opposition, or do they simply accept such occasions and even relish them as another test of their football capabilities and resolve?

Firstly, players, like everyone who loves the game, would prefer to play in a side or be part of a performance that is easy on the eye and which secures victories by scoring several goals.

However, the nature of the sport suggests that there will always be sides stronger than others and, in these cases, is it more admirable to stand toe-to-toe with the opposition and accept a beating, or to look for alternative methods of gaining an advantage?

In a football sense, where success is usually results-based, the decision to employ other tactics is often taken. If such a choice is made then a manager must shape his team in a different way, ask players to play in a specific disciplined manner and perhaps sacrifice certain individuals from his line-up.

Therefore, if when criticising a defensive performance people stopped to ponder the concentration levels and tactical awareness that are used in such a display then perhaps they would be more lavish with their praise. I wondered if those who were disparaging of Rangers' efforts at Old Trafford were as negative when analysing Inter's Champions League semi-final success at the Nou Camp.

With both of these examples, I enjoyed the matches, not because I did not want to see Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney producing moments of individual brilliance but because, as the longer these matches went on, I could only admire the determination that players showed not to concede.

I fully understand many will disagree and will argue that football is an entertainment business and therefore being supportive of such tactics is undermining such an ethos. However, from an inside the dressing-room point of view, I have played in many matches where huge satisfaction is gained from restricting a superior opposition and achieving something from the match.

If the art of defending was not of such importance in football then why do so many managers talk of building from the back when structuring a new side? A clean sheet always gives you a great platform to win a game and a succession of them will provide a great chance of silverware. It is not always the most atheistically pleasing, but it is most certainly a major part of the game.

If I did accept, however, that entertainment in the shape of goals should always be provided then what could football change to try and guarantee such a happening? They could perhaps follow the lead of other sports and employ a system of bonus points.

Such "extra" points could be rewarded for the scoring of an away goal or for scoring three or more goals in any game. In all honesty, I am probably against such a dramatic change in how teams win points but sensible enough to realise that there may be a league somewhere that leads a revolution and attempts to ensure attack-minded sides at all times.

Finally, whether it is in a free-flowing winning team or one that "parks the bus", I am obviously delighted to be given a quick and great opportunity to play again at Dunfermline. I have joined a side with clear ambitions of regaining a place in the Scottish Premier League and I look forward to trying to help them achieve this.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Completely unconvincing! Sure, Rangers got a result but the spectators got robbed and now we face a similarly dreary game at Ibrox.

    I can understand you, as a professional defender, taking this position. However, if football was appreciated on the basis of goals saved rather than goals scored, it would never have become the world´s most popular sport.

    Having said that I hope you will continue to write here. It´s good to get a professional insight. It might even raise interest in Hamilton Accies.

  • Comment number 2.

    Fully agree with you Jack. Football is not just about attacking, but defending is also an art. And all 1 players should know how to both attack and defend.

    For an inferior team with a tiny budget to hold a Euro power like Man U, it was an incredible achievement.

    What would have been the point of attacking and leaving yourself exposed and Man U winning 4-0?

    A point is a point, however you get it.

  • Comment number 3.

    Anyone who cant accept that it is just as difficult to defend against a team like Man U than to come out and try and score a goal is kidding themselves on.

    The only difference is if you go out for a goal you are likely to concede two against a team like man United.

    So far, thank god, it seems to be Celtic fans, Stan Collymore(waster) and people who follow a footballing superpower who really dislike.

    Great article again Jack keep writing.

  • Comment number 4.

    Excellent blog Jack

    And you are right: people moan when teams like Rangers are defensively sound and applaud Inter for a fine performance against Barca last year. And remember Greece at the last but one Euro's!?!

    And #2 is correct, football has many sides to it and defeding is just one of them. Done well it should be applauded. If football is just about attacking it simply plays into the hands of those teams with more resources to do it; and positive discrimination for attacking teams stacks up the odds yet again in favour of bigger clubs.

    Collymore's comments were ridiculous: sour grapes from a player that wasted his talent. Rangers were just supposed to turn up and be dealt with by ManU. And the game supposedly questioned the integrity of the CL: nonsense! Teh integrity of the CL is threated more by the widening gap between the have and the have not's and WS was spot on in his case for the defence.

    #3 And I say all this a a Celtic fan!! Rangers got a great point in the CL and well done them. Wish Celtic could go out and do the same.

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree with some of your points :

    1 ) Defending is very important, and keeping clean sheets over the season can help win you the title at the end of the campaign.

    2 ) Defending is an art (as is attacking) ad it does take a lot of concentration to maintain your shape and clear your lines for 90 minutes against an attacking team.

    However, as with everything in life, there has to be a balance.

    Just keeping 10 men behind the ball is nothing to be appreciated by fans of the game, ad noting to be proud of by any team. Basically, as long as you do not make any stupid errors the odds are your opponents will not score - there is simply no room for them to move, and if the evade one or two defeners there is always yet another one mopping up behind.

    Now, a team which defends strongly, en masse, against a far stronger opponent, and then counter attacks quickly to keep their oppoent on their toes (sometimes even snatching victory in this way) are to be admired. The have played an astute, BALANCED and tactical game.

    A team that simply defends for 90 minutes with no REAL inclination to counter attack and score (insert name of choice here) is plain and simply boring, and admitting their own inability to pring a surprise before the game even starts.

    If any league has too many games like that, attendences may drop, and the interest from television viewers will certainly not be there. They will view the football as a bit of a joke, and rather faind something more interesting to watch. TV revenues will be low as a result, and so will revenues to clubs, obviously. Without the revenues the clubs will be even less likey to be able to compete, and the situation will become progressively worse.

    What will happen then? What will the league become?

  • Comment number 6.

    #5

    Too prescriptive about teams who defend and not sure there is any moral high ground attached to individuaL performances in one game. That just sounds a bit mad. Ken you are disappointed that Rangers managed it. But I suppose Rangers did try and hit ManU when they could, just like the Inter/ Barca 2nd leg semi. They may even have sneaked a soft penalty for the tackle on Broadfoot.

    And you're absolutely right. If you look at the typical premiership season the games with the big 4 are normally one-way traffic, and now you have Spurs and ManCiteh to add to this. Everton and Villa have still to find their feet as well. I like to see underdogs not roll over and snuff out the favourites by whatever means: there's nothing watchable for me about seeing the likes of Arsenal racking up six against Braga..unless your a Gooner or like watching training sessions on the toob. I like the tactics and I don't want to see predictable football.

    I suppose that that 'league' will stay as the 'league' is the answer to your question.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Jack and welcome to East End! Glad that you are pleased to be part of the pars team, and therefore I think you should alter your page to indicate your change from Hamilton to Dunfermline. I enjoy your omments section and hope to contribute more in the forthcoming weeks/months.

  • Comment number 8.

    when I play football I allways end up as a left back and I see the merits of both defending to the last and all out attack, to be honest all out defending is much harder to do. small clubs do it so they can take a crutial point from the big teams which can be the difference between survival and relegation. most of the biggest upsets have happend when a team decides to "park the bus" the other team becomes more and more desperate to appease its fans so they make the misstake of over commiting and then lose the match. teams employ this tactic for this reason.

  • Comment number 9.

    Playing in a successful defence is always more satisfying and entertaining than watching a successful defence.

    I doubt Rangers will care about the criticism much. Getting a 0-0 result away at Old Trafford in Europe would be considered a great achievement for most teams in the competition. And this is coming from a Celtic fan!

  • Comment number 10.

    When watching games as a neutral I like most tend to support the underdog which usually means spending the majority of matches hoping they defend really well, but I also like to see these teams at least capable of posing the odd threat up the other end of the pitch - be it from a quick breakaway or from a deadball situation when the situation arises. It's incredibly difficult to 'park the bus' for 90 mins without getting a ticket. I believe supporters appreciate effort just as much as seeing goals...as long as it's fair and not using dirty tactics.

  • Comment number 11.

    Jack - can we assume then that Dunfermilne will be 'parking the bus' at Ibrox tonight and you are using this blog as a means of excusing a defensive set-up?!!

    #10
    I believe supporters appreciate effort just as much as seeing goals...as long as it's fair and not using dirty tactics.
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Spot-on! And with the amount of simulation being picked up now in TV games 'fairness' equally applies to all teams whether in attack or defence.

  • Comment number 12.

    #11 agree...'simulation' is way out of control, better to see the likes of Lionel Messi producing genuine moments of individual brilliance to break the deadlock in a tight game than CR9 taking his customary dive.

    Great news about your imminent signing for Dunfermline Jack...maybe you should update your blog profile now?

  • Comment number 13.


    Teams play defensively cause they don't have enough skillful players to play attacking football. Most British teams fall into this category,unless they're backed up by skillful foreign players.

    Look at the La Liga. Most of the teams there play attractive football, defending as well as attacking.That's what the fans want.

    Not the British style, kick n rush, cross and hope.

  • Comment number 14.

    #13 Slightly contradictory as the Premier League is world renowned for it's attacking football especially Arsenal, United, Chelsea, Spurs etc. It probably gets most criticised for it's poor defending unlike La Liga and SerieA which used to have reputations for a more slow defensive style ;) Even the EPL's more defensive sides like Blackburn are full of 'foreign' players too so that arguement doesn't carry much weight either.

  • Comment number 15.

    I don't know if defending for your life is really "atheistically pleasing," but it does mean that you don't have a hope in hell of ever winning the competition.

  • Comment number 16.

    I totally agree with Jack. Defending is not only part of the game, it's the foundation of the game! As all team games, football is first and foremost about defending, because all these games are different sorts of disguise of the basic conflict in mankind: they are "games of war".
    Then we can discuss different approaches to defending; there are teams, like Barcelona and AC Milan, that adopt an "offensive" approach to defending, because they try to keep the ball for very long spells, even when they have no chance to score, in order to deprive the opponents of the ball. There isn't such a thing as a match "without hope" to score, because even a very defensive game like the one Rangers played in Manchester could bring at least a chance to score, if you have a very quick forward, ready to jump on a loose ball or to spot a weakness in the other team's defense.

  • Comment number 17.

    Good blog entry, but the title was a red herring considering how little the post actually discussed the demands of parking the bus.

  • Comment number 18.

    I guess your boys left the bus in the car park last night Jack!

    Joshing aside, there is a serious point here. Rangers wisely 'parked the bus' for a specific fixture. Last night against different opposition they went for the jugular. If it was a habitual tactic there would be cause for criticism, but as a rarely used one in appropriate circumstances, the fans get to see a great defensive performance one night, and attacking display another night. I can't see why they'd be unhappy with that. It shows great tactical flexibility on the part of both manager and players.

    Having said that, I can't help having great fondness for Blackpool this season - they have no idea how to 'park the bus'. They went in at half time 0-4 down away at Chelsea with every prospect of conceding double-figures. Instead of shutting shop with the intention of keeping the score down, they still continued to attack. It may have been fruitless, but through their insistence on entertaining, they're winning great admiration.

  • Comment number 19.

    "I totally agree with Jack. Defending is not only part of the game, it's the foundation of the game! As all team games, football is first and foremost about defending"

    I'm sorry but that is completely wrong. It's not 'first and foremost about defending' - it's first and foremost about attacking, actually trying to score a goal. If you're not doing that, then you're not doing very well, and that's when the defending comes in. Those that set out their team to defend above everything else are admitting that they've already dispensed with the fundamental principle of scoring more goals than your opponent. You can call it wise tactics or whatever, but it still boils down to that.

    What Rangers fans don't seem to appreciate is that displays like that are sticking a noose around the necks of their champions league cash. Seriously, who would want to watch that turgid nonsense apart from Rangers fans? And if the TV audiences don't tune in for it, then UEFA aren't going to put forward the cash rewards. Cash rules these days. You can talk about fair competition till you're blue in the face, but if there's a threat to their cash cow, you can bet UEFA will leap into action with purpose rarely seen. It's almost inevitable that UEFA will tighten and tighten the entry criteria (extra pre-liminary rounds and such like) to the extent that in the end it'll just be a competition made up of English, German, Spanish and Italian sides, because that's what the big audiences want to see.

    And the comparisons to Inter Milan are laughable - Inter, in case you've forgotten, actually offered an attacking threat and scored a few goals. Their tactics were to soak up the pressure, then hit Barca on the break. Rangers managed the first part, but were completely incompetent at the latter.

    If Rangers do manage a complete about face, and actually offer some attacking threat against Man U at Ibrox, then I'll admit that it was a master stroke, and viewing the game as the two leg affair that it actually is has paid dividends. However, given that Man U can't afford to drop points now, it'll will be the first team, and can you seriously see Rangers offering much beyond running about a lot and employing the exact same tactics?

    As for the title of this piece, Parking the bus isn't an easy option, but it's the easiest of available options. As Smith himself said, it's easier to destroy than it is to create.

  • Comment number 20.

    "I totally agree with Jack. Defending is not only part of the game, it's the foundation of the game! As all team games, football is first and foremost about defending"

    I'm sorry but that is completely wrong. It's not 'first and foremost about defending' - it's first and foremost about attacking, actually trying to score a goal. If you're not doing that, then you're not doing very well, and that's when the defending comes in. Those that set out their team to defend above everything else are admitting that they've already dispensed with the fundamental principle of scoring more goals than your opponent. You can call it wise tactics or whatever, but it still boils down to that.
    What Rangers fans don't seem to appreciate is that displays like that are sticking a noose around the necks of their champions league cash. Seriously, who would want to watch that turgid nonsense apart from Rangers fans? And if the TV audiences don't tune in for it, then UEFA aren't going to put forward the cash rewards. Cash rules these days. You can talk about fair competition till you're blue in the face, but if there's a threat to their cash cow, you can bet UEFA will leap into action with purpose rarely seen. It's almost inevitable that UEFA will tighten and tighten the entry criteria (extra pre-liminary rounds and such like) to the extent that in the end it'll just be a competition made up of English, German, Spanish and Italian sides, because that's what the big audiences want to see.
    And the comparisons to Inter Milan are laughable - Inter, in case you've forgotten, actually offered an attacking threat and scored a few goals. Their tactics were to soak up the pressure, then hit Barca on the break. Rangers managed the first part, but were completely incompetent at the latter.
    If Rangers do manage a complete about face, and actually offer some attacking threat against Man U at Ibrox, then I'll admit that it was a master stroke, and viewing the game as the two leg affair that it actually is has paid dividends. However, given that Man U can't afford to drop points now, it'll will be the first team, and can you seriously see Rangers offering much beyond running about a lot and employing the exact same tactics?
    As for the title of this piece, Parking the bus isn't an easy option, but it's the easiest of available options. As Smith himself said, it's easier to destroy than it is to create.

  • Comment number 21.

    To #16, I'm sorry but that is completely wrong. It's not 'first and foremost about defending' - it's first and foremost about attacking, actually trying to score a goal. If you're not doing that, then you're not doing very well, and that's when the defending comes in. Those that set out their team to defend above everything else are admitting that they've already dispensed with the fundamental principle of scoring more goals than your opponent. You can call it wise tactics or whatever, but it still boils down to that.
    What Rangers fans don't seem to appreciate is that displays like that are sticking a noose around the necks of their champions league cash. Seriously, who would want to watch that turgid nonsense apart from Rangers fans? And if the TV audiences don't tune in for it, then UEFA aren't going to put forward the cash rewards. Cash rules these days. You can talk about fair competition till you're blue in the face, but if there's a threat to their cash cow, you can bet UEFA will leap into action with purpose rarely seen. It's almost inevitable that UEFA will tighten and tighten the entry criteria (extra pre-liminary rounds and such like) to the extent that in the end it'll just be a competition made up of English, German, Spanish and Italian sides, because that's what the big audiences want to see.
    And the comparisons to Inter Milan are laughable - Inter, in case you've forgotten, actually offered an attacking threat and scored a few goals. Their tactics were to soak up the pressure, then hit Barca on the break. Rangers managed the first part, but were completely incompetent at the latter.
    If Rangers do manage a complete about face, and actually offer some attacking threat against Man U at Ibrox, then I'll admit that it was a master stroke, and viewing the game as the two leg affair that it actually is has paid dividends. However, given that Man U can't afford to drop points now, it'll will be the first team, and can you seriously see Rangers offering much beyond running about a lot and employing the exact same tactics?
    As for the title of this piece, Parking the bus isn't an easy option, but it's the easiest of available options. As Smith himself said, it's easier to destroy than it is to create.

  • Comment number 22.

    To #16, I'm sorry but that is completely wrong. It's not 'first and foremost about defending' - it's first and foremost about attacking, actually trying to score a goal. If you're not doing that, then you're not doing very well, and that's when the defending comes in. Those that set out their team to defend above everything else are admitting that they've already dispensed with the fundamental principle of scoring more goals than your opponent. You can call it wise tactics or whatever, but it still boils down to that.
    What Rangers fans don't seem to appreciate is that displays like that are sticking a noose around the necks of their champions league cash. Seriously, who would want to watch that turgid nonsense apart from Rangers fans? And if the TV audiences don't tune in for it, then UEFA aren't going to put forward the cash rewards. Cash rules these days. You can talk about fair competition till you're blue in the face, but if there's a threat to their cash cow, you can bet UEFA will leap into action with purpose rarely seen. It's almost inevitable that UEFA will tighten and tighten the entry criteria (extra pre-liminary rounds and such like) to the extent that in the end it'll just be a competition made up of English, German, Spanish and Italian sides, because that's what the big audiences want to see.
    And the comparisons to Inter Milan are laughable - Inter, in case you've forgotten, actually offered an attacking threat and scored a few goals. Their tactics were to soak up the pressure, then hit Barca on the break. Rangers managed the first part, but were completely incompetent at the latter.
    As for the title of this piece, Parking the bus isn't an easy option, but it's the easiest of available options. As Smith himself said, it's easier to destroy than it is to create.

  • Comment number 23.

    Blimey - looks like my browser went a bit mad! Or else, it just agreed with my point, and posted it 4 times to emphasis just how right I am.

  • Comment number 24.

    #22
    Football is first and foremost about attacking as a starting point I agree. But against better quality that is just akin to suicide: and the CL group stages involve 6 games and plotting your way through. Rangers are not Barca!!

    Rangers got about £500k for that draw. Not bad for a club with their financial woes.

    The Inter/Barca game that people refer to was the 2nd leg at Camp Nou not the first leg which Inter won at home.

    The CL format is in bigger danger from the resources available to teams in the Big 5 countries, not from Rangers playing an organised defence in Manchester. And watching the Gooners thrash Braga 6-0 was not entertaining in football terms either unless you want a tournament where the less resourced just turn up to be thrashed. I've no doubt that the Big 5 would like just to play themselves in Europe and while it might happen (and good riddance to them and their debt) people should continue to make a point about fairness in access to competitions and in the rewards available.

  • Comment number 25.

    In "About this blog" - am afraid pars are not SPL yet, and judging by last nights bareback humping are unlikely to get there in the foreseeable either - unless they get their defense (ok and midfield, and attack) sorted out.

  • Comment number 26.

    Pars are not SPL yet (see your blog credit), and judging by last nights bareback humping are unlikely to get there in the foreseeable either - unless they get their defense (ok and midfield, and attack) sorted out.

  • Comment number 27.

    #24
    "people should continue to make a point about fairness in access to competitions and in the rewards available. "

    Nobody is going to get much in the way of rewards if they do not :

    a ) attract spectators

    b ) progress in the competition

    Both of which, one would assume, requires attempting to score more goals than your opponents. There are different tactics to try achieve this aim, one of which is the tactics employed by Inter, but none of which are the tactics employed by Rangers.

  • Comment number 28.

    Thank you for the responses-I have enjoyed reading the comments.

    One point I think worth making is that on occassions teams will be prepared specifically to produce a defensive performance while in some matches the strength of the opposition dictates that a team spends the game on the back foot.

    I think that this is particularly appropriate in the SPL when teams are often criticised for not going to the Old Firm and being positive. Often the intentions of a manager and players are to be attack minded but the direction of a game can sometimes suggest otherwise.

  • Comment number 29.

    #27

    "people should continue to make a point about fairness in access to competitions and in the rewards available. "

    Nobody is going to get much in the way of rewards if they do not :

    a ) attract spectators

    b ) progress in the competition

    Both of which, one would assume, requires attempting to score more goals than your opponents. There are different tactics to try achieve this aim, one of which is the tactics employed by Inter, but none of which are the tactics employed by Rangers.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    You are really saying that your level of reward is based on your ability to attract spectators and progress, and you achieve viewing and a run in the competition by scoring more goals than your opponents.

    And that there are also different ways to try to score more goals (than your opponents) but while Inter used some tactics to try to do it (but lost 1-0 in Camp Nou), the tactics that Rangers employed were not about ‘trying’ (are you sure??) to score more goals than their opponents. This presumably means that they won't progress or get spectators and their level of rewards will be lower.

    Well if you say so. And bits of it are not too controversial so best of luck with that one.



  • Comment number 30.

    If football is an entertainment business, why do we not get judges to award points for performance? I'll tell you why - because you will then be subject to personal opinions of the judges. Just look at X-Factor and Jedward - Simon Cowell's constant slagging of them encouraged the phone-in public to vote to keep them in. Who was right? It's all a matter of your point of view and hence YOUR opinion.

    Football is decided by who scores more goals and it's not a matter of opinion whether a goal is scored or not (except when the ball crosses the line for England, or not as the case may be).

    I enjoy watching skillful players ply their trade attacking defences successfully, but also defenders succeed in skillfully (in a different sense)preventing players score. I am entertained by both, thereby complying with the notion that football is in the entertainment business.

    I suspect that those that accuse teams of 'parking the bus' are merely watching the game with their particular colour of specs on and not being an impartial observer! Like most fans I watch games with my claret and amber specs on, but am realistic enough to be able to take them off when I see a particular bit of good play from the opposition. I did this recently in the Europa League when , I think it was one of the Norwegian team skin a couple of Well defenders in the box before crossing - I would probably have stopped applauding if they had scored from it for fear of my own safety!

  • Comment number 31.

    Good blog Jack. Concentrated defence is, and always has been, an important part of the game. Rangers at Man Utd. showed how it should be done. Hibs tried it away in Europe and failed miserably. Clearly you need skill and discipline to carry it off.

    Rangers will certainly do the same in Spain and would be well advised to adopt the same tactics at home to Man Utd. and Valencia. Four draws against the group favourites, allied with good results against the Turks, would ensure Europa cup at least and they may finish second. Either outcome means big bucks. Smith is not daft.

  • Comment number 32.

    #30
    I suspect that those that accuse teams of 'parking the bus' are merely watching the game with their particular colour of specs on and not being an impartial observer!
    ------------------------------
    Agreed and then some of them just fixate on a result and can't let go!

  • Comment number 33.

    Really? No one sees "atheistically" for "aesthetically?" Even after the blogger's comment? It's still up there, if anybody feels like fixing it.

  • Comment number 34.

    Teams should get zero points for a 0-0 draw. A team could play defensively but would have to try to score sometime during a match or end up with nothing.
    Herbert Chapman, from the 30s used to say you start the game with one point, so don't lose it. So this has been going on for years.

    3 points for a win, 1 for a score draw and 0 for no goals.
    This would force teams to try and score and not be totally defensive

 

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