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Warming the bench is a pain in the backside!

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Gavin Strachan | 08:00 UK time, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Hi, hope you are all well.

While waiting for the chance to re-establish myself in the Notts County team since my return to fitness from injury, I have again experienced life on the substitutes' bench.

Unfortunately for me, being confined to the bench has been an all too common occurrence during my career.

So much so, it is getting to the stage where I could quite easily compile my own comprehensive guide to dugouts in the Football League (and the Scottish Premier League as well, for that matter)!

I have always found the role of substitute a very challenging one, particularly from a psychological perspective. The process begins with the initial naming of the side, which is predominantly in training the day before a game. If you are not in the starting XI you are invariably told to put a bib on and pretend to be one of the opposition players.

I have lost track of the number of different players I have represented in these training games! One of the most amusing aspects of it is when the time comes for the first team to rehearse attacking free-kicks and all the lads in bibs are hiding, trying to avoid being in the defensive wall and having balls smashed at them! At times like this, I have found that a well-timed stretching exercise can sometimes do the trick.

As a substitute, it is absolutely essential to prepare for a game as you would if you had been selected in the starting line-up. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your chances of featuring in a game are remote, and ease off on your preparation as a result.

I made this mistake on a couple of occasions in the early stages of my career and lived to regret it because when I was brought on, my total lack of application in the build up inevitably showed in my performance.

Not a good thing when you consider that the key objective for any substitute is to make a positive impact on the game and give the manager something to think about when it comes to his next team selection.


I believe that the real test of a professional footballer is when things are not going well. When you are in the team and playing well you are swept along by the momentum created by it. Training is a joy: you feel fit and cannot wait for the next match. However, it is a different story when you are not in the team.

Some players cannot handle the disappointment and certainly cannot hide it. I am not having a go at these players - in the past I have been one of them and understand the reasons why.

Playing first-team football is the objective of every footballer regardless of what level he is at, but what I have learned is that moping about does not help the situation. My own therapy when not playing is to lose myself in hard work during training and do a little bit extra. That way, you at least have a clear conscience knowing that you are doing all you can to get back in the side.

I have never forgotten the attitude of a former team-mate - like me, a regular on the bench - during an FA Cup tie. Such was his frustration, he actually wanted the other team to win!

That in itself was bad enough but when the opposition had a chance that flashed wide of the post, he stood up ready to cheer in anticipation of the ball hitting the back of the net! Fortunately for him it was only me that noticed. All I could do was shake my head and hope that I would not end up so consumed by bitterness.

The actual experience of sitting on the bench for a full 90 minutes is an interesting one from a behavioural point of view. The amount of nervous energy on display is incredible, particularly from the coaches. Seeing what anguish these guys go through during a match would make any player with hopes of one day becoming a manager ask himself: "Do I really want to put myself through that?"

You also hear the - how shall I put it - "constructive criticism" that is aimed at the players. Managers and coaches can scream all manner of abusive remarks to their players in the heat of battle. It is part and parcel of the game. But when you are listening to it on the bench, the thought does occur that you will be getting the same level of stick when you go on the pitch!

Players on the bench sometimes have to find ways of keeping themselves amused because, as much as you try to stay focused on the game, this can be exceptionally difficult without the physical involvement. At one of my former clubs we passed a bit of time on the bench by working out the odds each substitute had of being brought on. I was invariably the long odds outsider, which usually proved to be justified!

For all the frustrations that being on the bench has brought me, there has been some very funny instances. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen a player bang his head on the dugout ceiling. This usually happens when the manager tells the player he is going on and blind panic ensues with the player frantically trying to get his warm-up gear off and his shirt on before the manager changes his mind!

Being on the receiving end of the manager changing his mind about bringing you on as a substitute when you are stripped and ready to go on is a miserable experience. At the time it is very humiliating, especially when the other subs (and the kit man for that matter) are sniggering away at you and pretending to wipe the metaphorical "custard pie" off your face. However, as with most things in professional football, you laugh about it on the Monday morning.


Over the years, there have been certain players who have been ideally suited to being a substitute, players who for some reason make more of an impact when joining a game at a later stage as opposed to when they start it. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United) and David Fairclough (Liverpool) are the ones that immediately spring to mind. My own personal favourite "super-sub" when I was growing up watching Leeds United was Imre Varadi.

I would be interested to hear who has been the substitute who regularly made the biggest impact at your club.

I have always found that players with searing pace or an eye for goal can be the most effective substitutes, especially when the players on the pitch begin to tire and space opens up later in the game.

I have often come on in the last few minutes of games. When the final whistle goes you do feel like a bit of a fraud joining in the celebrations if you have won. The rest of the lads have been slogging their guts off and you stroll on for a couple of minutes and share in the glory.

There is always that sense of being slightly on the periphery of things. It is important to hide such feelings, for the sake of not undermining the dressing-room spirit which is vital at any club, although it is easier said than done when the lad in your position scores a hat-trick and you have to say "well done" through gritted teeth! I am pretty sure that this boils down to basic human nature.

At Peterborough we had the Recaro racing-type seats in the dug out, which are the type of individual seats that are used by top Premier League and European teams. In my expert opinion they were the comfiest of my career.

For a brief moment you felt good knowing that Premier League players sit on the same type of seats. Then the sobering reality of your predicament sets in and you realise that ultimately you are a substitute for a League Two club.


  • 1. At 08:10am on 05 Mar 2009, Westdrop wrote:

    First post?

    Back of the net!

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  • 2. At 08:26am on 05 Mar 2009, Visitant wrote:

    Substitute is a film by French former footballer Vikash Dhorasoo. Filmed before and during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Dhorasoo "recorded his thoughts and feelings throughout the tournament," resulting in a "deeply unconventional sporting film". (wiki)

    I've not been able to get hold of this film, but I've heard great things about it. Don't know whether you should watch it though, Gavin!

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  • 3. At 09:00am on 05 Mar 2009, Liverpool Andy wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 4. At 09:20am on 05 Mar 2009, lazypool2002 wrote:

    being a sub is no fun week in week out,but atleast your in the squad,and ive seen subs coming on after ten minutes,great blog again.

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  • 5. At 09:22am on 05 Mar 2009, ncfcgaz wrote:

    Once again a great blog Gav.

    I know how hard it must be for you to get into our side with Nowland and Thommo playing so well at the minute. By the way do you know any news on Adam's injury the other night?

    Also, what are we aiming for this season? Are we going for the play offs still or are we just looking at finishing as high as possible?

    Good luck in getting back into the side mate, keep working hard.

    You pies!

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  • 6. At 09:23am on 05 Mar 2009, RichDon1903 wrote:

    Great blog Gavin.

    Although, I was surprised when reading the part on super subs as you have not mentioned possibly the greatest super sub of all time! All the more surprising considering he played in the same team as your Dad and scored the winning goal against Real Madrid in the biggest game of his career!! Not to mention the winner against Bayern in the 1/4 final and on countless other occasions in his Dons career!

    Gavin, What about John Hewitt?

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  • 7. At 09:33am on 05 Mar 2009, MarkHogg_Ayr wrote:

    My favourite super-subs of all time have got to be the pairing of Teddy Sheringham and Solskjaer aka 1998/99. The amount of times those two came off the bench on 70 minutes for Cole and Yorke that season and scored winning goals was phenomenal. Without those two that treble would never have happened.

    As an 18 year old lad from Scotland i like reading your blogs mate, helps put some realistic insight into the fantasy world that is the upper reaches of football these days.


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  • 8. At 09:34am on 05 Mar 2009, Thistimeitsserious wrote:

    Long time reader firt time poster.

    Something tells me that Liverpool Andy (poster 3) is raging at the fact he wasnt the first to Post.

    On to my point

    The last time i played 11 aside competitive football ( 2 years ago now) i was a regular sub. The manager in my opinion didn't know what he was doing in my opinion but anyway at least you guys get seats. I had to stand at the side of an ash park in freezing Scotland and got on in one game for the last minute and didnt touch the ball.

    I also worked hard in training but in turned out the Manager just didn't rate me so i stopped playing.

    I still play 5s but i totally get the fustration of being a sub.

    Read the blogs every week mate without fail, keep up the good work.

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  • 9. At 09:38am on 05 Mar 2009, Thistimeitsserious wrote:

    Also Salvatore Schillaci must be the ultimate super sub.

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  • 10. At 09:44am on 05 Mar 2009, throbbinrobin wrote:


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  • 11. At 09:46am on 05 Mar 2009, throbbinrobin wrote:

    Post 6, you're bang on there!

    I still remember the P&J headline the next day: "Super Sub Hewitt Sinks Spanish Armada".

    Splendid stuff!

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  • 12. At 09:57am on 05 Mar 2009, davidgarrick wrote:

    Great blog as always Mr Gavin.

    I think it's also interesting to consider the reverse effect of substitutions i.e. substitutions that have ruined a game.

    I don't know what other people think but a few examples spring to mind, the main one being Sven taking off Rooney against France when we were 1-0 up, replacing him with Hargreaves which destroyed the shape of the team.

    the result: 2-1 france and we got to see zidane trow up all over the pitch!

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  • 13. At 10:02am on 05 Mar 2009, Macca-ca-ca wrote:


    When subs go behind the goals or down the touchline for a warm up, how seriously do you take it?

    Some of the stretches i see performed are unbelievably doubt just a technique to "look busy" just in case the manager should have a glance over his shoulder and check up on them!

    Does it matter how the games been going? I mean, for example, 75mins gone,your teams made 2 subs already, both midfielders and are cruising in a game, I could imagine just sitting in the comfy rally driving-esque seats cozeyed up in your big jacket is more tempting than a few half hearted stretches?

    And is it always the manager who sends you out for stretches? Or would a sub sometimes just take the initiative and go of his own accord?

    good blog again btw!

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  • 14. At 10:17am on 05 Mar 2009, Liverpool Andy wrote:

    8. At 09:34am on 05 Mar 2009, Thistimeitsserious wrote:
    Long time reader firt time poster.

    Something tells me that Liverpool Andy (poster 3) is raging at the fact he wasnt the first to Post.

    Don't be so ridiculous! It just annoys me that people take some sort of pride in getting the first post on a blog!

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  • 15. At 10:25am on 05 Mar 2009, saudioak wrote:

    great blog gav,
    as with #13, how do you find warmin up to come on as a sub. i dont think any player in the world can enjoy being a sub but my reasons were always the way it felt like being dropped onto a moving treadmill. all other 21 players already have the momentum and you've got seconds to get into it else it may cost (i play centre back so perhaps that is the route of my feelings). when it comes to warming up before you come on you obviously cant do any ball work so i feel that sets you back a couple of notches, its nice to get on the pitch 'with your touch'. i also feel wierd runnin up and down the touchline infront of all the spectators, albeit not thousands as you do but hundreds, where ya can hear every individual opinion! nope, i can honestly say i hate being a sub! haha, keep up the great work tho gav and get yerself back in the startin 11!

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  • 16. At 10:35am on 05 Mar 2009, Dennistoundon wrote:

    top blog Gav,

    Hope the player supporting the oppostion was let go at the end of the season, that truly bad darts.

    Hewitt, was easliy Aberdeens greatest super sub, maybe the best any Scottish clubs was had though I'm bias, The other dons sub I remember was Nigel pepper h
    he was most likely our worst he seemed to get sent off every other match.

    Liverpool Andy posting the first Comment on a blog is like putting the first footprint on a snow covered field. And while it was a bit pointless don't lie and say your not a bit pleased if your the first to comment on a blog.

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  • 17. At 10:35am on 05 Mar 2009, WonderboySA wrote:

    Well you are human Gav but I can smell sarcasm a mile away and you pretending to be content is amusing. But just give it a go hey and you'll be in. When you on the bench I think its very important to analyse a game and see exactly why a manager is bringing you on and try and do what he says thats the important bit.

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  • 18. At 10:44am on 05 Mar 2009, Malky79 wrote:

    During our 91 cup run Stevie Kirk for Motherwell was fantastic. Scored in every round bar one, where he did tuck away a pen in a shoot out, coming off the bench culminating in scoring the winning goal in extra time. 4-3 win over Dundee Utd.

    Can't mind if he ws definately sub in every round but certainly was in the first tie in the 3rd round where he came on against Aberdeen and scored the winner and the final itself. Think he was but would have to double check.

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  • 19. At 10:52am on 05 Mar 2009, IPL Prediction Champ 08/09 wrote:

    well done on another well written article Gavin, you definitely have a future in journalism.

    i spent alot of time on the bench, partially because i'm a goal keeper. i'm always there for pre-season then another keeper comes in a takes my place. the manager then tells me i'm not going to get playing for the rest of the year.

    What do you do?

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  • 20. At 11:01am on 05 Mar 2009, Charmless Man wrote:

    Great Blogs Gavin.

    Every time the big teams in the prem play each other I feel the upper hand always goes to what is on the bench.
    I think this is why Man U are on top this season as the impact the subs make if the first 11 isn't going to plan is something else. (this is from an Arsenal fan).

    Lastly is the inspiration for this blog the childish huff from Giovanni (Hull) last weekend. I know he loves playing football but that was very over the top.

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  • 21. At 11:27am on 05 Mar 2009, darlochief wrote:

    hi gavin.

    i saw you in action as a sub at darlington on tuesday. looking at how you boys performed i am sure you'll get a game at the weekend. very charitable for county to rest their best players what with our administration woes.

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  • 22. At 11:44am on 05 Mar 2009, david_moist wrote:

    As ever a really enjoyable blog.

    In terms of "super subs" one that sticks in my mind is Daniel Amokachi (sorry about spelling).

    Off the bench in an FA cup semi final to score twice and send Eveton the final. (our last trophy)

    I think that was about all he did for us in his time at Goodison!!

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  • 23. At 11:47am on 05 Mar 2009, Edd M wrote:

    could be worse. You could be a sub goalie, then you know your chances of getting a game are REALLY slim!

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  • 24. At 12:11pm on 05 Mar 2009, Tundra_Boy wrote:

    Through his role as a super sub for Spurs Robbie Keane managed to displace Defoe and establish himself as the number one striker at the club.

    Hope for all subs!

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  • 25. At 12:21pm on 05 Mar 2009, partyparkins wrote:

    Being a Newcastle supporter, I always remember when we signed Ian Rush and John Barnes when they were in their twilight years (putting it nicely).

    Rush came on against Sheff Utd in the FA Cup when we were losing and smashed in 2 goals for the win....was all to no avail as usual though!

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  • 26. At 12:46pm on 05 Mar 2009, steve Norman wrote:

    Yes you maybe sat on the bench of a league two club but there are a few thousand fans that can only dream of being sat there.

    Great win on Saturday - we spoke at the end of the game ( I am the guy in the yellow coat - from cov/notts)

    We are behind you all the way

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  • 27. At 12:56pm on 05 Mar 2009, Bucky2 wrote:

    Great blog once again Gavin!

    I know what you mean about being on the bench, thats where Ive been the past couple of months for my club.

    Its very frustrating as just a couple of years ago when I was 19 I won player of the year in my first season. I then broke my leg in a pre-season match and was out for a year and returned at the start of this season. There was a change in manager during the time I was injured and I get the feeling he doesn't rate me!

    Don't get me wrong I didnt expect to walk straight back into the 1st team but thought I'd have got my place back by now! Its been a very frustrating season as I feel I can offer more than some lads that are playing in front of me.

    As I said I have been sub for the 1sts since just before Christmas, also making appearances for the reserves. I think its very hard to prepare mentally if you know your not starting, have you any tips on that?

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  • 28. At 1:03pm on 05 Mar 2009, neilm_1972 wrote:


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  • 29. At 1:04pm on 05 Mar 2009, jonah77 wrote:

    Hi Gav,
    further to post 12, some of us older fans will recall the 1970 World Cup quarter final England v. West Germany.
    With England 2-0 up, Sir Alf Ramsey decided to rest an aging Bobby Charlton to save him for the semi-final.
    The result was Franz Beckenbauer ran riot and England lost 3-2 !!
    Doh !!!!

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  • 30. At 1:18pm on 05 Mar 2009, Chris wrote:

    Another insightful blog. How does the frustration of being a substitute compare with being subbed if you know you've had a shocker?

    Another topic for a future post for you, Notts haven't won a midweek league game for 2 and half years (must be some kind of record). As most of the matches at our level are traditional Saturday 3 o'clock kick-offs, is there any mental difference in the preparation for an evening kick off?

    Good luck with the glass hamstring, still enough time to finish as top scorer!

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  • 31. At 1:30pm on 05 Mar 2009, margaritop4p wrote:

    Great blog Gavin, it was really interesting.

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  • 32. At 1:33pm on 05 Mar 2009, jamgalex1 wrote:

    At least you have a bench to sit on. My poor under 11s have to stand on the side line and try not to kick the ball they are warming up with onto the pitch.

    If Gav's fed up of being on the bench - he should invite his parents to the match. I always play kids who's parents turn up to watch.

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  • 33. At 1:39pm on 05 Mar 2009, jamgalex1 wrote:

    I made it onto the bench at Fulham once - my under 11s (mentioned above) won a tournament and were allowed to parade the trophy round Craven Cottage at half time. As we were going round - I sneaked a checky perch in the dug out - those seats are comfy.

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  • 34. At 1:51pm on 05 Mar 2009, bacon_trout wrote:

    13. At 10:02am on 05 Mar 2009, Macca-ca-ca wrote:

    When subs go behind the goals or down the touchline for a warm up, how seriously do you take it?

    Some of the stretches i see performed are unbelievably doubt just a technique to "look busy" just in case the manager should have a glance over his shoulder and check up on them!

    Does it matter how the games been going? I mean, for example, 75mins gone,your teams made 2 subs already, both midfielders and are cruising in a game, I could imagine just sitting in the comfy rally driving-esque seats cozeyed up in your big jacket is more tempting than a few half hearted stretches?


    This is interesting, and has made me think of another point.

    Obviously you say that everyone wants to play first team football...but have you ever come across players who are happy to sit on the bench? Happy just picking up a wage for not doing anything? I would imagine this is a problem (if it even is one at all) more in the higher leagues, but every office has workshy colleagues willing to skive, is football the same in this regard?

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  • 35. At 1:53pm on 05 Mar 2009, bacon_trout wrote:

    32. At 1:33pm on 05 Mar 2009, jamgalex1 wrote:

    If Gav's fed up of being on the bench - he should invite his parents to the match. I always play kids who's parents turn up to watch.


    Just have to say, while I'm sure it's best intentioned, that's awful! No orphans in your team then? Or kids with single parents who have to work on a saturday??

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  • 36. At 2:00pm on 05 Mar 2009, lunswort wrote:

    I used to play centre of midfield and captained my team, but I suffered from being versatile. I was left footed, so would some times play left midfield, left back and occasionally centre back.
    Occasionally I would get moved around to accomodate other players who were available for that game who weren't considered as versatile as me.
    I remember playing right back in one game which was never my position and getting Man of the Match. The next week, the regular right back was back from injury, and I wouldn't complaint about him being a better selection in that position than me. The trouble is, the manager kept his midfield the same as the previosu week and left me on the bench.
    Needless to say I didn't handle it well, got the monk on and refused to go on in the game! I never played again that season including missing a cup final that my team lost on penalties!
    I wonder whether I over reacted in hind sight?

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  • 37. At 2:05pm on 05 Mar 2009, markadoi84 wrote:

    Great piece again Gavin, alongside Tim Vickery the most consistently entertaining and interesting blog on here.

    In most professions, there are people who would rather be getting paid to do nothing. In football, I would assume it's not exactly like that but the equivalent players staying at clubs, picking up higher wages whilst sitting on the bench. One example has to be Cudicini, who for a few years sat on the Chelsea bench despite the fact he'd been superb in the season before Cech joined. He had opportunities to leave and get a game every week, but chose instead to sit in a dug-out every week and watch Cech break clean-sheet records and play in massive, massive games.

    As for supersubs, after last night look no further than Ricardo Fuller. Stoke were well up against it at the time he came on, but his pace and power terrifies any tiring defence.

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  • 38. At 2:08pm on 05 Mar 2009, markadoi84 wrote:

    Sorry, in Post 37 I meant to ask whether you know of players who would rather be on the bench for a better side than playing every week for a lower club? Would you rather be playing every week for Notts County or sitting on the bench for Man Utd, playing the odd final minute and so getting just enough appearances to get a PL winner's medal?


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  • 39. At 2:12pm on 05 Mar 2009, scotsmaningermany wrote:

    Didi Hamann for Steve Finnan in the CL Final 2005 springs to my mind.

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  • 40. At 2:18pm on 05 Mar 2009, gulval_4 wrote:

    Very interesting read Gavin.

    Fortunately, in my playing days i have rarely been in your position, apart from my younger days, when i was breaking into teams. I do remember how frustrating it was, and although its irritating i never wished my team to lose, only hoped for a shocker from a team mate so i could get my chance!!
    I also know how the utility chap feels, having played in every position this season, barring in goal and centre mid, all i can say to him is 'keep puttin the effort in, and hopefully the manager will find a position that you can excel in'.
    Keep up the excellent work Gavin, and hope you get your first team chance in the near future. Theres far too much experience in those legs and mind of yours to be sat warming the bench for too long.

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  • 41. At 2:26pm on 05 Mar 2009, ChicagoBearCub wrote:

    I played non-league for 20yrs and toward the end of my career was a 35-40yr old sub playing alongside lots of cocky youngsters. I kept positive and trained hard so I always felt I could contribute. When on the sideline I would be telling the others how I was going to go on and score the winner or equaliser. It was incredible how often that happened and I think having that positive attitude helped make it a reality.

    My manager wanted me to stay in the squad and I believed I was the best 15-20min player at the club while knowing my best days were long behind me. It was great still to be playing, training and joking with the boys and there really is no substitute for it. Wish I could do it all again !!

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  • 42. At 2:27pm on 05 Mar 2009, johnlush wrote:

    i recall being a substitute in my youth, playing during the winter when our coach wouldn't allow track suit bottoms, they are for wimps apparently.
    10 minutes to go and he decided to give me an outing, no matter how much warming up i tried, my thighs were so cold i could hardly run.

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  • 43. At 2:48pm on 05 Mar 2009, Marc wrote:

    "I have always found that players with searing pace or an eye for goal can be the most effective substitutes...." Gavin, are you trying to kill off your chances of getting onto the pitch completely!? A beautifully written and insightful blog as ever, well done.

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  • 44. At 3:12pm on 05 Mar 2009, chuchugaga wrote:

    Gav, might want to change that opening line "Hi hope you are all well" sometime soon. It's fast becoming a trademark!

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  • 45. At 3:18pm on 05 Mar 2009, Rabster wrote:

    Your blog is very good but I fear when you say you wish to study journalism.
    It is the day to day insights that make your articles so interesting. I would hate it if you turned out like a Bose, Vickery or McNulty who just trot out tired old rubbish completely devoid of passion or soul.
    Keep playing/training and give us the real deal as life as a footballer. You do it very well.

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  • 46. At 3:22pm on 05 Mar 2009, Andres Mora wrote:

    This is the film referred in Post No. 2:

    I haven't seen it, but it seems like a depressing one. Might be interesting to watch, though.

    Great blog, Gav. It's funny how every substitute footballer has to deal with the guilt of wishing the one in your position do something wrong so you can get a chance to play... :S

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  • 47. At 3:55pm on 05 Mar 2009, Maddog wrote:

    story mate told me was out in manchester on news years eve and a well known premiership defender who obviously was told he wasn't going to start the next day was out having a 'few drinks' needless to say but he ended up playing 90 awful minutes the next day probably not the best prep...

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  • 48. At 4:10pm on 05 Mar 2009, mac-d wrote:

    nice blog, I would say matt Derbyshire has been an excellent sub for us (rovers) in the last couple of years, I can see why he doesn't start on a regular basis when compared to the more experienced forwards we've got at the club but his attitude and eagerness as a sub is top rate.
    I hope he can start to cement his place in the team when he gets back from greece and once roque has moved on

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  • 49. At 4:11pm on 05 Mar 2009, Lee_in_KL wrote:

    Hi Gav, really enjoying your blogs.

    The worst and most embarassing thing for a sub is to come on, and subsequently be subbed yourself later on in the game due to having a 'mare.

    I speak from experience from my days playing in the 'Stockton and District Sunday league 3rd division'. The four spectators did laugh, and I'm even sure the dog on the sidelines peed itself. Needless to say, I realised it was time to hang up my boots.

    I saw it recently in a Boro game but can't remember the player. Has it happened to you, or do you recall any high profile players it's happened to and didn't take it very well?

    cheers, and please keep these blogs coming.

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  • 50. At 4:24pm on 05 Mar 2009, Raef Barnes wrote:

    Swindon Town - last season Moses Ashikodi came on around the 70th minute mark as sub, ran around for ten minutes and then was substituted, not injured, just worn himself out. Brilliant.

    as for you being a sub Gav, least you, unlike thousands of others in the local leagues don't turn up for your match, find out your a sub and get the dreaded "you can be linesman first half" treatment. now that's the pits!

    Good luck for the rest of the season!

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  • 51. At 4:31pm on 05 Mar 2009, King-Dion wrote:

    Worst substitution decision: Alf Ramsey taking off Bobby Charlton when England were 2-0 up in the 1970 World Cup finals. After that "masterstroke" we lost 2-3.

    Great blog Gavin - thanks.

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  • 52. At 4:44pm on 05 Mar 2009, bigjackearle wrote:

    Hi Gavin, I love the blog mate, a genuinely insightful look at the day to day life of a footballer. e.g. I enjoyed your blog about superstitions and then days later Tore and Gallas pulled that number against Roma. Best blog on the bbc!
    By the way, best supersub I can remember at Spurs was "Rocket" Ronny Rosenthal against Southampton in the FA Cup. He came on when we were losing 2-0 and scored a hatrick (we won 6-2)! Me and my brother couldn't sleep that night!

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  • 53. At 4:44pm on 05 Mar 2009, EckoLuke wrote:

    All of the super-sub comments seem to be about strikers.

    what about the 2005 champions league final when Liverpool bought on Hamman at half time and he completely took Kaka out of the game. We all now what happened next, 3 goals, back into it, penalties win.

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  • 54. At 4:49pm on 05 Mar 2009, forresnat wrote:

    Being a goalkeeper myself there is nothing worse than being a substitute. The only way you're going to get on is if the other boy gets injured or sent off. Highly unlikely for a gk to get subbed for "tatical reasons". So if you do come on you're either not in the right mindset as you usually have accepted the fact that the only action you are going to get is the 15 mins saving shots from the fellow subs at half time. Or your teams down to 10 men and you're more and likely facing a penalty aswell.
    Nice article, keep up the good work

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  • 55. At 4:58pm on 05 Mar 2009, Clint wrote:

    I've not seen the Dhorasoo film but I can just imagine how grim it would be. A player of that calibre would spend his life dreaming of competing for his counrty in a World Cup, it's what virtually every footballer wants to do more than anything else.

    So to be picked in the squad and have to sit through every game right the way up to the final knowing you're as close as you'll ever be to your dream must be impossible to come to terms with. The fact that the French got beaten in the final and probably should have won (Domanech's tactics were poor, how is he STILL their coach) would have rubbed salt in the wound.

    As for supersubs, you'll do well to find a substitution that made a bigger impact than young David Marshall making his first team debut for Celtic against Barcelona and keeping a clean sheet...

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  • 56. At 5:09pm on 05 Mar 2009, superstarDJ-MarcusMcGee wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 57. At 5:16pm on 05 Mar 2009, Bkkred wrote:

    Anyone remember Roger Davies at Derby in Cloughies era? I think he was the original Super-Sub. If I remember correctly, he once came on and scored a hat-trick in a European game in about 15 minutes. It's back in the 70's so I may be a tad twaddled!

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  • 58. At 5:25pm on 05 Mar 2009, AnalMcAnal wrote:

    Talking of coming on as a sub and being taken off...

    My favourite substitution has to be by Graeme Souness when in charge of Southamption.

    Apologies if i've not got my facts 100% right but didn't he sign a player that he'd never seen play purely on the reccomendation of an agent and because he was George Weah's cousin?

    Anyway, said player came on as a substitute in a premier league game only to last about 10 minutes before Souness realised he was useless and subsequently substitued him. Brilliant!

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  • 59. At 5:27pm on 05 Mar 2009, superstarDJ-MarcusMcGee wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 60. At 5:30pm on 05 Mar 2009, AnalMcAnal wrote:

    I was nearly right - just found the following on wikipedia...

    After a playing career at the lower levels in France and Germany, and having already had failed trials at Port Vale, Gillingham and Bournemouth, before playing at semi-pro club Blyth Spartans, Dia was signed by Southampton manager Graeme Souness in 1996, after Souness received a phone call purporting to be from Liberian international and former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah. "Weah" told Souness that Dia was his cousin, had played for Paris Saint-Germain and had played 13 times for his country. Actually, none of this was true, and the phone call was from Dia's agent.[1] Nonetheless, Souness was convinced, and signed Dia on a one-month contract.

    Dia played just one game for Southampton, in the number 33 shirt, against Leeds United on November 23, 1996; he had originally been scheduled to play in a reserve friendly against Arsenal, but the match was cancelled due to a waterlogged pitch. In the match against Leeds, he came on as a substitute for Matthew Le Tissier after 32 minutes but his performance was spectacularly below Premier League quality. He was later substituted (for Ken Monkou) after playing until the 53rd minute; Leeds won the match 2–0.

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  • 61. At 5:37pm on 05 Mar 2009, superstarDJ-MarcusMcGee wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 62. At 5:48pm on 05 Mar 2009, oke2008 [RIP #15] wrote:


    put your dummy back in and have you mummy put the toys back in the pram.

    if you dont like the blog don't comment on it and let the people who do like it enjoy the imput without having to skirt around your drivel!

    i know fellow responders will look at my post and groan knowing you are a sad person who just wants to get a rise out of someone!

    you clearly have an issue, perhaps you were told at a young age you were not good enough to play for a team and still hold resentment against players who have go on and made a career in the game but as any pro will tell you, its not just skill its also luck thats gets you playing for a club.

    maybe you want to take stock, work on your game train hard and most of all take on board the reason you were turned down and use that to come back stronger, and maybe one day you can be earning money from the beautiful game.

    also stop being an idiot!

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  • 63. At 5:55pm on 05 Mar 2009, superstarDJ-MarcusMcGee wrote:

    sorry everyone - my comments are soley for strachan

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  • 64. At 5:58pm on 05 Mar 2009, Daniel Linton wrote:

    Shev, no-one else will reply to you but I will. Take a long hard look at yourself and say you were not good enough and di not train hard enough as a kid. Cream rises to the top and you did not make it - fairly simple. If I thought like you I would still bebitter and twisted that i did not play county cricket for Essex even though i pled all the way thrugh schoolboys. INstead i got off my backside and studies to better myself.

    You will alway be a factry worker that you are so obviously upset about until you get over the fact that like thousands of kids you did not make it. I know a couple of Eng U19's players from a few years back, they did not make it and instead had a successful non-league career and a damn good job.

    You control your destiny, not some one else or their father!

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  • 65. At 6:13pm on 05 Mar 2009, partyparkins wrote:

    Shevchenkslow - Grow up!

    Top blog Gavin as usual

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  • 66. At 7:17pm on 05 Mar 2009, superstarDJ-MarcusMcGee wrote:

    150 starts in 12 years - all that hard work - NOT

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  • 67. At 7:20pm on 05 Mar 2009, smithy350 wrote:

    haha i remember when i was about 13 and was on the bench (well standing on the sideline) for an entire match. it got to the point where i was cheering the other teams goals ha o the bitterness. the other team won the game 4-1 much to my amusement.

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  • 68. At 8:09pm on 05 Mar 2009, Kalash_McKop wrote:

    I was never likely to go far due to bad eyesight, but I played a bit and had some bad experiences of being kept out of teams because of a clique or because the manager had issues.

    I recall not making one school team because of one teacher not picking me. I only got a few games because I was tall - and got put in goal. I wasn't that bad - but there were better in that position.

    My class went to a study centre, minus our school team football coach, and we played football against other school teams in our free time - arranging them ourselves some of the time - some games the teachers organised. We lost only once in several matches of both five-a-side and 11 a-side. The organised games. I was made team captain and I recall one other school teacher who was astounded that I was not in my school team. I was 12 and I did not have the wherewithal to question why I didn't play - and my class mates didn't know why, either. One even said I should be in it instead of him.

    I never did find out why but that teacher either had a bug up his rear end or he didn't know what he was doing.

    At my next school, not long after, I missed the training session for the first game but after that I was ever-present. At a third school it was a real clique and I happily didn't play for the school team because I could see that if I was going to get a game I would have to be friendly with people I didn't really want to be friendly with - and that took me into playing with friends and playing with their friends and I got to be a youngster in a local side, so not being part of the school team then was one of the best choices I ever made - not just because I moved up a level, but because I was really enjoying my football with my friends.

    I wasn't quite strong enough to compete at that level (I was 16/17) and get a regular place and then my worsening eyesight became an issue and I was too young for contact lenses. C'est la guerre.

    After that, playing was sporadic. I did come on in a game as a sub, did a muscle in my back and got subbed myself!

    My favourite playing days were definitely those with my friends, and their friends, every Sunday morning at a local school field. We really played well together and for each other. Me being a sub in those days was unthinkable!

    Hey, there were occasions when I wasn't good enough to get a game for a team I was involved - and if I wasn't good enough to start, I could accept being a squad player and sub, but I feel sometimes for those who have people in charge of a team who cannot pick a team objectively.

    That doesn't just apply to football teams.

    Not saying I missed my vocation, but a kid could miss opportunities. This is why players who made it are lucky - because they never had someone who could block their way.

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  • 69. At 8:10pm on 05 Mar 2009, magyarsunited wrote:

    In my mid thirties towards the end of my semi-pro carreer a newly appointed manager who favoured youth over experience dropped me to the bench for the first time in my football life. With 75 minutes gone we were 6-0 down against our local rivals when he asked me to go on. I will never forget his words as I stripped off " get on a see what difference you can make" I couldnt help but break out in a fit of laughter before telling him where to go. Needless to say I didnt figure in any of the first team squads for several weeks until he was replaced after a disastrous run of heavy defeats. In the immortal words of Alan Hansen "youll never win anything with kids "

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  • 70. At 8:15pm on 05 Mar 2009, ToonForeverKC wrote:

    Epic blog, Gav -

    As a Yank, this is the side of football I love to see and read about. Over this side of the pond there isn't much to find about the grittier side of football.

    So well done.

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  • 71. At 9:08pm on 05 Mar 2009, stevenage0magpie wrote:

    great blog .... again

    not what you were asking but .... the most comfortable seat I have ever sat in at a footie match is MKD last season .... brill stadium lush seats albeit awful result

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  • 72. At 9:15pm on 05 Mar 2009, atyaagun wrote:

    Michael Owen was a super sub at Real Madrid.

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  • 73. At 9:32pm on 05 Mar 2009, LRD wrote:

    Then the sobering reality of your predicament sets in and you realise that ultimately you are a substitute for a League Two club.


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  • 74. At 9:33pm on 05 Mar 2009, Jack wrote:

    @no. 71: Shame the seats at MK aren't plastic as it would match their fans.

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  • 75. At 9:39pm on 05 Mar 2009, Fabregas_1987 wrote:


    Great blog as ever. I was wondering if you could offer some advice on the whole substitute ethos, im not sure if the question has popped up already, but ill give it a go anyway.

    Basically, I was a regular starter all season at quite football club playing at quite a high standard, but have found myself dropped after sustaining a hamstring injury. Now when I am substitute whenever it is a close game I dread coming on and making a mistake. I know this is more psychological but was wondering if there are any preperations you take before games to aid this?


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  • 76. At 9:48pm on 05 Mar 2009, Gavin Strachan wrote:

    post 15 . You are spot on mate . Adapting to the pace of the game when you come on is very difficult.

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  • 77. At 9:51pm on 05 Mar 2009, Gavin Strachan wrote:

    post 26 . Fair point and being sub certainly beats being injured.

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  • 78. At 9:54pm on 05 Mar 2009, Gavin Strachan wrote:

    post 34 . I honestly do not think that is the case and as you point out certainly not in the lower leagues . If you are sub and not playing , you could soon be out of a job.

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  • 79. At 9:56pm on 05 Mar 2009, Gavin Strachan wrote:

    post 43 . I did have to think twice about putting in that sentance.

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  • 80. At 10:24pm on 05 Mar 2009, CarefreeCoors wrote:

    Great blog, yet again.

    Surley players with "searing pace" and "an eye for goal" would be in, or at least in serious contention for the starting line up?

    Ronny Rosenthal was a good "super sub", I recall one game Spurs being behind by 2 or 3 then him coming on to hit a hattrick ( it may have even been four), although I'm sure someone has already mentioned this. Even as a Chelsea fan that was an absolute joy to watch.

    Congratluations on another top quality piece of work Mr. Strachan.

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  • 81. At 10:32pm on 05 Mar 2009, Mack wrote:

    Gavin - Maybe you can do a blog about the type of banter that goes on in the dugout between the subs. Assuming like other pros in other sports, you make friendly wagers other than when a player will go on.

    Who will draw the first foul?
    Who will draw the first yellow?

    And of course any other banter

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  • 82. At 10:34pm on 05 Mar 2009, FridayYodel wrote:

    Gavin, I agree with post 45 - don't become a football journo, become a writer. You'll keep your integrity that way. Always enjoy your blog.

    An aspect of being on the bench that interests me is how you respond to team-mates who have been subbed because they have been having a stinker, but are furious that they have been taken off....

    ...and they want you to agree with them that they have been treated unfairly.

    How do you play it? Speak the truth or try to support a colleague?

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  • 83. At 02:04am on 06 Mar 2009, elementary_penguin wrote:

    nice one gavin.

    As a rangers fan i would have to say the one that sticks in my mind, although i'm sure not universally popular amongst fellow supporters, is Erik Bo Andersen. I was fairly young at the time he was at Ibrox, but remember that he was always good for a goal or two in the little time he had on the pitch.

    I would, however, agree that Hamann's performance in Istanbul was one of great importance, and undoubtedly changed the game.

    One more if i can. Another player who didn't see much game time whilst at Newcastle was Temuri Ketsbaia. Surely he was responsible for the most memorable celebration performed by a substitute.

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  • 84. At 06:54am on 06 Mar 2009, futbolsam wrote:

    Hello Gavin,

    Great post as usual.

    Loved your other post on 11 year olds and playing 11-a-side games. I did not have a bbc id back then. I created one now just to appreciate this blog.

    And like most others here say, getting to a League two team's bench is a dream to many. You have a whole lot of years ahead of you.

    Wish you only the best.

    Missed this. Keep writing.

    Writing for BBC about football is a dream of many more people out there. Like me, for instance :)

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  • 85. At 09:46am on 06 Mar 2009, reidy23 wrote:

    Best super sub?

    Erik Bo Andersen of Rangers. Came off the bench during Ne'Year Old firm derby, with the scores tied at 1-1, Andersen replaced a flu-stricken Ally McCoist in the sixty-seventh minute, and his introduction swung the match in Rangers' favour. The Dane scored twice in the final ten minutes to secure a 3-1 victory and ensure a long-lasting place in the hearts of the Rangers supporters, and produced the most famous managerial celebration with Walter Smith running down the touchline (years before Mourinho) hugging the fans he past.

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  • 86. At 11:02am on 06 Mar 2009, moes-tavern wrote:

    Great blog as usual Gav,
    Me and the missus sit behind the visiting dugout at a Div 2 ground (Saltergate) and it never ceases to amaze me how entertaining not to mention revealing (naked torso's of subs putting shirts on, i'm sure thats why the missus insists on sitting there)!!!! watching to dugout can be and it certainly gives you a different perspective on things. As you've mentioned sometime's the langauge would put Gordon Ramsay to shame but it's interesting to see how different managers/coaches can be. Some offer advice/ critiscism in a relatively quiet and controlled manner while other's eff and blind and get quite personal. Whats also entertaining is the banter that goes on between the home and away dugout especially when they disagree on a refereeing decision!! It also makes me chuckle when i see the amount off goodies the substitutes bring with them , wine gums, jelly babies, bananas various sports drinks, and cups of tea. I did, at our last home game see something i have never seen before, the visiting team plastered one side of the dugout in paper showing formations for free kicks/corners etc and all subs were well briefed before coming on, i'm sure this info would have been useful info if i could have passed word onto our manager!!!!
    keep up the good work, and say hi to Mick Leonard for me, he was my favourite player and my inspiration when i decided to become a keeper as a kid, and give Phil Picken a pat on the back, top bloke for a manc!!

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  • 87. At 11:28am on 06 Mar 2009, peter_lpool wrote:

    "Then the sobering reality of your predicament sets in and you realise that ultimately you are a substitute for a League Two club."
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    Personally i'd love to be in that position, even on the bench i'd be happy! However, I do see where you are coming from.

    As a kid I played for the school team and a sunday league team, both were quite far away from where I lived so a lot of traveling was involved in order to play. I was lucky at first to be in the school team every game without even coming off (one season I even scored 16 goals in 12 games! - Thats how long the seasons were lol).

    However, when I got older (and switched to another team just as far away) I played regularly again on a Sunday but the school team was a different matter. I couldn't stand getting home at around 6 or 7 at night having not played because I was a sub. I ended up quitting in the end.

    Although embarrassed to admit the bitterness in me, I was secretly pleased to see the team I was once in (one that won the league, cup an regional cup) get hammered every game. I still put it down to the fact that it's because I wasn't there. ;-)

    Great blog as usual Gav! (It's the only one I bother looking for)

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  • 88. At 12:41pm on 06 Mar 2009, SA-EAGLE wrote:

    Great Blog Gav as always. I enjoy reading your blogs mate! - Nice one!

    You were saying you would like to hear other super-subs stories wel here I go.

    I was playing in the UK a boarding scholl, although I was a day pupil and we were not exactly preferred to The Manager/Housemasters at the school, but nonetheless I was in the squad week in week out.

    One match I remember clearly and we had to win we were losing 1-0 with 15 mins to go and was awarded a penalty. No-one wanted to take it so "the boss" put me on and I slotted it in nicely. I got another 2 and my hat-trick and we won 3-1. Happy days.

    However, again the following week and many after that still on the bench so his preferred boarders could start instead.

    I went on to score 32 that season and yet one of the boarders were awarded the top goal scorer!!! Beats me but he only scored 21....laugh about it today though. HIlarious!

    Take care!

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  • 89. At 4:46pm on 06 Mar 2009, Tartandubliner wrote:

    Nice blog and good to read about a lot of the "super sub" appearances but also the unfortunate ones who don't quite make the impact they would like.

    The one that will always be in my memory is Chris Iwelumo when he came on against Norway at Hampden last year. Not only a substitute appearance but a debut for your country at an age when international fitba has normally passed most by.

    I am sure he was eager to impress and no doubt this played a part in what is the worst miss I have ever witnessed live.

    It didn't help the lad that they kept showing the replays on the big screens for the remainder of the match.

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  • 90. At 7:06pm on 06 Mar 2009, mereclough wrote:

    Hi Gav, interesting to hear you mention imre varadi, he was a particlar favourite of mine,i also thought his brother oli was fantastic in those early american silent movies alongside stan laurel !!!

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  • 91. At 10:48pm on 06 Mar 2009, Riotmachine wrote:

    Hi Gav, great blog really enjoyed reading it.

    Im a young keeper (18) and have been sitting on the bench for the last 9 of our games, the last time i was in goal i kept my 4th clean sheet in a row and have been kicked out by a keeper who is a very risky guy. The worst thing about it is that we have 4 teams under our club banner and i cant play for them because the 1st team manager takes me along for the 'experience'. Surely sitting on the bench cant be classed as experience? and how can i prove that im ready when i dont even get given the chance to play at any level of football.

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  • 92. At 3:03pm on 07 Mar 2009, KeepitReal wrote:

    I would think of Ronnie Rosenthal because he was a Supersub, to me a Supersub is just that, good as a sub but not brilliant when they play the full match, I think an example today would be Darren Bent.

    here is an article from 2001 about Supersubs

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  • 93. At 09:38am on 08 Mar 2009, jmf5469 wrote:

    ok blog but all this butt kissing is making me ill.

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  • 94. At 10:10am on 08 Mar 2009, jmf5469 wrote:

    I went over to the USA to play football for a University. I was on the bench for the last few games due to injury. 95% of the team were arrogant yanks who REALLY thought they were something special when it came to SOCCER. At the end of the season there, it comes down to knock out stages which can go on for months. I was in Vermont and a few times we actually had to all go out and shovel snow off the pitch before training. At the last few games I was so freezing and disgusted with my teamates attitudes that I was as passionate about wanting to lose as I am about wanting the club I support to win. When the final goal that was scored in extra time (golden goal)that knocked us out went in, I REALLY had to contain myself. Instinct almost made me jump off the bench and pump my fists in the air. 30 minutes later driving home in my car the fists were pumpimg. Kind of feel a little guilty now in hindsight.

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  • 95. At 11:07am on 08 Mar 2009, Cahill4 wrote:

    Hey Gavin, great post as usual, Have a question though. Is Jamie Forrester a good team mate?? the reason I ask is because I played football with him when he was at high school in Blackpool and he rarely passed the ball, probably because he didn't need to in those days!!

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  • 96. At 6:18pm on 08 Mar 2009, bluejames29 wrote:

    maybe if you were a better player you wouldn't be on the bench.....?

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  • 97. At 8:46pm on 09 Mar 2009, DrCajetanCoelho wrote:

    Interesting blog Gav. This business of warming the bench is never pleasant. Parents, siblings and friends who come to watch their hero feel quite depressed to see their star stuck to the bench. I know some who made a vow never to go to see their son on the same bench again. Sometimes the player is introduced just before the final whistle and the guy comes out without having made any contact with the ball.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

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  • 98. At 11:03pm on 09 Mar 2009, Josh Lines wrote:

    Obviously you say that everyone wants to play first team football...but have you ever come across players who are happy to sit on the bench? Happy just picking up a wage for not doing anything? I would imagine this is a problem (if it even is one at all) more in the higher leagues, but every office has workshy colleagues willing to skive, is football the same in this regard?


    Winstone Bogard.
    Thats all i have to say!!

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  • 99. At 1:43pm on 11 Mar 2009, phil2troublescorer wrote:

    What I've never understood about substitutes is that at half-time they are on the pitch warming up, practicing etc. Meanwhile the manager is in the dressing room giving the team his thoughts and tactics for the second half. Surely the subs. should be listening to this, so if and when they do go on the pitch they are aware of the overall tactics and what each of his team mates is supposed to be doing.

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  • 100. At 11:54am on 12 Mar 2009, Golligosh wrote:

    It was interesting that Chas and Dave (not forgetting TJ of course) didn't use any subs against Luton, or did I miss them in my total disgust at an awful performance? We were wondering in the stands if Chas was making a point saying this is the best first X1 and as things went from bad to worse, showing us how bad the team were?

    Clearly no treatment being given to Tann was some kind of retribution for giving away such a stupid penalty and in fairness to the management he was OK after a couple of minutes.

    Did Butcher not get substituted because the boss was allowing him to prove what he can do? After all he has been mouthing it off in the local paper of how he wants to stay at Notts. Well, after that diabolical miss in the first half where he put the ball wide of an open goal from 8 yards out(how is that possible by the way from a professional footballer, what do you do in training?)he clearly was playing himself out of the managers' thoughts. It is clear to everyone at Notts that we need a goalscorer and if getting rid of Butcher or your good self is going to contribute to Forte's salary or fee then I'm all for it. We also need to keep Weston so again people like Butcher are expendable.

    If I were you I would be doing everything possible to get off that bench, including using your Dad as some bargaining chip in getting us some good players in.

    Gav, beneath the 4th division is not the Conference, it is obscurity. Notts are at the least a Championship team it's about time some your colleagues got their fingers out, because come the end of the season there will be a cull, we cannot afford idiots like Edwards who heads the ball backwards into the path of the opposition (Bishop at Bury) or Tann who slide tackles in his own area giving away needless penalties, nor Facey who should with all the amount of chances he has had scored about 15 goals by now.

    Keep doing the yoga and everything else to maintain your hamstrings and do try and speed up...............just a tad.

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