Footballers' brains aren't always in their feet
It is not unusual for a player to be described as having his brains in his feet. If an individual is given this label then does it qualify him as an intelligent footballer?
Being a clever footballer, it would seem, is not dependent on being intelligent in the other sense, as most coaches and players would say that game awareness and vision come from natural talent combined with good instruction.
I think that most would tend to associate these types of players as being forward-thinking and creative types, usually playing in a more advanced midfield role or just off the striker.
However, there are, in my opinion, just as many intelligent players who play in defensive roles and whose reading of the game and ability to see the next two or three passes allows them to be truly appreciated by team mates.
The modern-day creation of the sitting midfielder is one such role which requires game intelligence but how many would consider their centre-halves to have similar qualities?
And yet, the central defenders who are smart enough to recognise they cannot win every header, who know when to go tight and when to drop off the game and when to step into the play are those who stand a level above others who view the position as simply a matter of aggression and challenges.
These are perhaps the reasons why Davie Weir has enjoyed such an extended successful career and why centre-halves such as Willie Miller were rated so highly in the past.
Goalkeeper Fabien Barthez has set up an academy to educate players in France. Photo: Getty
Earlier in this blog I made the point that football skills are not reliant on a good education, but will this continue to be the case, and should it be? I would suggest that football ability and academic achievement should not be seen as incompatible, but rather that they could be mutually beneficial.
One of the accusations that is often labelled at Scottish players can be an inability to quickly adjust to new tactics and systems, with perhaps a greater emphasis placed on a young player's general education being a catalyst to them in turn being more responsive to new instructions on the football pitch.
Furthermore, as media coverage of the sport has intensified greatly, the ability to communicate confidently has increased for both managers and players alike, with an improved schooling again perhaps being an advantage in preparing for handling press attention.
In my experience, clubs are generally uninterested in how a player performs at school, although I acknowledge there are some who have bucked this trend.
Generally, however, an individual will be judged on his football talent and while this is fair and what supporters will only really care about, is the game then doing a disservice to players by not encouraging general education alongside football development?
I am aware that the former French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez supported a goalkeeping academy in south-west France where local businesses and sponsors in conjunction with the French FA funded the school in providing pupils with the national curriculum alongside intensive coaching.
It would be interesting to see whether such a school would ever be set up in Scotland where top football talent was educated to a good standard while receiving first-class training.
In an era where the science of sport is more influential than ever and where we are seeking every advantage in our bid to reach greater football heights, it might just be the answer.