Wednesday 21 February 2018

Aidan O'Hara: Losing a yard of patience with this silly talk

Aidan o'Hara

WHY is it always the case that, when a player gets slower, it's only one yard of pace they they ever lose? This phenomenon doesn't seem to be a gradual process but, like a facial pimple that pops up overnight, it's something that appears and becomes very obvious even if nobody noticed its arrival.

Surely in training, a coach should spot that one of the players has lost an inch of pace and take action before it gets to the stage where they have lost a full foot. If the process continues unchecked then, from nowhere, it's terminal and those three feet -- a yard in old money -- are suddenly gone forever, with the player apparently powerless to get them back.

One day, somebody might lose a metre of pace and that extra three inches will just finish them off entirely.

In describing Rio Ferdinand last week, Alex Ferguson brought a new measuring tool to the table by revealing that the defender had lost that "electric yard of pace" which he had a few years ago, without explaining just how much quicker an electric yard was than a normal one.

In the build-up to the let's-forget-all-his-faults weekend, nobody was going to pipe up in the press conference and ask Ferguson what the hell he was talking about. Perhaps, had he elaborated, he could have finally solved one of the game's great mysteries as to how somebody's speed came to be measured in distance. Science teachers must hate when their students watch football.

Over the course of their careers, Ferdinand and team-mates Michael Owen and Ryan Giggs must have lost a rod of pace, a lesser known unit of measurement that equates to five and a half yards but, rather than introducing a new expression and educating the masses, football-speak will continue to, literally, make up its own rulebook.

A player being in acres of space, for example, should be a cause of great concern given that the only way this should happen would be if they missed some sort of evacuation procedure. Instead, much like being a mile offside at Lansdowne Road should have you in the city centre, nobody really takes any notice.

For years, scoring away from home in European competition was vital because somehow it made its way into football consciousness that away goals counted double.

By that rationale, a team drawing 0-0 at home and then 2-2 away should have won 4-2 on aggregate and what appeared to be a hard-fought three hours of football between two evenly-matched teams was, in reality, a comfortable mythical two-goal victory.

Even without a live web stream of questionable legality, it was possible to watch 12 hours of football on television yesterday, with Real Madrid sparking thousands of "is this live?" questions by kicking off against Osasuna at 11.0.

From there, you could take a quick spin around Europe with a satellite subscription to Scotland, England, back home for 3.30 in Lansdowne, then over to Germany, to Spain, into Italy and back to Spain again.

A three-hour power nap, and you could have been ready for a trip to the USA to see LA Galaxy play Real Salt Lake in something called the Western Conference final of Major League Soccer in the early hours of this morning.

Such television gluttony is still regarded as a bounty to anybody who remembers the magnificence of the 'Sportsnight' theme tune and the joy when a midweek round of Division One matches meant it was possible to see football on a Wednesday. Imagine.

For future generations, however, there is a grave danger that football-speak will develop into something that invades their every-day lives (on Saturday, a colleague walking to Loftus Road heard his friend's eight-year-old son refer to the "Barclays Premier League").

Future exam questions could include the apparent difficulty in writing the words "off the Germans" or defining the difference between a massive match and a massive massive match, and at what point of the season do such massive massive matches that are worth three points become six-pointers? Or perhaps if a 25-year-old could run 100 yards in 10 seconds and a 30-year-old runs it in 11, how many yards faster is the younger man?

Full marks in such an exam would literally be a massive ask.

Irish Independent

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