Book Report: The Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game

Secret Footballer's Guide“What stands out about Ronaldo, when you play against him, is that he is an athlete: he looks like a middleweight boxer when he takes his shirt off, and yet he moves like Nijinsky, the Russian ballet dancer. When he runs away from you, he does so with the drive and determination of a 100-metre runner in the first throes of the race, and when he arrives in the box to attack a header his knees are already level with your face as you’re still getting ready to jump.” (The Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game – p101)

Title: The Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game – Tips and Tactics from the Ultimate Insider

Author: The Secret Footballer

Publisher: Guardian Books

Publication Date: 2014

Origin: I genuinely do not remember…maybe just an Amazon recommendation?

Summary: In The Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game, The Secret Footballer (duh) takes the reader on a far-reaching journey into the modern world of professional and international soccer…er, football.

On this journey, we receive practical tactical advice, training and fitness tips, and an education on formations, as well as come to understand The Secret Footballer’s opinions on topics ranging from the trendiness of the sport (keep your eyes peeled for sweeper-style keepers), Sepp Blatter, an insightful take on Luis Suarez’ biting incidents, and the great debate of modern times (i.e., Messi vs Ronaldo).

We also hear from both The Secret Physio and The Secret Psychologist, who both offer useful tips for aspiring athletes.

 

My Take: I quite enjoyed this book, and found it to be both an entertaining and an informative read. The Secret Footballer has definitely increased my understanding of the modern game, and I’m no newcomer either to soccer, global football, or the business of sport.

There are definitely topics where I would’ve enjoyed more depth, but to achieve that would require sacrificing the broad nature of the book. Very shortly I’ll be acquiring The Secret Footballer’s previous two books, and I look forward to ripping through them.

Read This Book If: You want an insider’s very pragmatic and unromantic view into the modern soccer/football world.

Notes and Quotes:

  • p6, a reminder that times changes and leaders should keep that in mind: “Don’t forget that we are still playing in an era where, in order to get fit in the pre-season, our managers ran up and down the stairs of the main stand – and the mantra seems to be that if it was good enough for them, then it’s certainly good enough for us. I’m afraid that where a lot of managers and pre-season training is concerned, progress comes about one funeral at a time.”

“Where a lot of managers and pre-season training is concerned, progress comes about one funeral at a time.

  • p21, after a lengthy interview with The Secret Physio, in which he espouses the myriad benefits of sand training (e.g., low impact, improves muscle firings, etc.): “If I can offer one piece of advice to any person reading this book who is trying to reach their peak physical condition, it would be to try to incorporate sand training into your regime – the benefits are huge.”
  • p65, on how to construct a winning team: “You don’t need the best players in each position – you need the best players who know how to play as a team in the way the club and the manager wants them to play.”
  • p68, in case you didn’t get the memo when soccer analytics came around: “Crossing is now seen as a weakness – an easy way to give the ball back to the opposition and a dangerous way to play given that one header out by a defender, or one clean catch by the goalkeeper, and suddenly the whole team is vulnerable to the counterattack.”
  • p70: “All of the top players are capable of filling in and assuming the role of others, they have a general level of footballing ability and awareness that is beyond most other players at inferior teams playing in their specialised positions.”
  • p72: “An instinctive knowledge of the game…comes firstly from playing with the brain and then with the eyes: if you know roughly what the shape of a team will be at any given moment, even when your back is to the play, then you have a great advantage when it comes to decision-making on the ball.”
  • p88: “The biggest problem in the style of play employed by many teams not at the top of the tree is that they don’t play where the best space is, they play the ball to where the most space is.”

“The biggest problem in the style of play employed by many teams not at the top of the tree is that they don’t play where the best space is, they play the ball to where the most space is.”

  • p89, on Gareth Bale’s sudden emergence: “And then, one summer, the Tottenham fitness coaches noted that Bale was smashing the times set for sprint training and, in turn, they reported their findings to the coaching team…Eventually, Tottenham realised they’d actually bought a lightning-quick winger who was very competent with the ball at high speed.” On that note, check out this video if you’ve never seen Bale’s pace before.
  • p91, on Diego Simeone’s success at Atlético Madrid, during which time he broke the stranglehold of Real Madrid and Barcelona on the La Liga title: “Simeone had built his team from a single foundation, adding layers as he went. His initial goal hadn’t been rocket science but was something that, given the game is a team sport, is incredibly difficult to achieve: getting the team to work harder than the opposition and, above all, work for each other.”
  • p101: “What stands out about Ronaldo, when you play against him, is that he is an athlete: he looks like a middleweight boxer when he takes his shirt off, and yet he moves like Nijinsky, the Russian ballet dancer. When he runs away from you, he does so with the drive and determination of a 100-metre runner in the first throes of the race, and when he arrives in the box to attack a header his knees are already level with your face as you’re still getting ready to jump.”
  • p118, after a really interesting explanation of Wayne Rooney’s worth to Manchester United: “Wages are now a reflection of market forces rather than exclusively about the talent a player has.”
  • p144, reminds me of Mind Gym, as he quotes The Secret Psychologist: “You can win and learn nothing, or lose and learn a load about yourself that means from loss you’ve become better. So, winning and losing must simply be seen as equal opportunities to learn.”

“Winning and losing must simply be seen as equal opportunities to learn.

  • p147: “Perfection is an asymptote. It is never achieved, and only two things ever happen when people go looking for it. Either they live unhappy lives because they are unable to find it, or they think they’ve found it and then worry every day that they are going to lose it.”

“Perfection is an asymptote. It is never achieved, and only two things ever happen when people go looking for it. Either they live unhappy lives because they are unable to find it, or they think they’ve found it and then worry every day that they are going to lose it.”

  • p153: “Professor of psychology at Cornell University, David Dunning, argues that in order to know how good you are at something, it requires exactly the same skills as it does to be good at that thing in the first place – which means if you’re absolutely no good at something at all then you lack exactly the skills you need to know that you’re absolutely no good at it.” I looked it up, and this is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect; it’ll be clear to anyone who’s ever watched an audition-based show like So You Think You Can Dance.
  • p199, echoing what’s been said elsewhere (including on this blog): “In fact, if you only take one piece of advice from this book then let it be this: there are two main ways of winning the ball back in modern football – press the opposition until they make a mistake, or wait for the opposition to misplace a pass or overhit a cross when they attack. The two are distinguished by whether or not a team is an attacking, pressing side or a defensive, organised side. But they both have a fundamental similarity in that they do not involve tackling on the ground.”
  • p200 explains why folks love the spectacle of tackling: “Tackling is a trait that is so easy for a crowd and statisticians to buy into; after all, it shows passion, doesn’t it? It shows commitment and honesty as well as desire and leadership. Doesn’t it? No. What it actually shows is a player making up for his shortcomings both as a technician and an athlete.” Oh, burn!
  • p204, quoting the legendary (love him or hate him) Johan Cruyff: “Playing simply is the hardest thing there is. The art is to play the ball so that the receive has the overview of the pitch and can go to action effectively. The speed with which that happens is the difference between a good and a bad player.”
  • p215: “Cristiano Ronaldo once said that God put him on this planet to play football. We’ll have to ask Lionel Messi if he remembers doing that.”

“Cristiano Ronaldo once said that God put him on this planet to play football. We’ll have to ask Lionel Messi if he remembers doing that.”

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Posted in Books, Everything, Soccer, Sports
2 comments on “Book Report: The Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game
  1. […] of the overall landscape into which more biographical and anecdotal pieces fit; if something like The Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game is a node in a network, then The Game of Our Lives is the network or web that links many […]

  2. […] I’d previously read and enjoyed The Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game, so this seemed like a […]

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