Archive | May 2012

Why Aren’t Footballers More Intelligent?

I’ve read a couple of things today that have really caught my eye, both of them refer to the intelligence of footballers though in completely different ways.

I was chatting to my sister-in-law (well, fiancée’s brother’s girlfriend) a while ago about football coverage in The Guardian newspaper. She expected the paper to take a less than committed approach to sport in general but from what I’ve read over the years, no paper looks more in depth at sport than The Guardian.

Firstly, there was an article looking at whether certain skills a footballer performs during matches are instinctive or planned. It’s a fascinating read based around an interview Wayne Rooney gave recently regarding his thought patterns during matches. He’s very easy to poke fun at, Rooney, but he’s a supremely talented footballer no matter what you think of him and his activities away from the pitch.

Wayne Rooney once scored a magnificent overhead kick, shown in the video above. <boast>I was there</boast>. He was talking about the goal when he said:

When a cross comes into a box, there’s so many things that go through your mind in a split second, like five or six different things you can do with the ball. You’re asking yourself six questions in a split second. Maybe you’ve got time to bring it down on the chest and shoot, or you have to head it first-time. If the defender is there, you’ve obviously got to try and hit it first-time. If he’s farther back, you’ve got space to take a touch. You get the decision made. Then it’s obviously about the execution.

As the article says, “to have that level of consciousness seems extraordinary [and] the assumption is that the act is instinctive but Rooney makes that goal sound as though it were the result of a rational process”.

So, think about it. In the time taken for the ball to leave Nani’s right foot for the cross, Rooney thought all that, decided which course of action was best then executed it to perfection.

Intelligence shows itself in different ways in different people. I’m not sure I could judge the situation of who’s around me, where they are, what my abilities are and completing the course of action in that time to that degree of precision. OK, it’s not an academic intelligence, more an innate understanding of the physics of the ball’s movement and the space around them.

The article goes on in depth discussing the way the mind works in relation to sport in general and is a fascinating read.

Secondly, I was reading an article about a Czech Republic international defender, Theodor Gebre Selassie, who is the son of a doctor and a teacher. He is an intelligent man as well as an international quality footballer, choosing football over studying at university.

The part that really caught my eye, though, was that he was considering returning to university and studying alongside his football career. He says he has “quite a lot of time” and this got me thinking; once players finish training in the morning and have their lunch in the club canteen, what do they do for the afternoon? Watch Sky Sports News? Listen to TalkSport? Spend a few quid down at the Apple Store? Well, why not improve yourself?

If I was a professional footballer, two things would scare me. Firstly, what am I going to do when I retire, which usually happens by the time a player reaches 35. Secondly what am I going to do with all this free time in the afternoons when the rest of the world is working? These fears can be remedied by study.

I know that for those of you who know me this may seem like a massive joke and that if there was one person who didn’t take university seriously, it was me!

Most footballers need something other than the usual routes retired players take (punditry, coaching, weight gain) and choose to get a ‘proper job’, often in the offices of a club they’re represented. They could open up their options massively by studying something they’re interested in.

I can’t see why more players aren’t doing that kind of thing. Lack of necessity, I suppose.

An Odeon Cinema for Orpington – At last, they’re trying

Orpington Town Centre, 2014 (© Garden Properties CH Limited)

Orpington Town Centre, 2014 (© Garden Properties CH Limited)

This is an opinion piece after reading New plans for £10m investment in Orpington Town Centre and Plans for Orpington Town Centre to be Unveiled.

So, it’s been announced today that my former hometown of Orpington is finally getting a cinema. There used to be one where McDonald’s now stands, the legacy of which is seen with The Commodore car park round the back. The new one will be a 7 screen Odeon with four new retail units and three new restaurants. It’s about time they tried to do something with the town centre, well more than bunging a massive great Tesco at the end of it to further take trade from High Street retailers.

I moved from Orpington in 2001 when the town was on a downward spiral in regards to the health of the town centre. Over the last 11 years, the town has seen more pound shops (when it had loads already), more charity shops, more restaurants and fewer places to buy the things you need. This was initially blamed on The Glades in Bromley then Bluewater in Greenhithe. However, there is a clear demand for town centre services from the large elderly community which lives in Orpington and the surrounding towns and villages. I’m sure my Grandma doesn’t want to traipse all the way to Bromley (and certainly not Bluewater) just to get something she needs when there’s a large town centre just down the road.

In my opinion, the final nail in the coffin of Orpington town centre was Nugent Retail Park. There were already a number of shops on Cray Avenue (I’m going back years for this list: PC World, JJB, Halfords, Currys, Comet, Do It All, Texas Homecare etc) but it didn’t seem to impact so much on the High Street. Halfords even had a shop in the High Street as well as on Cray Avenue (where Nugent Retail Park now stands, in fact). When M&S moved out and Sainsbury’s took their unit, the last thing Orpington needed was for Poundland to take over the old Sainsbury’s.

Some serious investment is required to get people back into the town centre. The Walnuts is awful and, for the most part, always has been. I’m hoping that the new complex will ‘plug in’ to The Walnuts so you can get in and out of the new place via the precinct itself. This will increase footfall in there which is much needed.

The one thing I’m concerned about is the inclusion of three restaurants. Anyone who’s been to Orpington in the past 10 years will tell you that the one thing Orpington doesn’t need more of, it’s restaurants. There are loads of family run and chain restaurants already in the town and putting a Nando’s in (for example) will just take trade away from brilliant places like Yoe Bo and the numerous Indian, Thai and Chinese restaurants up and down the High Street. What Orpington needs instead is some big name shops to come in and take the prominent stores. Orpington has never had a department store, as far as I know, maybe one of those would be handy. These will show smaller chains and independents that Orpington is a town on the up with people coming from miles around to use the town centre and its amenities.

I have a deep fondness for the town where I spent my formative years (aged 7 to 20) and am saddened by how the town’s turning out. If it carries on like it is it will soon be 30% restaurants, 10% pound shops, 5% charity shops, 5% chain stores and 50% empty premises. Similar things are happening with Huddersfield, where I now live. The town centre has taken a massive turn for the worse (quite suddenly, too) and many, many shops are empty. It was a great town centre when I moved up here but I rarely go nowadays.

If this scheme helps improve the look of the town centre, the facilities therein and the number of people who use all of it then it’s a massive win for Orpington.

Forsaking one passion for another

If you spoke to some people who know me and asked them what my favourite things are, they’re likely to say football and Formula One. This weekend there’s the Monaco Grand Prix, arguably the most exciting race of the season, and a pre-tournament friendly between England and Norway in Oslo. This weekend I will be watching neither of these. I’m off to The Lake District.

I personally don’t think the Monaco race is ever up to much and please remind me the last time England played a properly good friendly game (OK, that Ghana game last year was alright, but apart from that…?). However, I’m not going to The Lakes to avoid these events (I’ll be listening on the radio), I’m going because a couple of years ago Emma and I drove through the Newlands Valley to Buttermere and I fell in love with it.

Setting off from Huddersfield, I’ll drive to Keswick, catch a bus to Braithwaite then walk to Buttermere, taking in the peaks of Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head, Eel Crag, Grasmoor, Wandope and Whiteless Pike on the way. I’m camping at Hassness on the bank of Buttermere and setting off to Hawse End landing stage via Robinson, Hindscarth, Dale Head, High Spy, Maiden Moor and Cat Bells to catch the boat back to Keswick. I can’t wait!

I do a reasonable amount of walking on my own as Emma works on Saturdays. I spent my 30th birthday at the top of a coastal hill in Mull. I walked over 14 miles in 5 hours in the South Pennines a few weeks ago but this is the longest walk I’ve ever done on my own, over 20 miles in 2 days with higher climbs and steeper descents than I’m used to. I’ve got a tent, sleeping bag, food and other gear to carry around with me (I went out with it all on that 14 miler recently to see if I could cope!) so it’s not going to be a stroll but I’ve got all day to get from Braithwaite to Buttermere (12ish miles via my route) and all day to get back to Keswick (8ish miles) so a gentle pace will do, especially as this lovely weather’s meant to continue. The main thing I’m worried about is that I might get to the campsite at 4pm or something and have nothing to do!

I’ve not camped since I was 14 when I was at an international scout camp called CampDowne ’96 and I’ve never stayed at a campsite. I’ve got a little one-man tent which I put up in the garden easily enough then it rained for over a week and I couldn’t take it down. Then when it dried out, I put it in the shed and some mice have moved into it! I’ve got to get them out tonight while hiding The Cat from them.

I’ll be writing about the walk when I get back on walkingabout.co.uk, though I’ve got a couple of others to write up first, that 14 mile one amongst them.

Wish me luck and safety! I might tweet a pic or two on my way, battery/network depending so follow me @scottbrown_14 if you like.