ON Day Four of his Delden Diary, Rob McNichol simply loves simplicity, and finds there are more questions than answers...
THERE is a theory that abounds in scientific and military quarters entitled the KISS theory. It not a theory of showing public affection, nor is it a devotion to Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons-style rock’n’roll.
KISS stands for ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ and espouses that systems and plans are at their best when kept as simple as possible.
Some may be more of the opinion that Ockham’s Razor sounds more like a barbers on Mutley Plain than a law of parsimony, but methods of simplicity can be of extreme benefit on the training field.
This week is far from the first time I have been with supporters watching a professional team train and be struck by how straight forward it all seems. I think they are expecting huge flipcharts full of complicating tactical moves, and sessions filled players resembling contortionists trying to twist their way into a variety of shapes in order to learn tricks and flicks.
In actuality, a lot of what they do is not hugely different to what you might find your local under-10s doing on their Thursday evening training sessions, save for the all-in, jumpers for goalposts big game at the end.
Playing football is not dissimilar to playing a musical instrument. Once you know how to play it well, the thing to do is practise over and over again. Therefore, if you watch Argyle for a week, you will see a lot of passing drills, possession drills and shape drills. I do not think a single session put on by Derek Adams, Paul Wotton or Craig Brewster this week has been new to me, or designed to teach the players anything new.
Everything, though, is either competitive, with small-sided games being recorded as it goes along, or designed to be a teamwork exercise, where working together and encouraging one another is the key.
It is in individual actions that the coaching side have their effect on the players. During a pattern of play session driven by Derek Adams, it is not unusual to hear Paul Wotton call encouragement to a defender for an action, or to see Craig Brewster pull a forward to one side and point out what they could have done better.
Even more pleasingly, when training is officially finished, players often stay behind. Partly because they are still like big kids and like knocking a ball around, but partly to call a coach aside and ask for specific pointers. I find it hugely encouraging, and shows the humble nature of many players, as well their desire to be the best they can be.
It is worth having a look on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages, if you have not already, especially from Thursday. You will see copious examples of ‘extra-curricular’ bits of training, with players, coaches and staff. They are examples of people enjoying their job, and the company of who they work with. The spirit within the playing and coaching staff is as good as I have ever seen it. That is not PR guff from someone paid to make the club look good. I would not say it if I did not mean it.
Today, those who started the game at Feyenoord (still feels weird saying that) took part in a warm-up and keep-ball session before heading for the sauna or swimming pool as part of recovery, while the rest completed a full session. Afterwards, playing from both factions could be found working hard in the gym, getting those extra fitness points in.
The spirit continued in the evening, as our official tour party of supporters joined us for a sumptuous barbecue, followed by a quiz night hosted by yours truly. I really wish I could enjoy the barbie a little more, because like last year it was superb, but I spend half my time thinking about the quiz I am about to drop on everyone.
Each team consisted of a supporter or two, a couple of staff members, and a group of players. Several rounds were printed on paper, with a further 20 questions presented by me.
To put things into context, I host a fortnightly pub quiz, and have done for several years. I have probably done well over 100 quizzes in my time. In addition, in a little sideline in my life, I happened to host four events two weeks ago, with no fewer than 130 in attendance each evening, and more than 250 in on our final night.
I can assure I was more nervous in front of these 38 people in Delden than the many, many more in various venues around the country. Mainly, I know that a false move, an incorrect answer on my part, will be torn apart. It will not be let lie. The ribbing within football circles can be intense, and one has to be on one's toes.
Fortunately for me, it went well, and part of that may be that I made the written part of the quiz a little harder, and Wotton had to think about answering questions rather than heckling me. His team, consisting of him, Neil Lunnon, Ruben Lameiras, Joel Grant, Gary Miller, Oscar Threlkeld, Nathan Blissett and two Green Army members, Lee Jelf and Chris Dart. Lee and Chris chose a Director for a Day experience as their prize, and we managed to make sure all participating fans got a cool gift or two
As for the players, they have to be happy with bragging rights rather than prizes, but trust me there will be little friendly niggles for a few days. “Nutmegged me? Maybe. But I beat you in the quiz...”
In my quiz, I did not listen to the KISS theory. I don’t like quizzes to be too simple. Fortuneatly, though, the lads only have to listen to me one night of the year. I will tag Derek back in tomorrow morning, and the principles of simple effectiveness will take back over. From levity to brevity.
I heard Derek, scout Greg Strong and analyst Matt Neil discussing matters relating to Peterborough, Bristol City and Charlton this morning. That is as far as I go on the topic, of course, but suffice to say the nuts and bolts of those games is being contemplated. When the time is right, Derek will add in the complexities.
For now, though, their conversation tomorrow morning may include “Did you know that Vladimir Smicer was the Czech Republic’s third highest scorer of all time...?”
Told you I didn’t keep it simple.