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Opinion: “Are football supporters these days guilty of over-analysing the beautiful game?”

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Are football supporters these days guilty of over-analysing the action that unfolds in front of them? David Holloway admits he’s guilty of it too, but wonders whether fans should think in more simple terms to aid their enjoyment of it.

PA Images via Getty Images

We are all guilty, us football fans - we are all guilty. We think far too much about the match. We think far too much about what we think we have just seen. We are all guilty of over-complicating things in our amateur minds.

It is just what we do and what makes the game so interesting and fun, but are our own thoughts in this era of digital and social media tainted by being overwhelmed by the amount of information out there? Our thoughts can be driven by a media whether that is in print, online, or a 24-hour TV sports news channel on a loop.

Many of the younger lot even confuse computer games with reality - one merges into another. There’s so much out there that if you read stuff on an hour’s journey back from the match you could be forgiven for not knowing exactly what you have just seen with your own eyes.

McGeady on the run
Sunderland AFC

This amount of information makes everyone believe that they are an expert, and therefore our trust in the expert and in our own view is diminished. So I wonder how Bill Shankly’s famous observation that “football is a simple game complicated by idiots” would be received now? Many on the internet or in Whatsapp groups around the world would argue blindly that Shankly was surely an idiot for having such a thought.

Has it always been like this? Of course it has, but we no longer have to wait until the following day’s sports pages to be printed to mark our view. We can now watch a match every day of the week and highlights of any game played on that particular day - we can be influenced by Jermain Jenas or Danny Murphy if we allow it.

There is the internet, which allows people to merge truth and reality and create analysis of things that maybe only partially happened, or maybe never even happened at all.

We live in the world of fans watching games on multiple screens, commentating on what they are seeing or think they have seen in great technical detail - the more technical the better, as this creates an assumption that it must be correct. They tell us what they think and we discuss it - we argue and some even believe it with conviction.

Jack Ross
Sunderland AFC

Of course, in days gone by all of this happened in the pub or on the bus - people who didn’t even go to the match would argue about something that they read in the paper. A still grainy black and white photo of an incident would convince the reader of the truth, or not.

It has always been there. But is it more extreme now?

These days we read complex and detailed analysis of tactics and performances, fueled by stats, making us doubt what we have seen with our own eyes, but in so doing we believe that we are experts because we are armed with such detail.

It is too easy to forget that football is a simple game. You win with strength of body and mind, pace and skill, hard work and by having a cool head. It really isn’t all that complicated. We should sit back, watch it and enjoy it.

So to go back to Brian Clough - “Players lose you games, not tactics. There is so much crap talked about tactics by people who barely know how to win at dominoes”.

Has this ever been more true in the modern digital world?