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The Darke Side: Do Your Research

Ian Darke on the importance of knowing the opposition

13 May 2020


“Who?” You will hear it all over the country – including here at Fratton Park.

The man on the public address system announces a substitution and the crowd cries: “Who?”

It is only a bit of fun, of course, but I suspect there might be a few fans who would still shout that even if it was Lionel Messi coming onto the pitch.

Mind you, I don’t remember hearing it when AC Milan played here with Ronaldinho and Filippo Inzaghi in their line-up.

But in the lower divisions, you do wonder how much home supporters really know, or even care, about the visitors.

Face it, almost every rival player would be a mystery man to most fans. Managers, however, simply cannot afford that luxury.

They need to know about every opposition player and substitute, as well as the problems he might cause. Failure to do that homework can end up costing points.

"I don’t remember hearing it when AC Milan played here with Ronaldinho and Filippo Inzaghi in their line-up."

Ian Darke

Professional clubs get a pretty big dossier to add to their scouting of the team they’re facing. Mind you, it does help if the manager can remember their names.

The great Liverpool boss Bob Paisley used to call everyone ‘Dougie Doings’, leaving his players bemused. And Sir Bobby Robson once referred to PSV Eindhoven as ‘PVC’.

I wonder, though, if our understanding of matches would be enriched by knowing a lot more about visiting players.

A little reading and research can reveal a fair bit about how a game might pan out, how the opposition might approach it, what form they bring to the table and what players might prove to be a problem.

Johnny Moore’s chat with the reporter who covers the visitors in the matchday programme is always essential reading for me.

And you might miss a future star. Remember Harry Maguire was playing in League One not so long ago.

Harry Maguire? Who?

This column first appeared in this season's Pompey v Southend matchday magazine.

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