Pragmatism-That Word Again!


Football is a simple game,sometimes made more difficult by overthinking things. Or so goes the accepted wisdom of the elder statesmen at various levels of the game. This can include those who play the game,those who analyse it,those who write or talk about it,and those who ultimately carry the can when it all goes nipples north-the managers and coaches. 

Pragmatism isn’t simply a word which entered my vocabulary when Ange arrived. But I seem to have used it more often since then! He had a track record of not even countenancing the word,treating it as a concept alien to his beliefs in how the game should be played. This was used to damn the man before he had even sat in our dugout for a match,a warning shot across our bows delivered gleefully by “experts” known to be no friends of ours. 

The same experts,of course,who had greeted his arrival with headlines such as The Blunder From Down Under,or simply Who? Yes,AP believes in football being played his way,that his teams should follow his own philosophy. But he knows too how to adapt that philosophy to suit,depending on the opposition on the day. 

As an example,I’ll offer the game at Ibrox in April. Say what you like about their full backs,but Tavpen and Bassey had both been having an excellent season,providing much of their attacking width down the flanks and the cross balls into the danger zone. 

Ange put Maeda on Tavpen,and Jota on Bassey. After our loss of that early goal,neither got forward again,being pinned into their own defensive roles by the sheer running and pressing of our two wide players. Job done.

One of the least pragmatic but most successful managers of all time was Alex Ferguson. His philosophy was to be solid at the back and then let the opposition worry about the damage his own forwards would do. The most glaring occasion of him taking a pragmatic view was in the Champions League Final against Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2009. He decided to keep it tight and hit them on the break. Although it was only 2-0,it was a hammering,with Man United lucky to get nil. 

Yet that same pragmatism COULD work against that brilliant Barcelona side,as proven only three years later when Neil Lennon told his team to prevent Barcelona from having possession in the middle of the pitch where they were most dangerous. To let them have as much of the ball as they liked-as long as it was out wide. The 2-1 scoreline in our favour shocked the world-including most of the fans inside the ground! But he would have been crucified if it hadn’t come off…

Last season,Guardiola took the pragmatic view while heading into the Champions League final against Chelsea. His Man City side were steamrollering everything in front of them,playing to a system which was a delight for lovers of The Beautiful Game to watch. Chelsea won,and ever since,Guardiola has been pilloried for tinkering with a successful system,lining up to play a completely different type of game which had brought them such success. 

So imagine my surprise when I read various articles from highly respected football journalists such as Martin Samuel suggesting that top teams have figured out how to play against the current Liverpool side,simply because they know how that side will play the game? Klopp refused to change his successful system for this important one-off game,rightly considering that to ask his players to adopt an unfamiliar system would be suicidal. Of course,Ancelotti of Real Madrid had already decided that the best chance of success would be to close down Liverpool’s marauding full-backs,pinning them deep and preventing them from pinging in those dangerous crosses. Sound familiar,anyone? 

They also provided as evidence the facts that,in three cup finals this season,Liverpool have not scored once. That is undeniable,but while Saturday was down to the full backs being prevented from playing their usual game,the previous finals were down to a relative loss of form from their two danger men,Salah and Mane. Yet both players have hardly shown their true form in 2022 even as their team clawed back an eleven point gap to Man City,taking the league to the last few minutes of the last day of the season. 

Also,that in nine meetings against the other teams in the top four of the EPL,they had only won once. But they hadn’t lost any at all! Damned if you do and damned if you don’t,I suppose…

Jock Stein tried this pragmatism lark once,against Dukla in Prague. It worked-yet he vowed never to do it again. It was alien to his players,and very nearly their undoing. Occasionally after that,he would put the likes of David Hay in a man-marking role,but the philosophy remained. Billy McNeill famously gave Graeme Sinclair the job of marking the legendary Johan Cruyff out of the match against Ajax. Brian Clough always said that he let the opposition do the worrying. Yeah? Ask Hamburg about that pearl of wisdom. 

It’s a funny old game,right enough. One where managers are damned for doing something that later sees a rival manager damned for NOT doing. What matters most is not whether pragmatism works or not,whether it was required for a certain game or not. What matters most is the result. Lose,and there will always be someone who knows better and will tell you it was on the cards because you changed your system,or because you DIDN’T change your system!

So I’ll finish with something that is undeniable,yet has given many a sports journalist a comfortable living. We are all experts with the benefit of hindsight. 

Above article by BMCUWP

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Jobo Baldie

Good morning, friends.
A good thoughtful article, Bobby. It’ll probably be September before we learn whether Ange has any degree of pragmatism in his approach as we play our first Champions League game. I really don’t see us changing too much and expect that attack will be regarded as the best form of defence. Those games are of course a long way off and maybe our summer transfer activity will give an indication of any potential changes of approach.


Oops,just spotted an error in the article. There’s probably loads of them on any given day,but I’ll just correct it anyway. Cruyff was playing for Ajax at the time,not Feyenoord.

Sol Kitts

Who is this Sarah playing alongside Mane?



Thanks,J! I suspect that the transfer window might consist mainly of Jota and CCV- or alternatives for them-plus a holding mid and a left sided centre back. Possibly a back up keeper too. I think Ange prefers to work with a tighter squad,one where everyone is good enough to play in any given game.

No deadwood for him…



Bloody autocorrect! Can make fools of us all-as if I need any bliddy help there.


We can deliberate and cogitate about strategy, pragmatism etc until the cows come home, (and of course we will, as it would be pretty boring if we didn’t have an opinion to express) but for me it won’t matter an awful lot unless there is considerable strength added to our defence.
Therein lies the problem next season. It looks as though CCV and Jota will be signed permanently. Whilst that’s pleasing, I hope there’s a considerable chunk more available for players . We need a stronger defence. CCV and Starfelt alongside the full backs we have will be found lacking.

Go back over recent years. Conceding goals is still our number one issue. We have goals all over the pitch in our team, and will score v most opposition , but equally we will concede too many with the current defence.

We used to make allowances for losing 7 v the likes of Barca or PSG, but increasingly, v much lower quality opposition we are way too open at the back .

A few years ago, maybe 6, we lost 18 goals on a group with PSG, Bayern and Anderlecht.

Despite the standard of our opponents becoming lower, as we dropped into EL, we still ship goals for fun. Cluj scoring 4 at CP. Copenhagen 3 conceded at home.

Fenerbache, Ajax and Molde took a total of 12 off us. It’s a trend that we need to reverse and I honestly don’t think it’ll matter if it’s Ange or Pep who is in the manager position. We need better players.

When you’re getting humped in the Conference by third rate teams you know it’s time for a rethink.

Of course we can speculate all day long as to the root cause but many , including me, will put it at the door of the board for a consistent downsizing policy.
Will this season see that reversed?


Jock used Stevie Chalmers the day that they played Dukla away from home. I still remember Stevie saying that Jock’s instructions to him was to “get in about the Dukla defenders, to keep them busy and to hassle them” Stevie kept Jocks instructions in mind and used his elbows in a way that was alien to him. Pragmatic yes, but also effective, alien yes, but did the job. That in a way was a compliment to Dukla, he knew how dangerous they could be. Another example of how Jock knew the game and was fully prepared for anything, next up Inter.

Its a funny old game right enough, but also Scotland is a funny ole plaice. Its still riddled with bigotry, Ralphs piece on eTims talks about Police Scotland and its personnel’s liking for a jolly. I still wonder if it hadn’t been for “The City Of London Police” raiding Ibrox for evidence of EBTs and coming across the side- letters and other evidence of criminality, what would have happened next?
“Malicious Prosecutions” – Huge Company Debts – Victims Of Fraud – No Real Punishment Of The Corrupt – Liquidation Denial, its a funny ole plaice right enough. It must be one of the few countries where, what your name is and what colours you wear are a pointer to your real identity. Bigotry feeds paranoia and breeds hatred, welcome to Scotia.


Bobby interesting article on whether to stick or twist. Klopp’s Pool tend to stick to their system….attacking FBs, high press….all to push the opposition into a defensive shell. If you watch Liverpool you see that they push the opposition back into their own penalty area and then they move the ball back and forth in front of them, waiting for an opportunity to be created for Jota, Mane or Salah. Both FBs will play cross field passes to each other to stretch the opposition.

It could be argued that sticking to their system was what undid them in the CL final. RM noticed that Alexander, the Liverpool RB played mostly inside the opposition half and tucked inside rather than wide. Vinicius was told to hug the line and wait for long diagonals from either Kroos or Modric. Trent Alexander will regret his actions for the rest of his life as Vinicius blind sided him for a tap in that won the cup.

On the other hand, Bobby’s point that it was Pep’ s tinkering that cost MC the cup against Chelsea, is also valid.

So in the stick or twist debate what does it all mean?

Remember I know nothing. However, it seems that neither sticking nor twisting is enough all the time. Something else is needed when it is going pear shaped and that is in game management. The coach needs to see what is going wrong and how to correct it. In Scotland, sticking will win most games but not necessarily the title. Amongst the Ange euphoria, I have yet to be convinced that Ange can make effective adjustments during a game. I am, however, sure that he favours sticking with his system.

Remember the days in Europe when you played it tight in away games and blitzed the opposition at Parkhead? Something tells me that playing fast attacking football away will lead to heavy defeats. Could be wrong but I think some modification is needed when playing away.

Interesting times ahead.


St tams

Hope all attending the soiree at the Tollbooth, have a great afternoon


Intriguing leader as always.

Damned if you do.Damned if you dont.

Sticking by your principles or adapt to nullify the opposition.

When the season started we were a country mile off of winning the league,as we stand now we are probably that same country mile off of making a dent in Europe.

The players that came in represented shrewd recruitment hitting the ground running and instantly improving the team bringing hunger and desire and raising the bar.Anges man management of the in situ players brought the collective together.

Going forward I trust Ange.If we can improve in Europe that would be great and I believe we will always be positive in that environment.
2008 the huns bored everyone to the final.This time around they lost 4 games en route but had a shape that was difficult to break down.

We dont set up that way even in Europe and as Bobby says that is the dilemma.

Personally Making money in Europe is welcome and progression is key but sticking it to the huns domestically is more prevalent.

Build the funds but keep winning the league that’s what hurts them and keeps me happy.

But it’s all about opinions.

bada bing1

Who are the best club side ever?

This vote is now closed. Here are the final results.

Torino 1947-48 1%

Real Madrid 1959-60 3%

Santos 1962 3%

Celtic 1966-67 34%

Ajax 1971-72 3%

Liverpool 1983-84 9%

AC Milan 1988-89 4%

Manchester United 1998-99 14%

Barcelona 2010-11 24%

Bayern Munich 2012-13 0%

Other 5%”


Many thanks to Belmont Brian & Belmont Brian junior for delivering me home safe n sound

And the pub spy that is BRRB

Excellent few hours in terrific Celtic company 🍀

It’s days like these … CQN / Sentinel Celts brings Celtic supporters together in real life

Pretty special


A special day indeed, loved you and our company, I haven’t laughed so much in a long time.

And on a Tuesday afternoon.


Brian & the ‘Drummer’


A fine leader indeed.


There’s a brilliant article on the Celtic Blog, titled:

“A Frankfurt director reviews…”

I shall refrain from comment, until you have read it.


I fair enjoyed the readback of your articles from a few days ago. Brilliant stuff. Oh aye, just a wee reminder to you and Craig, that “Celtic-minded 5” is out today.

Big Packy and JTT

Hope that you are both well. Do you realise that on this day in 1967, the Huns were beaten by in the ECWC final in Nuremberg? Bayern 1 Rangers 0. It seems that Huns old and new, are quite adept at losing finals in Europe. 😀


Glad that you and the young fella had a good day.

Hail Hail.



Strangers until today … it’s amazing how many people we both know … trust me your Bhoy is a total credit to his mum & dad …

Looking forward to a beer or 5 again

As you say … plenty of laughs 🍀

Live music & free sandwiches on a Tuesday

Tollbooth CSC 🍀

big packy

MAGUA,nice to see you posting buddy, missed you lately, another true story👍

Big Packy

Cheers pal. 😀

Hail Hail.


You were missed.


16 Roads

The Lisbon Lions are the GREATEST club side EVER.
Without equal.
No doubt about that whatsoever.


That can not be true, James must be at the wind up with that piece. 🤔🤔
If they did say that in their dossier then Frankfurt should publish it so the whole world can see that they are a bunch of moon howling lunatics 😀


The thumbs-up thingy. Gotta admit I like that word “missed.” Particularly when it is used in the following context:

“Aaron Ramsey has missed a penalty.”

Hell’s bells, Brian. The gift that keeps on giving. 😀


Gotta admit, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. 😀

16 Roads

There’s a famous story about the morning after that game. Jinky did not travel back with the rest of the team. He had booked a holiday in Benidorm with his wife. Jinky, being Jinky, hailed a taxi outside his hotel, and asked the driver to take him to Benidorm. Quite a journey in those days.

Hail Hail.

Nite alll.

What a brilliant day



The Ibrox directors will just cut & paste that and send it, as its probably what they are thinking 🤔


Yip. With the DUP involved at every turn, you never know.

Hail Hail.

16 Roads

MAGUA – Some legend!! 🙂👌

16 Roads

…and then some. What a player. What a man. What a Celt.

Hail Hail.

bada bing1

Djokovic v Nadal on Eurosport


Outstanding day today in outstanding company. Thank you to all,especially THELURKINTIM in difficult times.


Quiet here today. I hope it wasn’t something I said.

Cosy Corner Bhoy

CCB ‘managed’ to make today’s little soirée! As always, excellent company and good to see TLT at the gathering.
If you were that way inclined you could be in the assembled group’s company and never have to buy a drink! All want to make sure they don’t miss a round!!
Fine fellows indeed.
Looking forward to meeting MAHE again over the weekend, not to mention a friend from Belfast I first met in October 1961!
Cue Mary Hopkins music😁.


bada bing1

Nadal wins 3-1,brilliant entertainment

Margaret McGill

All sports are now drugged
All Spanish participants in all sports are super drugged

Margaret McGill

Except the Olympics
The reason Spain is 24th in the all time Olympic medal count is that there is no money in drugging your olympians


For us Scotland fans….

Aw right lads, the time is here, screw in yer studs and down yer beer,
Deep breaths now let’s live the dream, ne’er forget yer “SCOTLAND’S team”
Stride oot and soak up Hampden’s fire, inhale the flames of Alba’s choir,
“This is the day, this is the hour”, so grasp that baton feel it’s power.

Beneath oor tartan tattooed sky, St Andrews’ cross forms wings that fly
And turns each pass, each cross, each shot, intae a prize that can’t be bought
As every stride, leap, tackle, save, pumps blood intae yer hearts so brave
Cast aff all doubt, destroy all fear, immortality is near.

Oor nation’s hopes surf on a tide, of unrequited heartfelt pride,
5 million dreams are in yer hands, hopes of trips tae foreign lands,
Where pubs and bars wae ringin’ tills, will welcome Scotia’s Drinkers’ skills
Just imagine all those tales……”Aye that was magic doon in WALES”!

Margaret McGill

I’m not sure Scotland can overcome an emotionally charged ref. Whoever he is.


Ever been to Blackpool?

16 Roads

“The welfare of the people has always been the alibi of tyrants,and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.”

Albert Camus.


Magua -great news -that on kindle ?

Matt 01:02 brilliant – but fear Maggs could be right …

Jobo Baldie

Good morning, friends and also to our latest new poster 😉.
Another huge game for Scotland tonight when we take on The Rest Of The World. Or at least that’s how it feels…