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No One Likes Us | Part 1 | The Art of Pragmatism

Thumbnail for No One Likes Us Series Part 1 The Art of Pragmatism. It features an image of Millwall celebrating with their fans

Those of you who followed my Anti-Football posts last season will know that I’m not usually a lover of the darker side of Football. For me, football manager is a playground to experiment with wild and wacky tactics, to find new and interesting ways to play, or recreate great historic systems. This time round will be a little different. Those two seasons at Newport awoke something within me. My taster of the dark arts left me wanting more. I saw first hand the power of long throws, hard tackles and long ball. This year, I’ve decided to fully embrace the dark side. Welcome to “No One Likes Us”

Anti-Football encapsulates everything that Total Football is not. Rather than seeking to control possession, Anti-Football aims to concede possession, control the space and defend well. Intricate passing structures and short flowing moves are replaced with long balls and set piece routines. Playing out from the back is unheard of. At the heart of Anti-Football lies the art of Pragmatism. Above all else, Victory.

The Art of Pragmatism

In 1532, Niccolò Machiavelli published ‘Il Principe’, a political treatise on governance and leadership. He advised that, in an imperfect world, a man must do whatever it takes to succeed. Machiavelli argued that the ends always justify the means. His piece became a very influential text in politics and philosophy.

This principle is also useful in the sporting world. Many notable figures have followed such beliefs in football, such as Herbert Chapman, Don Revie and Graham Taylor. Managers who often lived by results rather than aiming to play football ‘the way it should be played’. For them, certainly, the ends justified the means.

English football has a great history of Anti-Football, and Herbert Chapman could be described as the pioneer of pragmatism in the English game. Well known for his time at Arsenal and his invention of the W-M, his managerial career began at Huddersfield. Chapman won the FA Cup in 1922 with the Terriers, a 1-0 win decided by a a last minute penalty. The FA later expressed “deep regret” at Huddersfield’s numerous tactical fouls and conveyed they hoped that “there will not be any similar conduct in any future final tie”.

“The most opportune time for scoring is immediately after repelling an attack, because opponents are then strung out in the wrong half of the field.”

Herbert Chapman

Another Yorkshire side keen on the dark arts, Don Revie’s Leeds side were infamous. Dubbed “dirty Leeds” they were combative and aggressive. Key player Eddie Gray admitted that “it was brutal stuff, definitely win-at-all-costs”. Graham Taylor’s High Pressing long ball football with Watford fits the same mould. Wimbledon’s “Crazy Gang”, Sven-Göran Eriksson’s Lazio, Big Sam, Tony Pulis, Simeone, Mourinho the list goes on and on. At the heart of it all, Pragmatism. In a zero sum game, winning is everything. Beyond that, if you can’t win, at least do not lose.

No One Likes Us

You may have noticed there is one glaring omission from the list of Shithouse Anti-Football teams I’ve listed, a team so synonymous with the dark arts they wrote a song about it. Well, that’s because they are the team I’ve chosen to manage.

“…No one likes us, we don’t care,

We are Millwall, Super Millwall…”

Millwall players celebrating with their fans

Millwall were the first club that came to mind when I was considering this save. Infamous for their hooliganism during the 1980s, they are the stereotypical shithouse side. Despite playing in Europe as recently as 2005, Millwall have never played in the Premier League. I aim to drag them into the top flight playing dirty aggressive football and through embracing the art of pragmatism. Millwall are already set up to play this way, here are a few key players I’ll be looking at the contribute to our aggressive combative style.

Jake Cooper

Jake Cooper in a Millwall shirt

Cooper is the perfect Centre Back for a defensive side. He’s 6’7″, 85 kg and I’m aiming to make him the rock at the heart of my side. He will be useful in both boxes from set-pieces due to his height, and he’s also excellent when it comes to tackling and positioning. At 25 he still has room to grow.

Key Attributes: (Heading, Bravery, Leadership, Jumping Reach, Natural Fitness)

Jed Wallace

Jed Wallace in a Millwall shirt

With high Determination, Work Rate and Pace, Wallace is the perfect example of a hard working winger. He’ll be influential on our right hand side, and at 26 years old he still has room to improve. Wallace is only 5’10”, but this shouldn’t be such a problem in the wide areas. He’s an adept dribbler, and will provide an outlet to start counter attacks.

Key Attributes: (Dribbling, Determination, Work Rate, Acceleration, Pace)

Troy Parrot

Troy Parrot in a Millwall Shirt

Troy Parrot is one of the most exciting youngsters in Spurs side, and he’s followed in Harry Kane’s footsteps with a loan spell at the Den. He’s 6’1″ and looks an ideal candidate to play up front as a Pressing Forward. He’s a great finisher, with good heading and an excellent work ethic. If he starts the season well he could go on to score plenty of goals.

Key Attributes: (Finishing, Aggression, Determination, Work Rate, Natural Fitness)

Aims

I’d imagine my main aim of reaching the Prem will take two seasons, one if we’re lucky. Following that, I may start my “main save” or carry this on for a while depending how much I’m enjoying it. If I could get Millwall into Europe that would be a hell of an achievement.

  • Play Defensive Pragmatic Football
    • Aim to defend first and foremost
    • Make the most of set pieces
    • Seek to capitalise on weaknesses in opposition teams
  • Gain Promotion to the Premier League
    • Looking to qualify in my first two seasons
    • Initially set the team up to keep clean sheets
    • Following on from this build towards Premier League in season two
  • Attempt to Qualify for Europe
    • This is a pipe dream goal should the save carry on into season three and four

Managers are often judged not only on their results but their style of football. But, if you win everything, is the way you do it that important? As Niccolò Machiavelli would say; In the actions of all men, one judges by the result.


Thanks for reading, you can check out more of my content here. I will be releasing more content over the next few weeks at Dictate The Game. To stay updated you can follow myself or the site on twitter. Or you can join our Discord.

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