Saturday, November 26, 2022

Success or style? Unless you are Manchester United or Real Madrid, you can’t have both.

Graham Fisher in Editorial 13 May 2008


It’s an old argument but it is one that is worth re-visiting. As fans, do we want our teams to win, or do we want them to be entertaining?

Obviously, we would like them to be both, but it is rare to have that treat. (Actually, as a Watford fan it is rare to have either!) So we may have to choose. Which one would you go for?

I have come across this argument several times in the recent past and the answer is never clear. The current European Champions are Greece. They won the tournament against all the odds and they did so by defending. They were not a good side to watch and they didn’t entertain in any way. Do you think that bothered the Greeks as they were celebrating their famous tournament victory?

Rangers have made the UEFA Cup Final this season by defending. They have failed to score in several games, but have made it to the final. Opposition players and managers have been outraged by their style of play, accusing them of playing, ‘anti-football’. If they win the cup on penalties after a nil-nil draw will the Rangers fans be disappointed because they didn’t do it by playing free-flowing football?

Whilst Arsenal and Manchester United are praised for their flair and exciting style, Chelsea have often been criticised for being less adventurous and more ‘long ball’. Mourinho took them to two Premier League titles, and now under Avram Grant they have a chance of European triumph. If they are outplayed by United but win one-nil through a long ball over the top converted by Drogba, will the Chelsea fans be upset with how they achieved their success?

My own team, Watford, have played a dreadful ‘hoofball’ style of football this season that has been painful to watch. It has somehow got us into the play-offs , and if we win them and go back to the Premiership will I be celebrating? Of course I will. Having said that, despite relative success, Watford have regularly been booed off the field by their own fans.

I was recently talking to a Newcastle fan who said that the ‘Toon Army’ would not accept anything other than attacking football. He said that Kevin Keegan is a hero in the North East because of the style of all-out attacking play he brought to the club. He took Newcastle to the runners-up spot in his first spell as manager and is regarded as one of their finest ever. Kenny Dalglish also took Newcastle to the runners-up spot with a much more dour style of football. He isn’t a hero in Newcastle.

Staying with Newcastle United, the fan I spoke to also said that they realised that Sam Allardyce may well have brought some success to the club. It was just that the fans simply weren’t prepared to put up with his style of play in order to get that success.

In a piece I wrote the other day about Barcelona’s new manager I suggested that they would have been better off with Jose Mourinho. One of the responses said that Barcelona fans would not have been prepared to watch his style of play. They expect to be entertained.

If you are a Manchester United fan or maybe Real Madrid then you are exceptionally lucky to see great success and also an entertaining style of play. For the rest of us football fans, we tend to get neither, or just one or the other. So come on, if you can only have one, which one do you want?

In the situations I have discussed above, the answers are all different. I would suggest that Greece and Rangers are happy with success at any cost. Chelsea will take success, but the fans and owners would love the team to play a more entertaining style of football. Many Watford fans have had enough of watching the dross being served up and would swap promotion for watching some decent football. It seems that many Newcastle fans would put style over success every time. Maybe the same is true of Barcelona?

In the English Premier League I feel sorry for Gareth Southgate at Middlesbrough. He achieves success by keeping the club in that Division. They are not great to watch and every time they play at home there are thousands and thousands of empty seats. Would their fans prefer to see them ‘giving it a go’ and failing?

It is certainly a difficult question to answer and the responses are likely to be different from different clubs, different countries and different parts of those countries. Nobody has been more entertained this season than Arsenal fans, yet many of them are angry about their relative lack of success.

For me personally I know exactly which I would prefer. Success…..or style….oh, I don’t know.


Graham Fisher



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14 years ago

Barcelona will go 4rm bad to worse, their new coach will not be able to live to the expectations of the catalans fans. Avram grant should remain as chelsea coach i think he will improve nxt season and he will succeed the attacking football flair that he promised to bring. By all means Frank should not cum coach chelsea, it will be a disastour. Anyway chelsea will take the champs league it will be 2-1 in favour of chelsea.

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