Why do footballers not strive for perfection?

A familiar sight

Tuesday night’s England vs. Wales game presented one of those quite common footballing occurrences: an open goal miss.

You know the sort. The one’s you, the fan, could have scored yourself. The kind of chance that, of course, your grandmother could have put away with great ease. The type of finish that makes an experienced, professional footballer – and, on this occasion, a striker no less – look positively average.
In reality, Rob Earnshaw’s miss in the latter stages of the dull 1-0 Three Lions win was by no means an “easy” chance; the ball was falling and, with all the pressure that would have been on ‘Earny’s’ shoulders, it is – perhaps – not surprising that the Welsh frontman failed to get over the ball and fire it into Joe Hart’s net, and instead lazily ballooned the ball over the bar – much to the amusement of the English portion of the Wembley crowd.
That miss had three consequences. 1 – Wales went away without a point which they – at the very least – deserved, based on their performance, and I would imagine this would annoy Welsh faithful somewhat. 2 – England, as one, were allowed the opportunity to both breath a sigh of relief and laugh at Wales all at the same time. And 3 – it provoked post-match comments which included the clichéd and quite frankly tenuous idea that, if indeed Rob Earnshaw was to be presented with that chance ten times – he would score nine of them.
Now, setting aside the fact that it is unlikely that Earnshaw would score nine out of ten of those chances (seen as though, you know, he’s not very good and, if he can waste the chance once, who’s to say he won’t waste it twice?) it really is quite odd that a player, and even manager, would happily accept that a player will miss chances, even though it means Wales go away empty handed after what was a fine performance compared with England’s relatively poor showing.
Of course, no one is perfect – that much is true. But, surely, in whatever walk of life, you should always strive to be the best that you can possibly be? Earnshaw and Gary Speed shouldn’t be coming out all happy and smiley – both should be absolutely furious with the striker and be asking themselves how on earth a professional footballer – who has been playing the game for many years – can’t score from four yards with the goal gaping. A more palatable post-match comment would have been: “I should be scoring those – I’ll be on the training ground as soon as possible to improve.”
Scoring from inside the six-yard-box might not be something that can be particularly improved (you should, really, be able to do it anyway) but there are plenty of examples of players settling for what they are – clearly not trying to be the best players they can possibly be.
The point about professional footballers – especially English footballers where it appears to be quite a major problem at the top of the game – only being able to use one foot, for example, has been brought up many times. It really is rather strange that a footballer can get to his late twenties and still be one-footed. All those summers off, all that time they spend training, playing football… and they can still only use their right foot. But it’s alright because they hit the ball with their right foot really hard.
No. Well, yes, it’s great that they can hit the ball really hard – it’s better than most. But if you can only use one foot, that’s an immediate weakness in your game, and it’s a weakness that can be eradicated quite easily. Just find a wall and kick a ball at it – right, left, right, left, repeat. I don’t care what age you are, how many medals you’ve won or how much money you earn – you’re not the best footballer you could possibly be so go and find a wall for goodness sake.
You could say the same for players who aren’t very good in the air, or players who are incapable of hitting the preverbal barn door from any sort of angle. An abhorrent number of players can only do one thing really well and ignore every other aspect of the game but live off it – and then get caught out when a better footballer comes along and beats them.
And the response to that beating would be something akin to: “well, he’s just better than me”. This is fine, of course; it’s all down to the player personally and whether they want to improve or not. But then what’s the point of doing something – and this does extend to everything, not just football – if you’re not going to strive to be the very best you can possibly be?
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