Yellows 1 Rushden and Diamonds 0

James Constable is an instinctive footballer, a renegade and a maverick. If you put a false construct around him, he twitches and fights against it; like a child yanking defiantly at his school tie.

Take the rules of football; confronted with those, he expends huge amounts of energy fighting against them. His arms outstretched, his head tossed back, bickering and picking up bookings.

As a captain he cuts a figure of frustration. By contrast, Chris Hargreaves ‘facilitated’ the sending off of Bygrave against Histon. He empathised with the referee, gesturing as if to say ‘we can’t be tolerating such insolence’. He understands his role is to make friends with the authority figures, representing his team’s views, getting decisions to work his way.

Contrast this with Constable’s skippering during the win over Rushden. He’s the consummate child pulling against the fussy and officious referee ‘parent’. The referee displays none of the respect and empathy he showed with Hargreaves, instead he treats Constable like a baby, ignoring his tantrums, and therefore his position as the representative of the team.

And then, of course, there are penalties. This is the most constrained way of scoring goals. Presented with the need to go through a learnt process of putting the ball in the net from a spot twelve yards from the goal is not in his nature. See, by comparison, Chapman, who benefits from having no brain of any note. The endless gamesmanship by Rushden had no effect on Chapman, he probably wasn’t aware that it was in anyway related to him and what he had to do. If you threw a ball at Constable and told him to stick it in the net without thinking, then he’d do it every time. Get him to constrain his exuberance and energy and he’s not nearly as effective.

Constable needs to be freed from these constraints; leading the team and taking penalties. Even leading the line, he’s much more effective when playing with a footballer like Midson who can give him a platform that allows his natural talent and instinct for goals to flow.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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