Football is obsessed with tactics. Managers are ‘tactical geniuses’ or ‘tactically naive’, games and seasons are changed by a smart substitution and a referee needs to get the ‘big’ decisions right.
Constant and interminable discussions of tactical minutia are conveniently media friendly. You won’t get much discussion of strategy; it’s too involved, takes too long and is possibly too white collar for the sport’s working class pretence.
Talk of the strategy of football is coming into stark contrast with Manchester United’s debt problem and Portsmouth going into administration. It seems to be a surprise to some that strategic decisions have a direct influence on what happens on the pitch. To paraphrase Alan Hansen, football is supposed to be about grit, passion, determination, belief and a whole host of similarly hollow nouns, not sound investment and acquisition strategies.
The inconvenient truth is that you reap what you sow. Without a strong strategic base a clever substitution or having a man playing in the hole will not generate long term benefit. As much as Steve Bruce will tell you different, Sunderland are not a top four team who have had a few bad refereeing decisions go against them.
What’s that got to do with us? Well, our strategy is well and truly locked in; a been-there-done-that squad has been built and financed. The large customer base has been utilised through the 12th Man scheme (as opposed to battled and bullied against under the Kassam regime). 80-90% of the meaningful decisions that will affect the outcome of the season have been made. There is little more for anyone to do, but to sit back and see whether this is enough.
The destiny of the season is already all but decided. We shouldn’t panic about the draw against Cambridge in the same way we shouldn’t get carried away with the win against Wimbledon. The hard work has been done; Chris Wilder is right, this is now about points accumulation. When we remove our hands from our eyes on April 24th, we’ll see whether our strategy was good enough.