Is a substitution coach the future?

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October 26, 2021
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    Marcus Rashford missed his penalty for England in the Euro 2020 finalMarcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho missed penalties at the Euro 2020 final after limited warm-ups, says Sammy Lander

    Bringing on a substitute to 'finish' a game sounds like a good idea in theory, but there have been some high-profile cases when it has backfired in recent months – and mostly from the penalty spot.

    West Ham's Mark Noble was still wearing his bib when manager David Moyes asked him to take a spot-kick against Manchester United last month before David de Gea saved it.

    And in the Euro 2020 final, a debate erupted around England boss Gareth Southgate introducing Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho with only minutes remaining in extra time, with both players missing from 12 yards against eventual winners Italy.

    Were the players adequately prepared to take such a big part in either match?

    In the case of Rashford and Sancho, AFC Wimbledon's substitution coach Sammy Lander thinks not.

    As part of his pitch to Wimbledon boss Mark Robinson, he analysed what players were doing prior to their introduction to England's biggest game for 55 years.

    "I highlighted little bits of the final when Sancho and Rashford came off the bench, and they weren't warming up down the touchline, they were just walking," Lander tells BBC Sport.

    "I think they were out warming up for about 11 minutes. For about seven of those they were stood still, for about two minutes they were doing groin stretches and then for about one minute they were sort of just sat watching.

    "So my immediate thought was that they're not physically ready to come on into a game of football, not only to match the intensity, but to try and raise it."

    That is where Lander believes he can add value to a sport which already employs restart coaches and throw-in coaches: by getting players, technically, physically and mentally ready to enter the field of play and enhance the team. In short, to turn them into 'finishers'.

    Combating the negative mindset

    One of Lander's key tasks with substitutes at League One Wimbledon is helping them try to combat the negative association with being named on the bench.

    "I saw a great picture of Manchester United's bench the other week and there were six or seven players all slumped over, arms folded, and hoods up," says Lander, who has been employed at the club on a voluntary trial basis by Robinson.

    "One of those guys could be your match-winner, potentially, and look at their body language.

    "So it's about engaging with players throughout the game, asking them questions around maybe what their opposite numbers are doing well or not, and maybe areas that you might be able to exploit, if you were to enter the game."

    The fact that Lander is on the Wimbledon coaching staff is down to Robinson.

    He already employs a restarts coach, who helps when the ball goes out of play or a free-kick takes place, and it was the manager's openness to new ideas which Lander latched on to, even if his boss has "mixed feelings" about the concept.

    "It makes the players realise that we are very player focused, and we are trying to improve them, so that's been the positive behind [having a substitution coach]," Robinson tells BBC Sport.

    "I'm a big believer that you have to make people feel valued, but I'm also a big believer that players need to take a big ownership of their own development, so I kind of sit between two stools.

    "As a professional, why wouldn't you be looking at the game or preparing yourself properly? OK, you might be upset that you're not starting, and that's no reason not to be fully invested in what you're going to do, but I do realise that they're human beings."

    Sammy Lander after Wimbledon's Carabao Cup loss to ArsenalSammy Lander (in white) says his role is to "prepare our finishers to enter the game as ready as possible" and "to analyse their effectiveness"

    What next – a water bottle coach?

    Lander, who has worked as an analyst and scout with Bournemouth, recognises that a role like his can be met with scepticism.

    Following a recent interview one of the comments under the online article asked: "What next – a water bottle coach?"

    But with Liverpool among the teams employing throw-in coach Thomas Gronnemark, the search for marginal gains seemingly has no end.

    Robinson, whose side are 14th in League One, admits making substitutions with a clear head can be "difficult", but says he takes the initiative by speaking to Lander before half-time to gear a warm-up with a specific objective.

    He said: "We've all been in a position where you get a sub ready before he stands on the line and you say, 'go and win the match for me'. But what does that actually mean?"

    In Southgate's case, his hope was that Rashford and Sancho would score from the penalty spot and lead England to glory for the first time since 1966.

    But Lander suggests that they could have practiced stroking penalties in Wembley's warm-up room to get the players' muscle memory in place, and ensure they were not over-thinking what was to come.

    "It's like if you haven't driven for a week and that first change of gear isn't as smooth as if you'd been driving for 100 miles," Lander says. "It's the same for football.

    "When you make 100 passes the 101st is just instinct, but when you make that first pass I think you're really thinking about it."

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    359 commentsShowLatestOldestHighest RatedMost Replied

    • G

      Comment posted by gadgyarab, at 12:41 25 Oct

      Teams who take all possible advantages seriously will win more games. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail….9512

      • C

        Reply posted by carlsberg72, at 12:44 25 Oct

        "Teams who take all possible advantages seriously will win more games. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail…."carlsberg72 replied: Proper Planning Prevents Pi** poor Performance.
        Something many sides might want to take heed of.244

      More replies (6)

    • L

      Comment posted by Luke Shaws Chunky Buttocks, at 12:35 25 Oct

      Good to hear Sancho and Rashford were taking their warm-up for a Euros final seriously.635

      • K

        Reply posted by kasbah, at 13:56 25 Oct

        "Good to hear Sancho and Rashford were taking their warm-up for a Euros final seriously."kasbah replied: Highlighting why having someone focused on keeping substitutes prepared can add value to a team224

      More replies (9)

    • D

      Comment posted by Des55, at 12:34 25 Oct

      All about marginal gains, so a subs coach makes sense. Pogba could have done with a subs coach yesterday from what I could see476

      • M

        Reply posted by margaret, at 13:37 25 Oct

        "All about marginal gains, so a subs coach makes sense. Pogba could have done with a subs coach yesterday from what I could see"margaret replied: Southgate needs a corner coach, a half time coach, a substitute coach and of course, a penalties coach, or just bring in Brendan Rodgers !2213

      More replies (4)

    • B

      Comment posted by bamba, at 12:45 25 Oct

      I agree with most here that it sounds absurd….but i do think there may be something in getting a sulking player as he’s on the bench in the right mind set, maybe coaches should concentrate more on having the players ready to go on…..cant believe how many subs seem to have to put their shirt, shin pads, boots etc on before coming on, why aren’t they ready from the start??363

      • K

        Reply posted by kasbah, at 13:55 25 Oct

        "I agree with most here that it sounds absurd….but i do think there may be something in getting a sulking player as he’s on the bench in the right mind set, maybe coaches should concentrate more on having the players ready to go on…..cant believe how many subs seem to have to put their shirt, shin pads, boots etc on before coming on, why aren’t they ready from the start??"kasbah replied: Why does it sound absurd? We have coaches for specific positions and spend ages analysing a managers tactics, why is it absurd to have a coach thinking specifically about how best to use substitutes and make sure they are ready to come on?
        Eddie Jones talks about his finishers for the England rugby team, makes them realise they have a key role to play even if not starting on pitch253

      More replies (2)

    • C

      Comment posted by ComradPravda, at 13:35 25 Oct

      IF the only job is to make sure the subs are warmed up, then what are the other coaches doing sitting on the bench?292

      • I

        Reply posted by I Miss That Shed, at 14:09 25 Oct

        "IF the only job is to make sure the subs are warmed up, then what are the other coaches doing sitting on the bench?"I Miss That Shed replied: Yep – what this guy is saying makes prefect sense to me but his suggestions could be implemented by any of the coaching staff – most of whom are usually just sat watching the game and doing little else.330

      More replies (1)

    • D

      Comment posted by DrScoob, at 13:18 25 Oct

      The only coach missing now is the coach who coaches the coach on improving their coaching.347

      • U

        Reply posted by U16701952, at 14:22 25 Oct

        "The only coach missing now is the coach who coaches the coach on improving their coaching."U16701952 replied: Is that not the Director of Footballs job? If it isn’t, it should be!27

      More replies (3)

    • T

      Comment posted by talbzmeister, at 12:29 25 Oct

      Will be lauded when it works and slammed when it doesn’t. If done properly there is massive merit to it.326

      • C

        Reply posted by Celts, at 14:19 25 Oct

        "Will be lauded when it works and slammed when it doesn’t. If done properly there is massive merit to it."Celts replied: I agree in terms of a sub coming on for the last 30 minutes of a match, needs to be warmed up properly.

        But I don’t think it matters if you’re warmed up just to take a penalty. Sure Noble, Rashford and Sancho all missed recently. But that’s recency bias. Plenty of other times players have been subbed on and scored.81

      More replies (4)

    • H

      Comment posted by HOME TV, at 13:08 25 Oct

      Would be a good idea to get Man Utd players to watch a video of Liverpool for 30 minutes before coming on to show them how to do it properly.294

      • K

        Reply posted by Kuns_Right_Foot, at 13:17 25 Oct

        "Would be a good idea to get Man Utd players to watch a video of Liverpool for 30 minutes before coming on to show them how to do it properly."Kuns_Right_Foot replied: Man Utd don’t need a substitute coach they need a coach.560

      More replies (10)

    • T

      Comment posted by Tesco Safeway, at 14:04 25 Oct

      We need a spitting coach. Far too many players are unable to gob more than a few inches, and others waste a perfect chance by allowing their flob to dissipate into a hundred tiny droplets. If the camera is on you, no pro should be wasting a chance to let a solid greenie go flying. Millions of kids are watching them, what sort of example to these stars think they are setting by such poor technique?243

      • U

        Reply posted by U16693976, at 19:47 25 Oct

        "We need a spitting coach. Far too many players are unable to gob more than a few inches, and others waste a perfect chance by allowing their flob to dissipate into a hundred tiny droplets. If the camera is on you, no pro should be wasting a chance to let a solid greenie go flying. Millions of kids are watching them, what sort of example to these stars think they are setting by such poor technique?"U16693976 replied: Brilliant, wish I’d thought of that.20

      More replies (1)

    • M

      Comment posted by MD , at 12:59 25 Oct

      There are some good points about the preparedness of substitutes but it does beg the question what do the manager & other coaches do!

      As much as anything it highlights that many are set in their ways but It’s hard to see that with the number of coaches most clubs have it needs a specialist coach just better educated ones.222

      • S

        Reply posted by Sports_Fanatic, at 13:27 25 Oct

        "There are some good points about the preparedness of substitutes but it does beg the question what do the manager & other coaches do!As much as anything it highlights that many are set in their ways but It’s hard to see that with the number of coaches most clubs have it needs a specialist coach just better educated ones."Sports_Fanatic replied: Also begs the question why someone at the elite end of their sport isn’t able to watch a match when sub thinking how would they play against opponent, what could they do different etc.70

      More replies (3)

    • S

      Comment posted by ScubaPuffin, at 12:58 25 Oct

      If the gains you get from employing somebody to look at a particular part of your prep/coaching pay for their salary, then why not? Especially if they come in for 3 years, do a lot of work on something, set up some protocols, and then move on (either from the club, or to work on some different niche). That’s just how good businesses operate. Always putting good people to work on areas of weakness174

      • M

        Reply posted by margaret, at 14:40 25 Oct

        "If the gains you get from employing somebody to look at a particular part of your prep/coaching pay for their salary, then why not? Especially if they come in for 3 years, do a lot of work on something, set up some protocols, and then move on (either from the club, or to work on some different niche). That’s just how good businesses operate. Always putting good people to work on areas of weakness"margaret replied: Southgate’s right, Substitutes are for people who panic.010

    • R

      Comment posted by Roger, at 13:35 25 Oct

      How about a Coach to make sure the Hairstyle looks good and ———

      A coach for Goal celebrations———

      A coach for Time Wasting————

      A coach for—etc—etc165

      • G

        Reply posted by GangsterofLove, at 16:01 25 Oct

        "How about a Coach to make sure the Hairstyle looks good and ———A coach for Goal celebrations———A coach for Time Wasting————A coach for—etc—etc"GangsterofLove replied: A coach for HYS posts?81

      More replies (2)

    • Y

      Comment posted by Y0U, at 15:07 25 Oct

      “A substitution coach”? I thought that was the job of the manager to determine whether a sub could change the game, or the assistant manager to advise. Are they really that tactically inept now?111

    • A

      Comment posted by AJ, at 13:46 25 Oct

      The way this is going there will be more Coach’s then players..!!122

      • E

        Reply posted by emma21, at 16:16 25 Oct

        "The way this is going there will be more Coach’s then players..!!"emma21 replied: Not at the big clubs. Chelski have a couple of squads worth out on loan at any given time30

    • P

      Comment posted by Philip, at 13:37 25 Oct

      I agree to a certain extent but the players on the bench should be watching the match and looking for weakness in the opposition to exploit if they are called on to play. If they are feeling sorry for themselves or look like they are disinterested then don’t play them.100

    • F

      Comment posted by FoolioLeChauffer, at 12:51 25 Oct

      all sounds very nfl/us sport – esque to me….
      seems to be the way everything us moving……134

      • K

        Reply posted by kasbah, at 13:58 25 Oct

        "all sounds very nfl/us sport – esque to me….seems to be the way everything us moving……"kasbah replied: It’s all about marginal gains, something we’ve had here for decades now, Clive Woodward with the england rugby team and David Brailsford with the GB cycling teams40

      More replies (3)

    • E

      Comment posted by Eels, at 12:36 25 Oct

      A ‘common-sense’ coach then.90

    • G

      Comment posted by G78, at 13:13 25 Oct

      Sounds like people inventing jobs for themselves.147

      • J

        Reply posted by J Dogg 44, at 18:51 25 Oct

        "Sounds like people inventing jobs for themselves."J Dogg 44 replied: Definitely, there’s an entire team of coaches sitting around doing nothing during they could easily be doing these things if they wanted to.00

      More replies (1)

    • F

      Comment posted by Fan Of Whoever Plays Man Utd, at 12:37 25 Oct

      Bringing on a player right at the end for a specific purpose such as a penalty kick, like the penalty kick itself, is a lottery. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.
      One thing you have to remember that player is ‘cold’ and just has seconds to get into the game mentality. Many players need a lot longer time than that.147

      • L

        Reply posted by Lol Lollington, at 12:47 25 Oct

        "Bringing on a player right at the end for a specific purpose such as a penalty kick, like the penalty kick itself, is a lottery. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. One thing you have to remember that player is ‘cold’ and just has seconds to get into the game mentality. Many players need a lot longer time than that."Lol Lollington replied: It’s not a lottery.1510

      More replies (12)

    • S

      Comment posted by stephen, at 13:20 25 Oct

      it always surprises me that there is absolutely no skill warming up before a sub comes on – no passing the ball, controlling the ball, nothing and then players are expected to go straight out and play their best.115

      • G

        Reply posted by Geordie Superhero-Whey-Aye-Man, at 13:21 25 Oct

        "it always surprises me that there is absolutely no skill warming up before a sub comes on – no passing the ball, controlling the ball, nothing and then players are expected to go straight out and play their best."Geordie Superhero-Whey-Aye-Man replied: Possibly lack of space to do so?71

      More replies (1)

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