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Paul Hince: Why it's all right to fight

08 Dec 2010 09:19:27

| Submit Comments| Comments (30)| Printable Version1/1Play SlideshowClose MapIf the fish-n-chips morning tabloids are to be believed, Manchester City under Roberto Mancini have become more of an amateur boxing club than a professional football club. We?ve all read the stories and seen the pictures over the past few weeks ? City players apparently trying to knock seven shades out of each other in training; only a couple of days ago I was looking at a nice snapshot of Mario Balotelli trying to shake Jerome Boateng by the throat. Of course, for the written hack it?s been manna from heaven. City players hate the sight of each other they?ve chirped gleefully. Manager Mancini can?t control his bunch of highly-paid mercenaries who have never heard of the term team spirit. Well it?s time to put the record straight. Those journalists who are trying to paint the Blues as a club at war with itself are talking through their hats. What we?ve seen and heard about City?s training ground scuffles over the past few weeks has been happening at every club in the country on a daily basis ? you just haven?t read about it. I wonder how many of those scribblers who are trying to destabilise the Blues have ever played football at professional level? My guess would be none. I always make a point of reading the thoughts in print of former top-class professionals like Gary Lineker, Ian Wright, David Sadler and Gary Owen. My favourite, for what it?s worth, is Robbie Savage because he pokes fun at himself. Funny though that none of those had anything to say about the so-called in-fighting taking place during City?s training sessions. But I know why they haven?t ? because they cannot be bothered writing about trivia. Those former pro?s know that what?s been taking place during training at Carrington has been happening at United?s training complex just down the road, has been happening behind closed doors at Arsenal and Chelsea and at every training ground in the country from Sunderland to Southampton. The scribblers who have never kicked a ball in anger have no concept of the intensity of a full-scale practice match on the training ground. It isn?t a kick-about with no tackling allowed. Players can win or lose a place for the next first-team fixture by their performance. So they get stuck in. And yes, tempers might boil over sometimes ? just as they do when it?s the real thing. What should be remembered is that training ground bust-ups are as old as the game itself. I had an upside-down career as a professional footballer which started at the top with City and ended at the bottom at Macclesfield with disastrous stops along the way at Charlton, Bury and Crewe. And believe me if I had a tenner for every scrap I?d witnessed on the training ground I could have retired from football a wealthy man. At Bury I remember centre-forward George Jones and centre-half Ben Anderson rolling round in the mud during one practice match like two sumo wrestlers. They were good mates off the pitch and as mild-mannered as they come. But that day they had to be dragged apart before one of them died of strangulation. But five minutes later they were laughing and joking together. The legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly organised a kamikaze seven-a-side practice match every week. Seven Scots against seven English ? with 14 stretchers waiting on the touchline. Those sessions in the 60s were famous throughout football. Bill?s players were encouraged to come off with a broken leg ? provided it belonged to someone else, of course! But all that training- ground scrapping didn?t stop Shankly?s players from becoming one of the greatest teams in the history of English football. Years ago I had the pleasure of sitting down to dinner at a hotel in Cork with Leeds United World Cup-winning centre-half Jack Charlton. He talked about his time at Elland Road under the great Don Revie and insisted that the training sessions were tougher and more brutal than the matches themselves. There was a method, he said, behind The Don?s madness. Take care of yourself during a no-holds barred Leeds United practice match and your next league fixture would feel like a walk in the park. And judging from the haul of trophies he gathered Mr Revie knew exactly what he was talking about. The former Manchester United full-back Shay Brennan sadly is no longer with us. If he was he would waste no time in telling you about his infamous training ground scrap with fellow Irishman Harry Gregg. Goalkeeper Gregg was, to say the least, combustible. But in a training session in the ?60s he lost it completely after being tackled by easy-going Brennan. As they grappled together on the floor half-a-dozen United players dived in to drag them apart. Only one part of Brennan?s anatomy was visible to wild-eyed Harry ? and that was Shay?s calf. So Harry bit a chunk out of it. Brennan forgave Gregg for his act of cannibalism. In fact, for years after his retirement Shay dined out on the incident at speaking engagements where he would invite the paying audience to examine the crater in his calf created by Harry?s incisors. So ignore those spats and handbags-at-dawn scuffles at the City training complex. They are not a sign of disunity ? quite the reverse. They indicate a desire to succeed. And if that includes the odd bust-up along the way between hungry players then so be it. After all if it was good enough for Shankly and Revie it should be good enough for Bobby Manc, don?t you think?| Submit Comments| Comments (30)| Printable VersionAdd A CommentEnter your comments:Sending


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