Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Numbers Game

Somehow the man from the Non Leageu Paper managed to award Ebbsfleet keeper Lance Cronin nine points out of ten.

Why? What did he do?

I checked my notes on the game and found my initial impression was correct-he was hardly inundated with on-target shots from Wrexham! He did win a couple of important fifty-fifties on the edge of his box, but the only save he had to make was deep in injury time when he denied Gareth Taylor from twelve yards.

It was, indeed, a good stop, although it's hard to give him too much credit for it as his horrible error led to the chance in the first place; he ran to the corner flag to take a free kick but thumped it against one of his defenders, the ball ricocheting into the box!

There was one other save he had to make, of course. Lamine Sakho's goal was driven across him from the edge of the box, and although he got a good touch on the ball he couldn't take enough pace off it to prevent the goal. At half time a few local reporters suggested he had made an excellent save and had been unlucky; as an ex-keeper myself I saw it rather differently. If I'd got so much onto a shot and it had still got through me I would have been furious with myself, and I assure you I wasn't a professional!

I'm not the only one present at the match who thought that if a player deserved a nine, it was Chris Maxwell, who made three excellent (and better) saves to earn a clean sheet and three points. He only got a seven.

I'm not saying this to attack any particular reporter, publication or player, I hasten to add. Quite the opposite; anyone who sticks their head over the parapet and gives their opinion on a public event ought to be respected for doing so, and it's not as if I have a monopoly on being correct about football! My concern is that sometimes fans who weren't at the game can be mislead badly by the media.

I think we're pretty lucky at Wrexham. The local papers offer genuinely considered reports, certainly far better than some I see in other publications, and the Non League Paper offers an excellent overview of Conference matters. You can get a very odd impression of what went on when following a game from afar though.

The points out of ten system has been around for a while, and is taken extremely seriously in Italy, where it has developed into something approaching an art form. In Britain it's far more slapdash. I've often seen reporters ask someone from the Wrexham contingent to give marks out of ten for our team. Ive been asked myself. Incredible; how difficult is it to watch a game and only look at one side!

The problem is that our impressions of what happened at a match can be governed by someone pulling facts and figures out of mid-air. We're lucky to have an analytical press when it comes to match reporting, and should always scrutinise the source of information on a game before assuming it's correct.

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