Throughout my playing career, I have played in the same team as some good players and some great players.
So what is the difference between a good player and a great player? What did Pele have? What did Maradona have? What has Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi got?
If you look up the definition of a great football player, you are told they all possessed of possess the following five main attributes:
1 Technique - ball mastery and control; dribbling and running with the ball; body movement and shapes
2 Mindset - passion and drive; mental toughness; leadership coachability; self-motivation; responsibility
3 Game intelligence - spatial awareness; risk assessment
4 Team player
5 Physique ABCs - agility; balance and coordination; power and strength; speed; stamina.
From my own experience, the great players I have played with did possess most of these attributes but the greatest attribute I found they possessed was their belief in their own ability, and regardless of any setbacks, they never doubted their outstanding ability they were gifted with.
It wasn’t arrogance, it was a huge self-confidence.
Glenn Hoddle was arguably the best all-round player I had the pleasure of playing with at Tottenham Hotspur.
At the age of 19 following a 1-0 victory, manager Keith Burkinshaw wasn’t completely happy with our performance and during the post-match debate said to Hoddle: ”You can’t attempt to thread every pass through an eye of a needle Glenn.” His reply was: “How did we win the game, Keith?”. Keith replied: “I know you threaded that pass through the eye of a needle.” Enough said – absolute genius.
Ossie Ardiles joined Spurs in 1978 following Argentina winning the 1978 FIFA World Cup.
When Ossie and Ricky Villa joined the squad on a pre-season tour they were both exhausted following their World Cup success and struggled to show their true potential in training.
It was not long when the two of them came alive and Ossie, in particular, showing why he was rated as a world-class mid-field player.
Ossie was a very intelligent person/player and had the great ability to find space and deliver through balls at the correct pace.
He was a genius at starting play and developing passages of play seeing three, sometimes four, passes ahead.
He was a very confident person and was brilliant at winding people up in his own innocent way.
I can recall a pre-season tour when we played in the first-ever Japan Cup, staying in a luxury sports hotel.
Following winning the tournament, it was time to check out of the hotel. For some reason, Ossie disappeared behind the curtains in the foyer.
Manager Keith Burkinshaw went to the reception to pay his bill when suddenly he was shocked to find a huge bill for extras.
The penny then dropped and Keith shouted: “Ossie, where are you?”
Ossie had been ordering extras and signing Keith Burkinshaw on the bill with Keith’s room number – that’s Ossie... a great player and a great person.
During the 1975 season as an apprentice footballer with Bristol City, I was very fortunate to be invited on a tour with the Arsenal youth team taking place in Barcelona.
Frank Stapleton had broken his arm during training and they were looking for a centre forward (target man) to take his place and they chose me.
The Arsenal youth team at that time was made up of some really good players such as Richie Powling, who went onto play 55 times for Arsenal, Graham Rix, who played over 350 games for Arsenal, and David O’Leary, who played over 550 games for Arsenal, but the pick of the bunch was Liam Brady, who played 235 times for Arsenal, 76 games for Juventus and 57 games for Sampdoria not to mention 89 appearances for West Ham Utd.
Brady had the best left foot I have ever seen. He was a very creative player who had exceptional ability.
We were able to watch the bullfighting in the afternoons on the TV before matches and in the games Brady reminded me of the matador with the ball and the bull, the opposition, trying to get near him to get the ball off him.
He possessed elegant technical skills such as high-quality passing, vision and close control and combined theses abilities with significant tenacity, and an eye for goal. He stood out throughout his career for his professionalism - a great player.
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