Gary Johnson: The great players who exist at different level to everyone else

Diego Maradonna watches Chelsea v Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridgein 2014. Photo: Dan Weir/Pinnacl

Diego Maradonna watches Chelsea v Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridgein 2014. Photo: Dan Weir/Pinnacle - Credit: Dan Weir/Pinnacle

There are plenty of good players, some very good and then there are the great ones – the handful who come along only once in a while and seem to exist at a different level to everyone else. Maradona was absolutely a member of that club.

Sixty is, of course, no age to be passing away, and it was a similar story with one of the idols of my youth, George Best.

As a schoolboy in West London in the mid-1970s, I used to hurry along to Fulham every week to see a Second Division (Championship) team with Best, Bobby Moore, Rodney Marsh and Alan Mullery.

They may have been just past their best, but it was such an eye opener to see what those top players could still do.

They came to Fulham to have fun. They definitely did, the pressure wasn’t on them as much as it had been at the peak of their careers and it was a joy to watch them. They were the best I saw live.

I always reckon that we should think of those great ones – in my lifetime Pele, Best, Cruyff, Maradona and you might add players like Paul Gascoigne, Ronaldo and Messi – like your Mozarts of the music world.

Mozart was so good, he wrote symphonies when he was only a kid, and there is no way you can contain the talent of people like that.

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They enjoy the role of being the best, they relish it and, with those players, being on a football pitch is where they’re happiest.

Not many of them are horrible people either. In fact, they’re usually the sort of guys you want in your team come what may.

But the higher level you go, the more distractions there are, whether it’s the massive advertising contracts or being invited to every Tom, Dick and Harry’s party.

You’ve got to be so professional and so grounded not to go down that route.

We admire the ones who manage to cope, but we should never forget how tough it can be to have thousands of people expecting and demanding a ‘command performance’ every week – with a queue of opponents determined to stop you.

RIP Maradona. And here’s to them all.

A bit closer to home, I was asked the other day, with us going pretty well this season, how you take a team that’s in form and keep them in form. There are plenty of ‘banana skins’ around, that’s for sure.

I always say it comes down to two things – mentality and philosophy.

Mentally, everyone has to commit to the cause, and that goes right back to the first day they walk in the place.

All our players know how I want to play, what is the ‘Torquay Way’ and that becomes a group energy and a group spirit.

You have to reiterate things every now and then, but basically we ask the boys ‘Do you want to win this league?’and ‘If your life depended on it, how would you play? Well, play as if it does then’.

It goes for everyone in the club as well – those of us behind the scenes do burn the midnight oil, sometimes literally, to come up with the things that can make the difference.

It is good to have several lads who won the National League South with us two years ago.

Once you’ve had one promotion, you want more. And we’ve added players who have also won things before and know what it takes.

No team wins every week and we’ll have problems to overcome, but I believe that we have the players to do the job. And that mentality and philosophy are in place.

Keep staying safe. We’re looking forward to seeing the Yellow Army back at Plainmoor on Saturday, but we won’t be forgetting the ones who can’t be there.