BROWNE ON THE BALL: I know it’s a cliche, but stay solid at the back

Alan White.
Alan White.

FOOTBALLERS speak in clichés.

Players must be as sick as a parrot every time they hear that. But I suppose it’s water off a duck’s back after a while.

In fact, the introduction I wrote to this column is a lazy cliché itself.

The golden rule of journalism (I have been told, many a time) is never to write in clichés, instead to challenge yourself to pen the words that uniquely and fairly sum up that one-off moment in time.

I can understand that. There are only so many times you can read (or write) that a striker has pulled the trigger, a defence has shipped goals or a keeper fumbled the ball before each match report feels less of one person’s overview and more like a factory-manufactured story, telling the same tale week-in, week-out.

But sometimes a cliché can be a cliché for one simple reason... it’s said so often because correct.

If I had a pound for every time I’ve stuck my dictaphone to someone’s mouth and they’ve told me ‘if you don’t concede goals you don’t lose a match’ then I’d be laughing at poverty-stricken Manchester City.

This is called the ‘golden rule’ by managers, and whether you’re Brendan Rodgers or a bus-parking Kenny Dalglish (against Stoke, at home, really?), it’s something you should live by.

However, keeping a clean sheet is not something that’s coming naturally at Boston United right now. It’s not for a want of trying, but the Pilgrims just can’t shut out the opposition.

They have now gone nine matches since their last clean sheet, the 1-0 FA Trophy win over Workington. That’s 20 contests since their last league clean sheet.

Part of the problem, I believe, is the injuries sustained to the club’s defenders throughout the campaign. There’s the quality at the club, but centre backs filling in at left back, for example, doesn’t give you consistency.

In all competitions, United have kept six shut-outs so far this campaign. No-one at the club would dare argue that a team which has designs on a top-five finish should be doing much better.

And there is one recurring theme about those six matches... Alan White. The defender – who has now joined rivals Harrogate – made a massive impact during his tenure at the club and featured in each of those six games.

Of the 32 matches Boston have played this season, White featured in 16. Of those 16, the club conceded 13 times. In the 16 he hasn’t featured in, there have been 29 ticks to the goals against column.

To be frank, White’s played in 50 per cent of the club’s games, in which they’ve conceded just 31 per cent of their goals.

Although in his late 30s, White plays football like a raging wildman. Permanently angry on the pitch, he intimidated opponents mentally and physically.

Although a likeable chap off the turf, White is an animal on it. He looks like the type of man who likes his steak so rare it’s still called a cow. He’s not afraid to (for 90 minutes) hate someone, purely because their shirts don’t match. And this is the attitude Boston need to start emulating.I know it’s a cliché, but nice guys finish last.