Outlaw this waste of time

PUBLISHED: 17:10 09 September 2006 | UPDATED: 09:38 14 September 2010

DAVID CUFFLEY

As I'm something of a traditionalist where football is concerned, there are certain elements of the modern game that bring out the Victor Meldrew in me.

As I'm something of a traditionalist where football is concerned, there are certain elements of the modern game that bring out the Victor Meldrew in me.

Teams wearing their change strip or so-called "away kit" when there is no colour clash, ludicrous kick-off times, public address systems that blast us out as if we were all stone deaf, blokes who stand on the pitch and implore you to cheer because "your team" are running out - as if we can't see it for ourselves - and players who leap into the front three rows of the crowd when they score . . . should I go on?

OK, add to that list players rolling their socks up over their knees, time-wasters who take the ball down to the corner flag, turn their back on opponents and keep rolling it around - nothing more than obstruction, in my view - and unruly trophy presentations staged on the pitch where everyone bar the groundsman climbs on the podium and pogos around like a punk at a pop concert.

These are a few of my least favourite things.

But before I sound too much like Mr Cholmondley-Warner, stuck in the 1930s, there are lots of modern trends that have improved the game.

I like the fact that several balls are used to keep the game moving, that backpasses to the 'keeper are long since a thing of the past, that we all know how many minutes of added time we are going to get at the end of each half, and, more importantly, that Neanderthals who go to matches with the intention of braining each other are less prevalent than 20 or 30 years ago.

And yes, I don't mind admitting that I love that little burst of music they play at Carrow Road when City score, which has had a pretty good airing so far this season.

But, oh, there is one more thing that really gets my goat - unnecessary substitutions.

How often does a manager try to use up valuable minutes in the closing stages of a match by making changes that have no real footballing merit?

Putting on three substitutes in the last seven or eight minutes cannot possibly make much of a positive difference, other than as a blatant time-wasting move - safe in the knowledge that the referee will seldom make up all the lost time - or, as some cynics may have pointed out, as a means of making sure player X, Y or Z gets his appearance money or win bonus.

It's true that every team does it to a greater or lesser extent, and I'm not saying City are any more guilty than the rest.

In fact, the tendency to remove winger Lee Croft with 15 minutes remaining has meant Nigel Worthington making changes earlier in the game.

Out of 14 substitutions made in the Canaries' first six games of the season, only six were in the last 10 minutes of games.

But there is the opportunity for winning teams, or teams keen to hold on to a point, to break up the flow of the game and fritter away a few more precious minutes with no real justification for making changes.

And who is to say there are not occasions when making that late change may backfire because it has an unsettling effect on the team?

I would ban substitutes in the last 10, or possibly even 15 minutes of games, except as a replacement for an injured goalkeeper.

That way, managers would have to think twice before taking off someone who is playing well and is perfectly fit, just as an excuse to run down the clock.

Nobody wants to go back to the pre-Keith Peacock days when substitutes did not exist, or when only one substitute could be named with no additional allowance for a goalkeeper. Games should not be allowed descend into farce. But it should not be difficult to clamp down on multiple changes in the last five or 10 minutes of games.

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