Clean sheets: Good managers build from the back

It was a truism. All the pundits used to say it in the media. Cloughie believed in it as did other successful managers. The commentators used to trot it out on a regular basis on Match of the Day. It was a bit like slagging off the referee – something to say when your brain was empty.

Personally I never believed it; after all winning games was about scoring goals. For me, if Alan Hansen had said “Good managers build from the front” I might have conceded that he wasn’t the smug Scottish fart that I believed him to be.


The days of Clough and Revie are gone. A thousand years have passed and we get older and wiser. And your stomach talks to you. For the youngsters out there that don’t know it, that’s where wisdom resides. Knowledge is in your brain, wisdom is in your stomach. My stomach tells me that this is a defence I can believe in.

Many bloggers have spoken of how it used to be – the last fifteen minutes or when we were under pressure or defending corners or free kicks and your stomach told you we are going to concede a goal. It was as inevitable as Aston Vanilla – anybody can lick ‘em.

Not any more. Collins and Dunne, I love these guys. My guts tell me that, all those years ago, they were right. Good teams are built from the back. If I feel settled and confident, the team must feel it too. This solidity at the back feeds through the rest of the team and into the crowd and translates into confidence and optimism. The ‘Laursen factor’ is back. Collins is actually zinging fifty yard passes to, wait for it, our own players.

To the doubters, I say: listen to your stomach. It won’t lie to you. Unlike the brain, ever a deceiver, it will tell you the truth. One day they’ll dismantle the pyramids to examine the foundations and there they’ll find what the Egyptians knew five thousand years ago – everything is built on clean sheets.

The Roman Empire collapsed when the legions started leaking goals. When Attila the Hun sacked Rome, Collins and Dunne were the first names on the team sheet.

And if you’re interested, the formation was 4-2-4, changing to 4-3-3 as occasion warranted.