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The boot on the other foot

6 years ago

It should be a natural advantage for any professional footballer to be two-footed, to be able to use either foot with equal ability.

Ambidexterity not only creates tactical versatility in terms of positional formations but also means you can make a fool of any marking opponent by bamboozling them with changes of angle to shots, crosses and dribbling.

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I can’t name a single genuinely two-footed player in Newcastle’s squad. I have never seen the new signings play – so correct me if I’m wrong – but amongst most major clubs NUFC seems particularly deficient in this area.

Under Pardew and Carver, Newcastle highlighted their problem by filling their left flank with the likes of Jonas Gutierrez, Davide Santon and Ryan Taylor, all of whom are limited to the opposite foot. Even a player as sublimely talented as Hatem Ben Arfa became uncomfortable when forced wide to his unnatural right wing position.

In the case of someone like Jonas, his lack of versatility meant that he was constantly forced to cut inside from a wide position.

Sometimes this ploy worked, as his goal against West Ham showed, but a lot of the time any decent full-back was able to predict his movement.

Otherwise, Spiderman was forced into a typically rubbish cross using his weak left boot from the byline.

By no means are the Magpies the only Premier League club seemingly suffering a dearth of two-footed players. Across English football, an individual with equal abilities on either side is rarer than a Vurnon Anita goal.

England in general is way behind other countries in terms of developing the use of both feet. Even some of the best players of recent decades like Alan Shearer and Michael Owen (before he signed for us and settled on his golden crutches) were totally reliant on their right side.

A player like Peter Beardsley, however, who still retained a preference for one side but was good with both, could cause mayhem against even the best defences.

Despite my dad’s old stories of young players forced to wear socks on their dominant foot and studs on their weaker in training, I can’t see any evidence of ambidextrous youngsters being produced in this country.

The press never cease to suffocate themselves with hype about prospects like Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling but neither has the overall competency seen from their continental peers. For almost £50m Man City signed a player that can’t score with his left limb. Smart business lads.

On the other hand, such flaws never held back Shearer or Laurent Robert.

If Newcastle can get 11 feet with power like that this season they won’t need the other half.

Then again, that sounds a little far-fetched for our club.


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