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Steve McClaren and Matz Sels star in ‘Finger of Blame’

5 years ago

In any game of football, it is a very rare occurrence for there to be only one person you can say decided the result.

With 22 players (plus subs), two managers, three match officials – so many variables affect the outcome.

Yes some of those 30+ people will influence matters more than others but as I say, very rare for one person’s actions to totally overwhelm the collective contribution of everybody else.

You are talking a player scoring a hat-trick out of nothing, or a goalkeeper/defender having a nightmare.

However, pretty much every match the fans and media want the story to be about individuals, particularly when things have gone wrong.

Saturday’s match was especially strange, as Matz Sels was a spectator for most of the 90 minutes, watching his teammates miss chance after chance.

Yet despite this, he was the pantomime villain…the scapegoat, for most fans. He didn’t really do anything that wrong, apart from looking his usual nervous self on crosses and maybe could have done better on the equaliser but not like it was a howler.

The truth of course is that supporters generally haven’t though Matz Sels has been convincing in any match, even the ones we have won. The unhappiness with the keeper wasn’t really what happened against Villa, rather it is over the course of all nine Championship games.

This brings us to the biggest irony of all. If Steve McClaren was still in charge, it would be him who everybody would be having a go at, calling him all the names under the sun for sticking blindly to an individual who is obviously struggling and possibly dropping points for the team.

However, because it is Rafa Benitez who is picking the keeper every time, nothing is said. I think this is why the criticism has reached such a height because supporters can’t/won’t blame the manager, they are directing all their anger at Matz Sels himself. As there looks to be no lack of effort from the Belgian goalkeeper, what exactly do people expect him to do?

Also on the subject of nobody wanting to blame certain people, the case of Yoan Gouffran shows how quickly somebody can do no wrong…from a position of not being able to do anything right.

Yoan Gouffran has put in some decent displays and scored a couple of canny goals but he was pretty anonymous against Aston Villa. Then I haven’t seen a single person blaming him for the equaliser, despite it being the Frenchman supposedly marking Tshibola on that corner kick and Gouffran making a feeble effort to prevent it.

I’m not seeking to blame Gouff for losing two points but if this match had been played only six weeks ago, he’d have been absolutely slated for that goal.

Like numerous foreign keepers before him, Matz Sels is on a steep learning curve in adapting to English football, especially the physical demands with goalkeepers not getting quite the level of protection that they do on the continent.

The only way he will learn and progress is by playing matches and so there is Rafa Benitez’ dilemma. Playing for the Under 23s will teach Matz Sels next to nothing, it is only in the Championship week in week out where he will steadily improve.



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