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 Too Many Lefties?
Topic Originator: sammer  
Date:   Mon 13 Apr 17:43

What’s the ideal number of left footed players in a team? I first pondered on this when I was in charge of a 7-a-side youth team in Qatar where five of the players were left footed and we went on a long winning run. Most of the players seemed to be cousins which probably accounted for this statistical anomaly but I did wonder if this gave us a slight advantage against teams who were unused to being faced with so many ‘southpaws.’ At the same time I always felt the team was a bit unbalanced, something I would not even have considered had the ratios been reversed. Our unbeaten run eventually disintegrated. So can you have too many left footers in a team? Or even too few?

The common sense answer would be that the question is an irrelevance. If you pick the best team of eleven players then by probability there will be at least one left footed player included in it anyway- and he has been selected on ability, not on the foot he favours. There could even be none. The Pars side which won the Scottish Cup in 1968 had no left footed players, although John Lunn and Pat Gardner could strike the ball powerfully with their weaker foot. Then again, to my eyes, the Pars team of 1969 looked a better outfit when the left footed Willie Renton arrived and we made the ECWC semi finals. So does a left footed player make the difference? There’s long been a suspicion that left footed players have some inborn ‘feel’ for the ball as exhibited over the years by the likes of Baxter, van Hanegem, Maradona and Messi? Or maybe left footed boys are just encouraged at an early age to develop the creative side of their game since they have the ability to make different passing angles.


Slim Jim sends Banks the wrong way

Whatever the reason, only one World Cup winning team since 1954 has not had a left footed player in their line up and since that was England in 1966, the unique case of Bobby Charlton- not even his brother Jack was certain which was his ‘strong’ foot- muddies the waters. A number of sides have played double lefties- Cabrini/Conte; Pasarella/Kempes; Roberto Carlos/Rivaldo. And probably the most free flowing team ever to win- Brazil in 1970- had three: Gerson, Rivelino and Tostao. That they were all outstanding players is inarguable but within this particular team their left footedness gave a slight advantage, for Brazil’s main striker was a right winger called Jairzinho, a player of exceptional pace and dribbling ability. Brazil would pass the ball around hypnotically on the left side of the pitch then, as Pele made a dummy run, one of the three would suddenly sweep a crossfield pass into the path of Jairzinho, who was sprinting in from the touchline. This switch of play allowed Jairzinho to attack a single defender, some poor sod who had been isolated by their build up play, and having left the defender in his wake Jairzinho rarely missed the target. He top scored in the tournament and there were also six left footed goals courtesy of Gerson, Rivelino and Tostao. So in this particular side, I think having these left footed players gave Brazil an edge.


One time Jairzinho did not get past the last defender

The Scottish side around 1976/77 was a genuine force that crashed and burned in Argentina 1978, partly as a result of injuries to McGrain and McQueen. At its best it often had four left footed players in Rioch, Gemmill, Jordan and Eddie Gray/Willie Johnston. This left side bias was evident in a fair number of the goals they scored and although McGrain and Dalglish combined well over on the right, the driving force of the team came from the left: think of Masson’s diving header in 1976 and Dalglish’s nutmeg from a Jordan cross; McQueen’s header in 1977 and Johnston’s cross from the byeline to set up the winning goal at Wembley; Johnston’s deep cross which made Hartford’s goal v Czechoslovakia. By 1978 all that could be salvaged was Gemmill’s iconic moment, the sort of goal a left footer can score when running at right footed defenders.

Possibly the most successful left sided team was Brian Clough’s Notts Forest team which captured the English title and twice won the European Cup. Clough was a contrary character so having four left footed players in his team probably gave him some satisfaction, especially since none of them were in the traditional left back or left wing positions. Larry Lloyd was a brute of a centre half who just happened to be left footed, same as Peter Withe up front whose strength was his selling point. Withe was replaced by Birtles, another left footer, to accompany the pacey Tony Woodcock. Archie Gemmill had his sleeves rolled up behind them in midfield. What did they have in common? Well, when under pressure like any footballer they would protect the ball with their hip and move on to their strong side to look for a simple pass, which in this case was Notts Forest left winger John Robertson. Robertson was the most creative player of his generation from a wide area, in either England or Europe, so they were instinctively playing to the team’s greatest strength. That ploy saw Robertson both make and score winning goals in a European Cup final and was best remembered in a 4-0 demolition of Manchester United at Old Trafford when Robertson walked the ball round the goalkeeper Maradona style.

So what’s the ideal number? There isn’t one, but depending on the makeup of your team a good left footed player could open up attacking opportunities that even the greatest of right footed players might not be able to do quite so quickly. And in defence, left footed tacklers are a great bonus when facing the likes of Robben and Salah, for they can’t be ‘squared up’ so easily. In the World Cup 2018 Salah, a renowned dribbler, twice took on the 36 year old Russian Yuri Zhirkov as last defender. Zhirkov had been the Russian Gareth Bale in his day but was now playing, improbably, as part of a three man defence. On both occasions he jockeyed Salah and snatched the ball from him. Left footer against left footer: a fair contest.


Salah dispossessed
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 Re: Too Many Lefties?
Topic Originator: Buspasspar  
Date:   Mon 13 Apr 18:05

Enjoyed reading that sammer
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 Re: Too Many Lefties?
Topic Originator: GG Riva  
Date:   Mon 13 Apr 18:29

An interesting topic, Sammer. I'd suggest that gifted left footers are no better than gifted right footers, but probably stand out more because they are a rarity. Where left footers undoubtedly have an advantage is when they come up against a right footed opponent, in the same way as when a right handed tennis player has to play a left hander - it must be tough to concentrate throughout a long, 5 set match.

Of course, the best players of all are those who can play with either foot, because they worked on their weaker foot as kids, Two outstanding exponents were George Best and Jinky Johnstone.



Not your average Sunday League player.
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 Re: Too Many Lefties?
Topic Originator: Buspasspar  
Date:   Mon 13 Apr 20:17

I think where they stand out as a rarity G.G. is because its like a cory duker they are a different opposition to the norm
I think every football club would have loved to have a natural left sided/footed player in their team
It opens up a whole new channel of attack as opposed to the left winger having to cut in because he is right footed
Back in my day a left hander/footer was rare and was never encouraged although it was perfectly natural for the person in question
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 Re: Too Many Lefties?
Topic Originator: GG Riva  
Date:   Tue 14 Apr 06:55

Quote:

Buspasspar, Mon 13 Apr 20:17

Back in my day a left hander/footer was rare and was never encouraged although it was perfectly natural for the person in question


That's interesting you should say that, BPP. I myself am a curious beast - left handed and right footed. In the Italian village where I was born and lived for 7 years, I was frequently mocked for my left handedness and relatives often tried to "correct" it. A teacher in the local primary school allegedly wrapped any pupil over the knuckles with a cane, if they picked up a pencil with their left hand.

I'd always imagined this was a local superstition, as the devil is supposed to be left handed. The Latin for left is "sinistrus", I think, from which the word sinister is derived.



Not your average Sunday League player.
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 Re: Too Many Lefties?
Topic Originator: Buspasspar  
Date:   Tue 14 Apr 08:32

That is an interesting twist on it G.G.
I can remember Mums taking things from toddlers left hand maybe a spoon or a crayon and telling them to use their good hand which of course was the right hand
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 Re: Too Many Lefties?
Topic Originator: Grant  
Date:   Tue 14 Apr 13:13

Quote:

GG Riva, Tue 14 Apr 06:55

Quote:

Buspasspar, Mon 13 Apr 20:17

Back in my day a left hander/footer was rare and was never encouraged although it was perfectly natural for the person in question


That's interesting you should say that, BPP. I myself am a curious beast - left handed and right footed. In the Italian village where I was born and lived for 7 years, I was frequently mocked for my left handedness and relatives often tried to "correct" it. A teacher in the local primary school allegedly wrapped any pupil over the knuckles with a cane, if they picked up a pencil with their left hand.

I'd always imagined this was a local superstition, as the devil is supposed to be left handed. The Latin for left is "sinistrus", I think, from which the word sinister is derived.


All the best blokes are left handed and right footed GG, wouldn't worry about it.
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 Re: Too Many Lefties?
Topic Originator: Paralex  
Date:   Tue 14 Apr 15:48

Why is it that players who are right handed and footed are left headed?
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 Re: Too Many Lefties?
Topic Originator: sammer  
Date:   Tue 14 Apr 16:05

I've noticed that most players seem stronger heading a cross from the right side. I assume it's as much to do with practising when a boy and the majority of crosses come from that side since most players are right footed.

I think for most people their dominant eye is their right one, so that might make it easier to pick up the flight of a cross from the right.
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 Re: Too Many Lefties?
Topic Originator: Mon-pa  
Date:   Tue 14 Apr 17:13

I am an out and out leftie. In my playing days I had a bit of an advantage being a leftie. That extra fraction of a second turning the ball in or outside vs a RH defender was welcomed. Experienced defenders RH or LH knew that marshaling you (leftie) without committing to challenge was the way to nullify the threat. On another point my preferred cross for heading was from the left; I felt much more comfortable with that compared to a cross from the right.

ARTY
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 Re: Too Many Lefties?
Topic Originator: Stanza  
Date:   Tue 14 Apr 23:19

One good thing about lockdown is that it gives me time to read posts from sammer. They are always interesting and full of detailed facts and snippets of information that I never knew or had long forgotten.

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