It’s about having a little faith

2014-10-04 00:00

THE sport-following members of society are perhaps the most fickle. It doesn’t take much to change our minds. We pride ourselves on being experts in our fields, and we eye the jobs of football managers, rugby coaches and cricket selectors critically, believing on some level that we could do a better job.

It is good to question the decisions of the people making the big calls —that is our given right as supporters — but it is also important to sometimes have a bit of faith.

The highlight of the midweek Champions League clashes could well have been the emergence of Danny Welbeck. The red side of north London had started to ask a few questions. Was he really the man for the job? Could he score 20 league goals a season? Had Arsene Wenger purchased a dud from Manchester United? Welbeck’s early performances suggested that he was in for a long, frustrating season. That was until Wednesday night, when a classy hat-trick against Galatasary displayed all of Welbeck’s best qualities. “From Heskey to Henry” started doing the Twitter rounds, and all of a sudden Welbeck’s Arsenal career was up and running. Needless to say, there are now only a few who still doubt that Welbeck is the real deal. All it took was 90 minutes.

There was another case in point when the Springboks outmuscled the Wallabies last weekend. Pat Lambie has struggled to get any real game time throughout the Rugby Championship, and he has done precious little with what he has had. The game away to the All Blacks stood out as particularly poor, when he came on and fumbled a couple of balls in what was his only contribution to the Test match. And then the questions began: Was it time to give up on Pat Lambie? Was there really a need for him, given the wealth of flyhalves available to Heyneke Meyer? Like Welbeck, Lambie bounced back. His redemption song came against the Wallabies last weekend, and it only took 20 minutes. Coming off the bench, Lambie sparked a Bok revival that saw them go from being down in the match to securing a comfortable win. He has silenced his critics, for the time being anyway, with a brief cameo performance. That’s all it took.

It is perhaps in the cricket world where we see the most instances of players coming under fire. The Faf du Plessis story comes to mind. Proven at Test level, it wasn’t that long ago when Faf’s place in the ODI side was incredibly difficult to justify. The stats weren’t lying, and he was battling to get into double figures for a period that spanned more than 10 innings. The selectors showed faith and the result was seen in the recent triangular series against Zimbabwe and Australia. Faf came within a whisker of becoming the first player to score four centuries in an ODI series. He is now surely one of the first names on the team sheet and has guaranteed himself a spot at next year’s World Cup.

Again, the margins are so small. It took one series to change our minds. The quality was always there, but sometimes when things are going badly it can be difficult to see. That is where the job of the selector, coach or manager becomes crucial, and he or she must have the foresight to know when to back a wounded horse and when to put it down.

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