Who Is Walter Pless?


A teacher by profession, but is now in his 38th year as a football writer. Has written for "Soccer Action" (Melbourne), "Australian Soccer Weekly" (Sydney) and "World Soccer" (London), as well as for several Tasmanian newspapers. Currently contributing to "Goal!Weekly" in Melbourne and the Australian magazine "Soccer International". Played for Croatia-Glenorchy, Caledonians, Metro, Rapid and University in Tasmania, as well as in the United States of America. Coached University, Metro and Croatia-Glenorchy.

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Photo:  If a player is badly injured, he must be substituted [PlessPix]

No player likes being substituted.

But, sometimes it is necessary because of injury or tactical reasons.

Or, a player who is not performing can be substituted.

It's usually forwards or midfielders who are substituted.  Defenders are substituted less frequently, while goalkeepers are almost never substituted, except because of injury.


Photo:  In this case, the player required hospital treatment after being substituted [PlessPix]

Who can forget Melbourne Victory’s 2-2 draw with A-League champions Brisbane Roar on 5 November this year?

After just two minutes, Victory goalkeeper Ante Covic was sent off and Tom Pondeljak was the unfortunate outfield player to be sacrificed so that a replacement goalkeeper could come on.

Pondeljak was less than happy, but he could see the rationale behind the substitution, although he probably wished it had been someone else who came off.

As it was, Victory drew 2-2 with nine men after Foschini was also sent off.

Have a squiz at the expression on any top striker’s face as he is substituted.  It is not a happy look.

When Melbourne Victory’s Carlos Hernandez was substituted in tonight’s 3-1 loss to Brisbane Roar, he was downright angry and, as he sat down on the bench, he kicked a water bottle onto the field of play.

Fernando Torres has been given the treatment at times, as have Wayne Rooney, Gareth Bale, Craig Bellamy and countless other prolific goalscorers.


Photo:  The subs on the bench are usually eager to come on and play [PlessPix]

I feel for them, especially when they are substituted after scoring decisive goals and, for example, as they are on the verge of netting a hat-trick.

Managers and coaches may say they are taking them off to save them from injury and to rest them for the next game, their job having been done.

A lame excuse, I feel.  They might slip on the footpath and be injured, too.  That’s life.

To take a player off to rest him, especially when he is playing well and has even scored some goals, is an insult to the player, I reckon.

It can be dangerous, too.

At the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, England, the reigning world champions, were leading West Germany 2-0 after an hour when they took off Bobby Charlton., to rest him for the next game.  Alf Ramsey, the England World Cup-winning coach of 1966, thought the game was won.

As it turned out, the Germans were then able to push Franz Beckenbauer forward in an attacking role and they won the game 3-2 in extra time.  England were out of the tournament.

Some cynics might even say it’s the tall poppy syndrome at work and the coach is exerting his authority as he can no longer claim the limelight as a player and so is intent on showing players who is the boss.

One of the more extreme reactions in recent times to actually being a substitute in the first place was the refusal of Carlos Tevez to come on as a substitute for Manchester City in a European Champions League match against Napoli.


Photo:  It's always interesting to study the body language of the palyer being substituted [PlessPix]

Tevez didn’t make the starting line-up and was so miffed that, when he was asked to come on, he sulked and refused to play.

That ended his career at Manchester City and he has yet to find another club.

Once upon a time, it was never like this.

Prior to 1958, no substitutes were allowed and only eleven players were named on the team sheet.

This led to some terrible situations where teams were forced to play with less than a full complement because someone got injured.  Often, the injured player would be sent out wide on a wing, where he could pose nuisance value at best as he hobbled through the remainder of the match.  That would be sure to aggravate an injury.


Photo:  Players sometimes do need to come off for a rest [PlessPix]

Finally, the laws were changed to allow one substitute, then two, and now three.

This set the stage for the game to become a squad game, and for there to be unhappy chappies in squads.

I invite players and coaches and supporters (all readers, in fact), to post a comment (or comments) on how they feel about substitutions in football.

You can comment on how you have felt when being substituted, or simply on how you feel about the matter of substitution in general.

I look forward to reading and posting your comments.

In the meantime, I wish you all a happy New Year.