Morale Vs. Skill—When Belief Outstrips Ability

illya mclellan@illya mclellan @illbehaviorNZSenior Analyst INovember 26, 2008

In football it is often overlooked how the morale of a side will affect it in terms of its fortune in a game of ninety minutes.

A team that has struggled for a few games against highly competent sides, who many would have given said side a chance against, could perhaps come up in their next outing against a team which is relatively unfancied in the tie, save for, by its own die-hard supporters.

In the ensuing match, you could see two scenarios potentially arise, which give a glimpse of the effect of good or bad morale.

The aforementioned scenario could be likened to a result that came out of a game played a number of weeks ago in arguably the most visible competition on the planet, the English Premier League.

When Hull City took on Arsenal at the Emirates stadium many were predicting that Hull City's bubble might finally burst and they would be really shown what it is to be playing in the top tier of the English game.

It was however a very different scenario which arose.

Though Arsenal did in fact take the lead in the tie it was Hull City who would eventually walk off as victors.

Now generally if a team goes a goal down to a side of the calibre of Arsenal they are going to be in for a torrid time in trying to restrict the team to just that goal.

However it was perhaps, in this case, the self-belief of one player that was transferred to the group of eleven after a moment of individual skill that ended up winning the game for Phil Brown's team.

When Geovanni decided to take a shot from where he did, he did something which not only drew his side level, but showed his team mates that they were not playing against Arsenal because of some fortunate fluke, but because they could very realistically compete with the top sides in Europe.

Geovanni proved they had the things, which at times elude many of the great sides in football—belief based on team unity and continuity.

I had read somewhere recently that Hull City's good form in the games so far had been down to the luck of the side having played against teams that were in disarray in the dressing room and not much good on the pitch either.

The theory here was that if Hull had met these teams in different circumstances that they would have lost the games that they won. Particular reference was made to the two wins they had over much more prestigious London opponents; Tottenham and Arsenal.

Now this may on some level be true.

The overriding factor in these wins was not the skill vs. skill aspect but the good morale vs. bad morale aspect.

This is where Phil Brown had really done his job well. He had to have buoyed the confidence of his team with more positive reinforcement whilst maintaining that they respect opponents while not being overwhelmed with this respect.

Hull City went into both matches with enough belief in their own ability to get the points. The two teams they faced in these matches were definitely the hands down, on paper, favourites.

But the games played out very differently.

While fortune played a large role in both of the matches and the respective results it was also the boldness of the Hull side that enabled them to be beneficent of this fortune.

In Niccolo Machiavelli's famous work "The Prince", the author explains that he sees fortune as having enormous powers over men. But along with the power of fortune it is stated by Machiavelli that, in general, the bold would succeed over the hesitant.

Hull City are a most obvious example of this boldness in action.

It could be said that they were fortunate that certain opponents were struggling with various difficulties at the time of their meetings. But the boldness they showed in putting the sword to the weaknesses of these teams cannot be underestimated in the power of its efficiency.

Exploiting the doubt and uncertainty in their opponents they showed a ruthless enough streak to make certain it was them who left the pitch with the points and the plaudits to go with it.

In its more recognisable form the saying goes, "Fortune favours the brave".

I would say fortune has favoured Hull City and they have showed themselves to be a very brave side indeed.

It may be from now that they have a horror run which sees them back in the Championship next season. Anything could happen.

But I daresay that the start they have had to this season in the English top flight will be remembered for many years to come, whatever happens to these players and their manager.



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