You’re sitting in the changing room waiting for the coach to put the team sheet on the board. The eleven names are written down, yet your name is not on there, instead being placed on the substitutes’ list.
Straight away you feel deflated, frustrated and angry that you aren’t playing. But all is not lost.
Years ago there were few substitutes allowed, with only one being allowed to replace a player up until the 1986/87 season. Slowly and gradually more substitutes have been allowed with seven now on the bench and three of those players to be substituted in.
The game is changing and so is the role of the substitute.
So if you’re placed on the bench, don’t think your game is over and that there is no opportunity.
The role of the substitute is important and has a key part to play in any game.
Firstly, it is important that you don’t feel dejected, instead seeing the role of a substitute as an opportunity. If you’re sitting on the bench, feeling down and unhappy, that can easily be seen by the coaches. Do the coaching staff put you on the pitch if they see you dejected, miserable and unmotivated because of their decision?
They may be concerned that you won’t have a good game because of this.
It’s likely that the answer is no. So what you need to do is accept the situation; you are a substitute, and that won’t change. While the game is going on be invested in it, watch the opposition and see what they are doing, how they are playing. Defenders can watch the movement of the attackers and learn about their behaviours, putting you in a good position to go and nullify their threat.
For attacking players there is also a great opportunity. Wingers can see how the full back deals with a one on one situation, forwards can assess where the space is and make life difficult for the defender.
There is a huge amount of opportunity.
But you may miss that if you aren’t invested in the game while you are on the sidelines.
You can be on the bench and think of how frustrating it is, or how wrong the coaching team’s decision has been. But use this, use that feeling as a motivation to go out there and change the game, making sure that next week you are back in the team.
Over the years there have been a number of players who just seem to do better as a substitute. Probably the most famous of those is Manchester United’s current Manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
In Solskjaer’s career at Man United he scored a total of 126 goals, with 29 off the bench. His most famous one coming in the 1999 Champions League Final, showing how important it is to keep the right mindset when you are on the bench.
United had just scored the equaliser, from Teddy Sherringham, in the first minute of injury time. As they attacked one more time Solskjaer won a corner, which David Beckham whipped in to the box. A quick flick at the near post from Sherringham allowed Solskjaer, at the back post, to stick out a big toe and direct the ball in to the top corner.
Cue the pandemonium.
If Solskjaer had been on the bench unprepared, because he had been so upset by missing out on the biggest game of his career, there would be a good chance that he would never have been in that position to score one of the greatest goals in the club’s history.
It’s all about having the right mindset.
See the role of being a substitute as a great opportunity.
The teams on the pitch have been working hard for 75 minutes, on a rainy day and heavy pitch. Legs are becoming heavy and the quality on the ball is becoming less; some players unable to track their runs, or get to the loose ball in time, due to fatigue. The game needs something different, an injection of pace, a direct dribble, or a player who is prepared to take on that shot from distance.
You can be that player.
Realise that if you’re coming on to the pitch you have a great advantage; you’re sharp, fit, technically ready and also understanding of the game.
You can see how the game is going, you can see what the opposition are doing and how the game has played out.
With this physical advantage and psychological advantage you can make a huge impact on the game. Potentially even game winning.
Nowadays the role of a substitute isn’t actually a negative. There’s a good chance you’ll get on the pitch and you’re definitely not there to make up the numbers. Some managers will decide to use a player as a substitute because they feel that they will have a bigger impact on the game in the last few minutes. It’s not just because you aren’t as good as the starting eleven.
In some cases a manager may feel that the game will be very tight, hard fought and competitive. Knowing that there is a quick striker on the bench with a great eye for a goal could just be the game winning decision.
It’s a tactical game, but if you’re the player you mustn’t let your emotions get the better of you. See the opportunity, prepare yourself and analyse the game that is being played. Realise what you need to do so that when you get on the pitch you are ready to make a difference.
It doesn’t take long to change a game and you could have been put on the bench to be exactly that player.
Make sure that you have a positive mindset, giving yourself the best chance to go and turn your introduction to be the most important part of the game.
I’ve seen it happen before and it will happen again.
Go on, enjoy the opportunity and change the game. Do that and there is a very good chance that you’ll be starting next week.