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Bovril, beer and a smattering of tactical nous – the new football fan

15:32 12 October 2012

Norwich City celebrate Grant Holt

Norwich City celebrate Grant Holt's opener at Stamford Bridge - and unfortunately demonstrate a similar formation to some of their defending later on in the contest. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

©Focus Images Limited +447814 482222

Not that long ago, football analysis was fairly straightforward. It probably involved a pint, a pub and a few mates.

Just saying…

• It’s England Under-21 time at Carrow Road again as Stuart Pearce brings his young lions to Norfolk on Friday. It reminds me of the last time they visited, when my question – whether England felt favourites against Romania – was greeted by a proper Pearce lambasting and a ‘How much Under-21 football do you watch?’ death stare. It remained with Pearce as much as with me, as he mentioned the question in another interview later in the campaign. England went on to win that tie, so I’ll take that as vindication for a reasonable question. And naturally, I wonder if Pearce feels England are favourites against Serbia this time around? I suppose it’ll be cheeky to ask…

• So Liverpool got the goals out of their system here. Meanwhile Stoke are proving to be an even worse watch this season than last.

• DJ Campbell and Richie Wellens are decent players – even on loan, they should help ease Ipswich’s drop fears. But from here, the problems seem to run deeper than that. Big few months ahead there.

It would have meant watching the match highlights, to add to your own viewing pleasure at the game – so forget about armchair fans watching internet streams.

If you wanted to take in all 90 minutes, more often than not you had to be in the ground.

How the landscape has changed since – and especially in the Premier League.

The availability of match coverage is one thing – I don’t need to tell you there is always a stream of every Premier League match somewhere on the web.

And the highlight programmes are all over the place with a plethora of pundits; some of those pundits even occasionally offering insight. But on top of all that, it is amazing the amount of tactical analysis you can now either enjoy, pore over – or even carry out yourself, if you find the right place to do so.

It may well follow on from computer games like Football Manager and back in the day, Championship Manager – where fans could step into the world of working out how to take on a side with a tendency for wing-backs or a reliance on a sweeper.

As time moves forward, the depth of the tactical fashions and intricacies grows.

Indeed, maybe it’s only a matter of time before Simeon Jackson is tried out as a semi-false nine with Jonny Howson playing in the hole ahead of four holding midfielders and an expansive back three, with Wes Hoolahan finding the space between the lines…

At least the good old goalkeeper should stay just that.

There is no doubt in my mind fans have access to more detail than ever on how their club, its management and players are performing. You can find out how often City attack down the left, how much ground Grant Holt is covering and how many crosses end up drifting behind the goal.

Of course, the conversations over a pint down the pub are still prevalent. And whether all this extra information makes those discussions any more accurate, or make fans’ opinions any more reasonable or unreasonable, is open to debate in itself.

But it is another facet to exactly why the beautiful game is now so all encompassing – that’s as clear as 4-4-2.

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