Heritage


Valeriy Lobanovsky a starring winger with Dynamo, he managed his hometown team Dynamo Kyiv for 21 years while also building the wonderful USSR teams of 1986 and 1988 around an armature of Kyiv players.

More than this Lobanovsky was a pioneer. He addressed football management as a wide-ranging empirical study, seeking informed scientific deduction above the more nebulous folk-football wisdom of his dugout contemporaries. He sent scouts to compile analysis of opponents, he requisitioned a computer from Moscow to crunch his own player performance stats, he made gnomic pronouncements ("There is no such thing as a striker, a midfielder, a defender") and even staged occasional blindfolded five-a-side games to illustrate theatrically the importance of positioning.

And yet it would be wrong to cast Lobanovsky as a "dry" figure, some clanking Soviet chess computer disdainful of human variation and seeking only the perfect piston-powered kicking foot. Lobanovsky was a product of the Soviet 1950s: a time, as in the West, of progress and technological optimism. For Lobanovsky the distillation of eleven competing blobs on a pulsing pre-modern computer grid appears to have also contained thrilling human variables, an applied chemistry to be grasped by study and fine adjustment.

As recently as the early 1990s this all still seemed fairly alien in English football, an example of extreme cultural variety: the Soviet robot-man with his bleep-box and his team of furrowed zealots. No longer though. Lobanovsky has now effectively won. Guardiola, Mourinho, Allardyce: all modern European managers carry his influence. And the protective sheath of numerical analysis is now a primary tool, not just of tactical tinkering, but of player procurement and the image-fluffing management of defeat. Even more decisively, the Lobanovsky notion of a living human science has affected the way people interpret and appreciate football, dovetailing with the sport's consumption as an ever-present digital entity.

* abstract in taken from the Guardian and was wtitten by Barney Roney

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