Just what is so difficult about away matches?

Something I have never understood, along with logarithms, the Northern Lights and how planes stay in the air, is why football teams appear to have such an ingrained phobia against playing away from home.

Why is that that grown men can jump on a plane and head for a strange but very sunny holiday destination every summer full of the joys of spring, and not worry about a thing? Yet when they have to get on a bus to play football – their job – just a few hours up the road, they can easily shrink into their shells.

Why is it that managers decide to take a different approach away from home, to satisfy the 'away effect', which is that home teams will, naturally, play better at home, therefore action ahs to be taken to counter that. That action is usually to adopt a more cautious approach, as if that matters.

The dimensions are the same, the rules are the same, the objects with which the trade of football are played are the same. The only differences I can see are the bus/plane journey, the hotel, and the changing rooms. You might want to add in there the noise of the home fans is different as well, but as every footballer I have ever asked the question 'Did the fact the fans were calling you a useless so and so have any bearing on the way you played?' has always answered, 'no, you tend not to hear them when you are playing' then I will assume the crowd have nothing to do with performance.

So it's as you were then: is the lack of home comforts – Friday night with the family, drive into the city in the Audi, familiar dressing room – the reason so many people consider away trips to be so much more challenging?


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There must be some sort of hidden black spot in footballer's brains which says 'away game; difficult; attitude change'.

Last season the teams that finished in the bottom three and were relegated were QPR, Reading and Wigan. On home form alone, they would all have gone down; on away form, Wigan would have been replaced by Norwich City. City's form at Carrow Road was good enough to keep them up – it was the 10th best in the Premier League, but they won just twice on the road, and one of those was an end-of-season affair which no one predicted as they triumphed at Manchester City, already forlornly looking at their neighbours celebrating winning the Premier League.

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Now there will be those who, like me, suffer a certain degree of homesickness once I cross the county boundary for any length of time. That would suggest the feeling is pretty much across the board – once out of familiar territory, the brain switches on to uncomfortable mode, prompting a desire for the familiar comforts of home. But footballers?

Because they do it every other week. Because many clubs have among their vast coaching staff a man whose role it is to teach the brain to think of nothing but the football match. To footballers it should be easier to accept doing the job away from home and doing it as well as they would at home.

It seems to me the home and away thing is the perfect example of why a lot of football depends on what happens between the ears.

Wayne Rooney was pretty typical of most football people in midweek when he snapped at the ITV chap during the post-match interview for having the temerity for trying to get the Manchester United man to answer the question everyone wanted to hear.

Having softened him up with a 'that's better after that awkward summer' question, Gabriel Clark asked the man who had just scored two goals in the 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen whether he really had asked to leave the world's biggest club in the summer.

'Listen, I've just told you,' Rooney said. 'I am concentrating on my football which I've been doing all summer.'

No, Wayne, you didn't just tell anyone; you evaded the question. Why? Don't all those fans with Rooney shirts on their backs have a right to know the truth? People who have invested in the name Rooney are left in the dark for no good reason. Well, not that we know of.

Wayne Rooney was pretty typical of most football people in midweek when he snapped at the ITV chap during the post-match interview for having the temerity for trying to get the Manchester United man to answer the question everyone wanted to hear.

Having softened him up with a 'that's better after that awkward summer' question, Gabriel Clark asked the man who had just scored two goals in the 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen whether he really had asked to leave the world's biggest club in the summer.

'Listen, I've just told you,' Rooney said. 'I am concentrating on my football which I've been doing all summer.'

No, Wayne, you didn't just tell anyone; you evaded the question. Why? Don't all those fans with Rooney shirts on their backs have a right to know the truth? People who have invested in the name Rooney are left in the dark for no good reason. Well, not that we know of.

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