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THE amusing story of spying allegations flying around between Cardiff City and Crystal Palace are a welcome comic distraction from everyone becoming too hung up on the importance of sport.

Whether or not Palace had sight of the team Cardiff picked before their match last week is irrelevant to the outcome of the game. I suspect that, even without spying, most managers, indeed most fans, could name the likely line up in most matches, as the squad available to each manager is public knowledge and the number of combinations he can play is severely limited.

So, the idea that knowing much about an opponent, including their team selection, is a competitive advantage, is hooey.

During one of the recent Lions rugby union tours to Australia, there was a brouhaha about one teams' line out calls being left in a cab and then coming into the possession of the opposition.

Being rugby union the debate was conducted with appropriate gravity and the tone of accusation and counter accusation would not have been out of place in a Cold War melodrama. Actually, it made no difference as one team had players of such height that their opponents could not have snaffled their line out ball without the help of a cherry picker, never mind their 'codes'.

However, the best example of hubris in the disclosure of pre-match sports tactics - occurred in the build up to the World Heavy Weight Boxing match between Trevor Berbick and Mike Tyson in November 1986.

Berbick's trainer was so confident that his man was going to win that he was happy to discuss tactics with anyone prepared to listen. The plan, he said, was really quite simple. Berbick was a lot taller than Tyson, he had a longer reach, and was much more experienced, having fought many more top fighters including Mitch Green, Pinklon Thomas and Mohammad Ali, who Berbick defeated when the 39 year old was miles past his best. For the first few rounds, Berbick would toy with Tyson, hit him with the jab and some fast combinations, and generally have him at sixes and sevens. After a few more rounds of this exhibition of skill and speed, Berbick would get the signal from his corner that Tyson had suffered enough, and he would finish him off: all to be done within about seven or eight rounds.

Mike Tyson knocked Trevor Berbick out after two minutes and thirty five seconds of Round Two, and Berbick's trainer was asked how come his pre-fight tactics had not worked. 'Well', he said, 'Mike just did not stick to our plan'!


EYE SEE YOU: Tony Pulis (left) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 20, 2014
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