It’s not the result that matters

“Y know, it’s the team result that matters at the end of the day.”

This is what professional footballers are trained to say in post match interviews, and what those of us stupid enough to watch and listen to said interviews, week in, week out, get to hear.

This is the obvious platitude because it is what matters for the whole team, but not what matters for each individual player.  Team games, while a collective effort, can never fully negate the first person view of performance, dictated by the selfish gene.  This can work for and against you, and ultimately influences individual post-match mood more than the score.

If your team has narrowly won a hard fought game but you personally feel you played poorly, committing the foul which led to a penalty and brought the opposition back into the game (me yesterday), or felt yourself a generally shaky liability (me yesterday), the team result matters less inside your own head, if you win.

It could be an impression which is amplified in your own head: a kind of body dysmorphia like when you believe a spot to be so large it dominates your whole face, when it may not really appear quite so prominent to others.

“You had a good game today,” a team-mate said without any discernible irony in the pub afterwards.  Unthinking charity, or a reflection that you were simply more anonymous in the whole scheme of the game?  Missable, not a key player, not the calamity you’re painting yourself as either.

It equally works the other way.  If you’re a striker who plays well and scores three goals, but your team-mates in defence have a bad day and concede four, five or six goals, you’re justified in feeling less disappointed.  You did your job, your ego is unthreatened.

Dimitar Berbatov’s performance today for Manchester United against Liverpool was a best case scenario.  You score three excellently taken goals, play well, and your team eventually grinds out a narrow but deserved 3-2 win after an unexpected scare.  Your winning goal poetically arrives after the opposition draws level, making you the undisputed hero, responsible for all three fine goals.

Yet if you’re Jonny Evans, who committed the foul on Fernando Torres which led to a penalty and brought Liverpool back into the game at 2-1, you probably take less pleasure than Berbatov.

Of course Evans will still say “it’s the team result that matters at the end of the day” and feel a bit crap.

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