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The Danny Hall Chronicle at Sheffield United: Debunking the Ollie Norwood Myth and Not Beating the First Man UK News

Oliver Norwood of Sheffield United crosses the ball against Huddersfield Town: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Football arguably has more clichés than most sports, and most of them are pure nonsense. Why can’t “big men” also control a soccer ball? Two zero is not always a dangerous road. It’s actually pretty comfortable, and a hell of a lot more comfortable sight than 1-0. And managers, contrary to popular belief, often know exactly where the locker room is when people speculate they have lost it.

To complement the ever-expanding soccer cliché book, can I gift one that I see and hear over and over again on game day, in real life and on social media? “Ollie Norwood can’t beat the first man in the corners.”

It became almost ubiquitous on game day, as familiar to the Saturday routine as the line up at the box office at five to five or the scream of “Programs, three and fifty!” guy.

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The phenomenon is called the “illusory truth effect” – in layman’s terms, the more you hear something that is blatantly wrong, the more people are likely to believe it.

It fits perfectly with the psyche of football fans that no loss or bad result is ever due to the opposition playing well and deserving it, or pure bad luck. We instinctively search for someone to blame. And when there’s no one around, some fans invariably find one to pin it down anyway.

It’s not just a Sheffield United business, but every successful era has had a boo-boy. Nick Montgomery got more feedback from his own fans for what he couldn’t do, rather than an appreciation for what he could. Oli McBurnie is a more modern take, with his signing often being completely seen as a failure despite his obvious successes.

After spending a glorious half hour reviewing every Norwood set-piece this season on Wyscout, the “He never beats the first man” is easily debunked. In fact, he often does – one in 16 corner this season so far has been taken by that “first man,” a 94 percent success rate.

His delivery of set pieces is not perfect, far from it, but is simply a myth to ridicule him at the same time. Wyscout currently ranks him as the sixth best defensive midfielder in the Championship – in a team currently 23rd in the table – and among United’s three midfielders, including John Fleck and Sander Berge, Norwood has more shots per game, more than assists, highest percentage complete and, overall, more “action”, both offensive and defensive.

Following the late signings of Conor Hourihane and Morgan Gibbs-White, United have much better options in the middle of the park and one of Norwood and Fleck – or maybe both – could soon be taken off the firing line by Slavisa Jokanović, possibly as early as next weekend’s home game with Peterborough United.

But it would be foolish, for my money, to cancel either right away. They have served this club well and have the capacity to do it again, although their conviction and confidence have taken a hit. After all – cliché alert – it’s a game of opinions …

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This notice was published: 2021-09-03 17:10:35

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