THE WONDERER: Players should never get lost on the pitch
11:00am Monday 30th December 2013 in Sport
GEOGRAPHY was always one of my favourite lessons at school and until that pesky Soviet Union set the precedent for big countries breaking up, I would happily identify the capital, flag and highest peak of every nation on the planet.
That grasp on cartography has come in useful in the football world too; for example, I know that West Brom’s Hawthorns home is the highest of the 92 Premier League and Football League grounds above sea level, while Southampton’s St Mary’s is the lowest, at least since Grimsby Town dropped into the Conference.
While you contain your amazement, it has also come to my attention that the humble old football pitch is also a more complicated terrain than you might give it credit for.
It isn’t just a game of two halves, two penalty boxes and three circles split into halves and quadrants. There is a lot more to take in.
Armed with a new set of Crayolas and a spare afternoon on Christmas Day, I set about making a map that may one day be standard issue for any new signing. We’ll start with the penalty box, which is separated into four distinct zones.
The six-yard box explains itself and also borders what is known as the “corridor, or zone, of uncertainty,” a mystical area in which wingers can cross the ball and cause untold havoc for their opponents.
Beyond that you have goalkeepers’ no man’s land. This is an area traditionally around the penalty spot where the keeper would often be made to look foolish by an approaching striker with a quick shimmy or perhaps a cheeky lob into the back of the net.
On the very edge of the box you have a patch of land that causes problems for free-kick takers around the world because, for some unknown reason, it is “too close to get the ball up and down.” But a few steps back, you have a disputed patch of land that belongs to the best free-kick taker in your team. Around 22 yards from goal, we have what is currently referred to at the Reebok as “Chris Eagles territory.” It has previously belonged to Jay Jay Okocha, Matt Taylor and Richard Sneekes.
Either side of the penalty box you have “The Channel” – a part of the pitch where forward players are expected to run without reward. Presumably there is some type of financial recompense as they are often found working there too.
In the extremities, you have the corners. Should you be protecting a lead, this is where your manager will inevitably scream for you to take the ball and waste some time.
If the scorelines are level, then this part of the pitch is often described as “nowhere,” as in, “why did you foul him, he was going nowhere.”
Fifteen yards either side of the half way line you have the “Engine Room” which is occupied by midfielders or the occasional rampaging defender.
Slightly further forward from this central point is “The Hole” – which is a zone of the pitch usually reserved for number 10s.
Either side of the pitch is a touchline, a dugout and a technical zone, while at either end you have a byline.
Surrounding the pitch tend to be seats, but are usually called stands. Anything about the first tier of seating is usually referred to as Row Z – the destination for many a wayward shot.
So that’s it for orientation. I hope you have found my tour of the pitch informative.