The appointment of England striker coach Allan Russell could transform Aberdeen into the Premiership’s set-piece specialists.
New Dons boss Stephen Glass has secured Russell as his assistant, with the management duo set to begin work at Pittodrie early next week.
Russell will continue to work with strikers such as Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling as part of England boss Gareth Southgate’s back-room staff.
Viewed as a vital cog in his staff by Southgate, the Dons No 2 will work with the English strikers during this summer’s Euro 2020 finals.
It was at a major tournament where the extra edge Russell can bring was highlighted.
Russell, who has a Uefa A licence, was appointed by Southgate in 2017 and tasked with bringing a different dynamic to the attack.
With world-class players like Kane that is a tough ask – but Russell succeeded.
During his time playing in the United States, some of it alongside Glass at Carolina Railhawks, Russell witnessed the specialist coaching for individual positions in gridiron within the NFL.
Following a career playing in Scotland with Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Hamilton and Airdrie United, he felt there was never enough onus placed on how strikers should be coached.
He also witnessed in the States how those positional specialist coaching roles could yield major results. A light-bulb moment came with the realisation of how the utilisation of predetermined and practised “play moves” or “set-pieces” within American sport, such as gridiron and basketball, could turn games.
Ultimately he brought all those lessons to the English national team, with immediate and stunning results.
Prior to the 2018 World Cup, England had failed to score from a total of 72 corners at a major finals stretching back to the World Cup in 2010.
In 2018, on the way to the semi-finals, England set a new record for the most set-piece goals, nine, at a World Cup.
That beat the previous record of eight goals that had stood since 1966 and was set by England and Portugal.
An incredible 75% of their goals (12 in total) came from set-pieces – be it free-kicks, corners or penalties.
That is not down to luck, but meticulous study and coaching by Russell, coupled with drills in training, and the confidence and skill to apply it in a game environment.
Every Premiership team has a goalkeeping coach, so it would seem logical there should be a coach for goal-scorers, which is just as important a role. But most clubs do not have that striker coach. Now Aberdeen have Russell’s expertise.
It will be a big ask to revitalise an attack that has delivered just two goals in 13 games before the end of the season.
— EveningExpress Sport (@ee_sport) April 7, 2021
The strike force will be revamped in the summer, allowing him a fresh canvas.
Goals bring trophies, and a lack of them brings stress and failure. In the hunt for goals, every little advantage – even 1% – can yield big rewards. That is what Russell can bring to Aberdeen and does already with England.
Steven Gerrard’s argument over ban for Nathan Patterson doesn’t make sense
I’m struggling to understand Rangers boss Steven Gerrard’s argument that a four-game ban could damage the career of defender Nathan Patterson.
The 19-year-old, along with Ibrox team-mates Bongani Zungu, Calvin Bassey, Dapo Mebude and Brian Kinnear, received the ban for breaching Covid-19 regulations.
All five received six-game bans, two suspended until the end of the season, for attending a party that was broken up by police in February.
Rangers have appealed the suspensions – although no hearing date has yet been set.
I find it hard to fathom how what is effectively a four- game ban could damage the career of a player Gerrard describes as “one of the brightest prospects ever”.
Patterson will be available again before the end of the season and at only 19 has many years ahead of him.
In February Gerrard admitted the five had been involved in a breach of Covid regulations and that he “felt personally let down”. Since then Patterson has become a first- team starter due to the injury absence of James Tavernier.
The status or form of a player should not be a contributing factor to deciding the lengths of bans for breaches of clear Covid-19 rules.
Rather than damage Patterson’s career, a four-game ban could be the making of the talented teen by teaching him a valuable lesson at an early age that there are consequences to actions.
Hendry v White clash was high on nostalgia, but low on quality
Unfortunately turning back the clock does not guarantee a return to former glories.
The much-anticipated World Championship first-round qualifier between legends Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White was high on nostalgia but low on real quality.
Hendry won 6-3 to keep alive hopes of playing in the worlds again. Sadly White’s defeat means he will likely fall off the tour and will require either success at Q School or a wild card to keep his career alive. It was great to see two greats of the game go head-to-head again, but sadly both looked well off the standard of top stars now.