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McGinn, Grealish and the curse of the creator

Not everything in football is going to pay off. That’s ok.

Aston Villa v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Your voice has never been more powerful than it is today, and today’s voice won’t be as powerful as it is tomorrow. You, if you choose, can be heard. You can speak out in many different ways - and while you might not always get the response that you perhaps crave, you will at least be heard.

How you choose to use that voice is up to you - but more often than not, we have attempted to school ourselves in critical analysis.

Plenty of us, myself including, are too quick to offer critiques. For some, the act of offering the critique is an attempt forecast intelligence. A critique without context however, isn’t an intelligent critique at all, and criticism solely for the sake of criticism isn’t a replacement for common sense. When we critique to mould perfection, we’re in a fools’ game, and could afford more self reflection.

Log on to Goodreads, Letterboxd, IMDB or Metacritic. You’ll see for yourself the places where critical analysis goes to die. In the eons that have passed us by, we reserved the role of analysis for a select few - and we trusted in them. Now, the doors have opened and all opinions are welcome - and trusted.

In essence, this is okay, but where there were once hundreds of voices, there are now tens of thousands - picking and poring over creation. Creation isn’t immaculate conception, there is someone devoting their life to a craft and now they have millions of backseat drivers pointing out flaws, with direct access to the creator.

To be blunt, there is someone listening to your critical voice - and your voice may not be as welcome as you thought it to be.

Generally speaking, your opinions are welcome, but many have forgotten courtesy - and distance. Simply because we have an opinion to offer doesn’t always mean that it needs to be put on display. We can parasocially attach ourselves to creators, and footballers like McGinn and Grealish aren’t any different to authors, directors, artists and developers. These pair are creators, and they are hard workers. They create poetry in motion, they carve out the moments that matter.

The act of creation is to throw things at the wall to see what sticks - and for Jack and John that means footballing ideas and on-pitch experimentation. They try the pass - test the run - because that is what they do. They do not sit and wait for options to formulate, they mold the game to their influence. Sometimes, that means that they miss a pass or lose the ball (also, the curse of the winger - who only has one route to goal, a route that usually passes through an elite full-back).

From our footballing creators, we demand one thing above all else - end product. The issue? We have defined end product as two things - goals and assists - and it is perhaps only in football (and sport in general) where the creator must succeed to validate their title.

There’s an issue here, though, creators don’t often succeed. For every Oscar win, an editor has miles of burnt footage. For every bestseller, an author has hundreds of unfinished works. We do not afford our footballing creators the chance to draft. We expect an untarnished, yet finished product over and over.

During last night’s match with West Ham, Villa pushed on for a later winner - and that involved McGinn bonily driving and twisting through the midfield, and Grealish slicing through the defence with scalpel feet. It involved them playing passes and dribbling. It involved them losing the ball. Why can’t we consider each pass that Grealish missed a simple draft? Why can’t we allow John McGinn the floor to test his runs? The easy answer there is because to allow the draft will allow the creator on the opposite side the opening to flourish should a mistake occur. The riposte? Simple - it’s football. It’s a fluid and ever changing landscape where we expect our most talented to flourish on a consistent basis.

With McGinn and Grealish, the dual eights of Villa’s midfield, we’re very much in danger of taking a good thing for granted. The two players try extremely hard to carve their influence into games, and we’ve become far too conditioned in accepting the extraordinary as the everyday because of this pair. We’ve discussed the act of criticism in bad faith before, and both will be struck with the standards that they have set. To force a critique of these players when it may be unwarranted is to simply raise a point of discussion for the sake of raising a point of discussion to act intelligent.

Nobody should be so powerful as to escape criticism, but criticism doesn’t always need to be offered. Not everything is bad, or awful, or in need of improvement. Some things - like the play of McGinn and Grealish - are good. Sometimes there is nothing left to say, so why fill the void with noise when we can stand back and appreciate it?

Wouldn’t we rather that they try to create then reigning in their abilities? If we ask these two inquisitive footballing minds to deploy the simple, are we muzzling Villa’s attack? This is where we must ponder our opinion, and analysis, and critique ourselves. Are we throwing a voice to the wind of many? What is our purpose and does this prove our support of our beloved football club? A critique does not herald intelligence, and perhaps the first item that a budding analyst or reviewer need consider is the thoughts stemming from their own mind.