George Parris: Dementia’s impact means football will have to evolve

As soon as the ball goes off the ground, players will want to naturally head it.

Sir Geoff Hurst was absolutely spot on when he was talking about heading in football, and how players had to work on the technique.

We used to have a swinging ball to help work on our technique even in my day. We used it from an early age – certainly from youth team onwards and you’d spend 10 to 15 minutes on that most days.

You can see why dementia is more prevalent in professional football because there were lots of us who used to do that practice.

As a defender, you’d set it so you could practice heading it up and away. But you’d also put it at a level where you’d need to attack it.

It was a part of training with players doing it off their own backs after training, and I fear there will be more to come about this with lots more footballers struggling with dementia.

I’m not sure how the authorities will be able to address this problem because you have to head the ball in the game.

Perhaps they will say up to a certain age – say 16 – you aren’t allowed to head the ball. Maybe up to that point they can practise their technique using foam or softer balls?

Or maybe players won’t learn how to head a ball until they are in the youth team and working their way up to the first team?

I don’t think you can stop heading in football. As soon as it goes off the ground, players will want to naturally head it.

I just keep thinking about the scenario where from kick off the ball goes back to a defender who hits a long ball into a certain area for a player to head it on.

What would happen in the future? The players would have to wait for the ball to bounce so they can try to bring it under control?

Looking ahead to January and thoughts will soon start to turn to the FA Cup and fans will be asking what needs to happen for us to be able to go on a cup run?

It’ll come down to the squad and how many players we have fit come the end of December when the games come thick and fast.

As much as you don’t want to rotate a confident side, this month is where you need all your squad to play their part. 

The other factor is points on the board. If we get to January with plenty of points on the board and a fit squad, then really we don’t have an excuse for not going for the cup.

Don’t forget, you are only a few games away from the quarter finals and then a semi final at Wembley.

The rule is the rule…

I know there’s been a lot of debate about VAR disallowing Watkins’ goal for Villa against us but the rules are the rules – he was offside.

It was good that VAR went for us for a change and I’m sure over the course of the season these decisions will level out.

One thing that wasn’t looked at with that disallowed goal was that his upper arm was fractionally offside because he was trying to get away from Angelo Ogbonna, who was holding him.

It wasn’t given as a penalty because it was not a clear and obvious error. But to me, that’s a foul.

I always think of these decisions from my team’s point of view. How would we have felt had that been Antonio? We’d have wanted a penalty – we got away with it.

Looking at the games in December, if we can get at least 10 points then that would be a good return.

You look at the fixtures in December and you think we’ll get three points here, and a point there but let’s go game by game and hopefully come the end of the month we’ll get into double figures.

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