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A Striking Telepathy

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Daniel Sturridge developed an instant onfield rapport with Luis Suarez, a fact which has contributed to his immediate impact at Liverpool Football Club. The England striker has been giving his views on the understanding between the two men.

Alex Livesey

Bill Shankly's all-conquering 70s team was built on the double-act of Kevin Keegan and John Toshack. So uncanny was their reading of each other's game that Granada Television decided to conduct an experiment to test their supposed 'telepathy.'

The men were sat back to back and given cards with symbols. Each had to guess what the other's card displayed. There was stunned silence in the studio as they made the right call repeatedly. This was it. Telepathy was real. What a scoop! Then Keegan collapsed giggling and admitted that he could see the big Welshman's cards reflected in the camera lens.

Since then, an array of football pundits have continued, undeterred, pontificating about telepathy between players. It's a concept that has become embedded in the culture of cliche that constantly lingers around football, like a cheap, pungent cologne. My own boyhood heroes, Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush, were referred to virtually every week in the Sunday papers as having 'an almost telepathic understanding.'

This, of course, was absolute guff; bunkum and blatherskite of the highest order. Good footballers do not communicate on some extra sensory plane. Their footballing intelligence allows them to think quicker and adapt more readily in any given scenario. When they do so in tandem, it is one of the game's most precious sights. Alas, for the advocates of all things telepathic, it has little to do with any mental communion.

Striking partnerships are a part of Liverpool football club's fabric. Successive generations of fans have been captivated by the skillful interactions between Roger Hunt and Ian St. John, Toshack and Keegan, Rush and Dalglish, and, latterly, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. Now, there are the early signs of another very promising double-act emerging at Anfield. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have quickly established the kind of understanding that could stand Liverpool in very good stead next season.

The footballing connection between the two men was instant, says Sturridge, and the clever link-play between them has been one of the reasons so many of us allowed our optimism to build in the last two months.

"It was from the first couple of training sessions," said the England striker. "When you play with somebody, you can know what they're going to do. We've never really spoken about it."

For an uneasy moment, the door to the mysterious land of telepathic footballers is ajar once more, until Sturridge clarifies:

"We spoke when I first signed, about positional things - that was the first time we played with each other. but since then, I just think we understand each other and the way the other plays. It's not just Luis and myself, it's Stevie G behind us."

Another kick in the teeth for believers in non-verbal, neuro-expression then, but a reminder that good footballers will always find ways of playing well together.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the possibility that this partnership may not be intact next season. The recent frank quotes from Suarez have made folk very jumpy indeed; perhaps unnecessarily so. Let us ignore the pesky pachyderm in the corner and presume that all will be well. Optimism and blissful ignorance are easily enough achieved by adopting the following strategy: Simply place your index fingers in your ears and repeat after me, "La la la la, I can't see or hear you Mr Elephant."