The art of shooting, by Gordon Hodgson (Liverpool F.C.)

September 27, 1930
It is difficult to hold any hard and fast rules when giving advice on the art of shooting, because so much depends on the particular style of each individual forward and on the manner in which he prefers the ball to come to him.

In view of this, I propose to take a general survey of the whole business, and then perhaps will be able to help as many readers as possible. The first thing any young footballer must do if he hopes to become a great forward is learn how to kick a still ball.

Gordon Hodgson, Liverpool F.C.

In First Division football the taking of free-kick or a penalty kick is quite an art, and some players in almost every side in the country are entrusted with the majority of their side’s kicks for the simple reason that they are more powerful than their comrades. So we now realise that in order become an accomplished player you must be able to kick strongly.

The art of shooting does not only apply to the forward line. If a team is to do well, the vanguard must be given every assistance by their halfback line, and consequently the middle men are expected to fire in a shot from time to time.

Many matches in which I have played have been turned in our favour or against us as a result of the goal-scoring ability of an enterprising half who took a chance with his shot and was fortunate and accurate enough to find himself on the target.

It must not be thought that hard shooting is always the most effective. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite is needed if a goal is to be scored. It is not always advisable to try and break the back of the net, for a placed shot would likely enough have a much more satisfactory return.

Great factors.
The real art of shooting may be summed up by saying that it is the art of directing the ball, with or without pace as the situation may dictate, well out of reach of the defenders, especially the rival goalkeeper.

Shooting combines so many features.

For instance, the power and direction of your shot will depend almost entirely on how the ball comes to you and how much space and time you have to work in. One of the great factors in this respect is keeping the eye on the ball. Every successful forward must keep his eye on the ball and at the same time he must have acquainted himself with the position of the goal and the goalkeeper, so that he is able to take the opportunity of a snap shot when the opportunity arrives.

I am sure you will all realise that if you have the ball at your feet and you have to look around to see where the goal is you are wasting valuable time which may make all the difference between a goal and a miss.

Then again let me impress upon you the great importance of being able to shoot with either foot. Here again it is easy to see how much time will be wasted if a forward must change the ball from one foot to the other before he can deliver his shot.

Conditions also play a big part in this matter of shooting. For instance, on a wet day, when the turf is well soaked and consequently slippery you will find that your best plan is often to place the ball away from the goalkeeper rather than attempt to break the back of the net.

The conditions are all against him, and he cannot run across the goalmouth with the same speed and certainty as he could were the ground dry. With mud sticking to his boots and the turf impeding him, you will be surprised how easy shot can beat him at times.

Another matter which calls for careful consideration is the particular type of play of the various goalkeepers you face from time to time. As in League football, they become known to forwards, and their strong points and weaknesses should form the topic of conversation before a match.

Suppose you are facing a goalkeeper who you know is not too safe on a high ball, then it will be your policy to see that you send him something of the stuff to which he is not confident.

Then there is the goalkeeper who dislikes to be charged by an opposing forward. It puts him off his game. Now there is nothing unfair about a good, healthy shoulder charge, and no reason why you should not give him one if he has hold of the ball.

You may say: “What has this to do with shooting?” Well, to my mind, anything that is going to help you to get goals can be written down as shooting, because it all works out at the one end.

Avoid shooting with your toe all costs. You will find yourself much more successful if you shoot with your instep. Not only will you get better direction and pace, but you will also be able control the ball much more comfortably.

Watch for the opportunities
Toe shooting means that the ball is going to be ballooned, and this at once lessens any scoring chances you may have. Really good scoring opportunities are to rare and valuable to miss when they come along, although I am not suggesting that they are never missed.

You will read what noise is made in the Press if in an International match, Cup Final, or important League game a forward misses what appears to be an easy chance of a goal. He is written down as the man to blame, and yet only the player himself or some of those near to him could give a satisfactory explanation of the tragic error, which may have been spinning as he kicked it, and consequently he had missed the ball altogether.

Shooting is an art which can only be conquered like everything else, a result of long and intelligent practice. If a player has a natural inclination and love for the game he is much more likely to pick up hints than player who has been more or less forced into the game.

While on this subject of shooting I think it will be as well to point out that once a player has built up a reputation for himself as a star shot he will be better watched by opposing defences.

This means that tactics must be altered. As your chances have been minimised you must arrange with your colleagues that you try and give them the ball.

If special attention is to be paid to one man, it necessarily means that your colleagues are going to be allowed little more scope. This shows that the art of shooting is as much a topic of team-work as of the individual.

Your fellow-players will have to do what you have been stopped from doing by special marking from the defence.

I would suggest that those of you who are desirous of improving your finishing should change into your football clothes at every opportunity in the season’s early days and try kicking the ball into goal from all angles just as it comes to you, without making any effort to  trap it or get it under control.

Before long you will find that you are beginning to learn a lot of things that can only come after experience.

Practice makes perfect in football much as in any other sphere of life.
(Exeter and Plymouth Gazette: September 27, 1930)

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