In the era of one substitute the selection could have great significance. Before squad rotation was the modus operandi, wearing the No. 12 jersey indicated that you were now a player on the fringes or at best that you could cover a number of positions if you were called upon.
It was a pointer for the rest of your career, or certainly your time at your current club if you didn’t make the eleven.
I sometimes think that with only a single substitute the managers had a more difficult task in picking a single sub as it was a card he could play only once, furthermore he would be asked to make his choice in advance to cope with conditions that lay ahead in a match yet to be played. Sounds like 3D chess!
More substitutes, initially to cover for an injured goalkeeper, were eventually to come, and it is rare today that a side doesn’t use the three that it is permitted; to strengthen defensively to hold onto what has been hard won or to dramatically go on the offensive.
When the Bees won at Gateshead recently the winning goal by Jake Hyde was scored after forwards Harry Crawford and Marciano Mengerink had entered the fray with Barnet striving to claim a victory with a three pronged strike force; in contrast the Jake’s usual lonely furrow.
And even last week those on the bench played a crucial role. Substitute Crawford’s late winner, with possibly his first touch, gave the Bees a victory which indicated the value of having game-changers to call upon and the key role they play in determining the outcome of matches.
Back in the days of the single sub coming off the bench and getting a goal there was an un-written rule that if you got on the scoresheet you’d be selected in the starting XI the next game. It remains to be seen if Crawford has done enough, but, if previous examples are a guide, that un-written rule had been overtaken by events.
The upside for those who find themselves on the bench is that they have a greater chance than ever before of being called upon. But when you look at the string of subs in a Champions League match, the individuals might be well rewarded, and when they are not giggling and gossiping you’d imagine they started playing football at a young age for the exhilaration of running around – not for the sitting down.