Hernandez and Dzeko should embrace their 'super sub' status
By Bradley King
There's fifteen minutes left on the clock and your team finds themselves a goal down in a match they really cannot afford to lose. Your manager, exasperated by his players' inability to break down the opposition, turns to his bench for inspiration. Looking back at him are seven expectant faces; hopefully all are desperate to come on and make an impression. But if your manager has one of the game's renowned 'super subs' available to call upon among them, you will be much more confident of getting a result.
A super sub is a team's insurance policy for premier league goals; when plans have not come to fruition as expected, he can emerge to save the day. The front line of the much-coveted 'strength in depth', he is the palm which has the ability to mop the brow of the manager when the pressure is on. He is the audible 'phew' which is collectively uttered by supporters aware they have just avoided an on-pitch close shave.
It's a role which is fast coming back into fashion. Manchester City's Edin Dzeko emerged from the bench to give his side all three points against Spurs this weekend. It was the third time this season that the Bosnian had emerged from the bench in the Premier League to score the winning goal for City.
And Javi Hernandez at Manchester United had an even more spectacular impact. A second half substitute at Villa Park, Hernandez scored twice and forced another to demoralise Aston Villa and extend Sir Alex Ferguson's men's lead at the top of the Premier League table.
Ferguson knows all about the role of the super sub - one of the most famous examples ever gave him his crowning moment as a manager. Having already equalised in the dying embers of the game, United scored a second goal extremely late to win the 1999 Champions League final, the last leg of an amazing treble, at the expense of Bayern Munich. The man who toe poked that ball into the back of the net was, of course, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Norwegian striker scored 29 of his 126 United goals after emerging from the dugout and is widely considered as arguably the greatest of all supersubs according to premier league stats. But what is the trick to becoming such a galvanising influence?
In a 2008 interview with the Daily Mirror, Solskjaer referred to the importance of a positive attitude. He said: "I was very focused on never sulking about not playing. There were a couple of times in friendly games that I didn't do my warm up properly and I was lethargic during the match. After that, I made a pact with myself that whenever you play, you play 100 per cent or there's no point in being here and I wanted to be here.
"My best ability was just being ready when I was called upon. Just being focused on making sure that I could do myself proud and do whatever I could. I always looked forward to the moment I was coming on and I'm fit and my legs are light. It's carpe diem, isn't it? Seize the day."
Hernandez and Dzeko, like Solskjaer before them, are suited to beginning matches on the bench. Evidently, as Solskjaer's trophy cabinet will suggest, these players have a huge role to play within a successful team. They act as catalysts and can energise an entire stadium when making a second half cameo appearance - lifting the players around them and encouraging supporters to find their voices. Ultimately, they can bail out their stuttering team mates with a touch of fantasy football.
But, despite all the glory and inevitable last minute winners, one cold, hard fact remains. Starting a match anywhere other than on the pitch implies that a player is not good enough to make the first 11. Over the medium to long term, such a realisation can be a bitter pill to swallow.