A utility player or what some may prefer to call a ‘total player,’ is a footballer who has developed most of the fundamental skills required for the sport and can easily fit into different positions in the field of play as the coach instructs him.
Team managers and coaches sort to have more of this kind of players in their team. This is because modern football requires lots of flexibility and coaches are always switching tactical approaches as each game progress. Therefore, a player may become highly ineffective in the team if he could only play in one particular position or if he is found lacking in some of the fundamental skills I will discuss later on.
I have heard players complain that a coach is playing them out of their best position and that’s the reason they aren’t doing so well. If this hasn’t gotten to you as a footballer, then it’s on the way. Believe me; a coach would someday decide to play you out of your regular position.
There’s nothing wrong with a player specializing in one position and be really good at it, but he’ll be shortchanging himself if he cannot fit into other positions and be good at them as well.
Someday, you’ll probably find someone who is better than you in that position come into the team. That means you will be relegated to warm the bench or become surplus in the team and out of the coach’s plan.
Coaches find it rather difficult to totally relegate a utility player out of the team. He would probably find reason to call up such player to fill in a gap (block a loophole or strengthen the weak side). This is the reason you should start working at becoming a utility player early in your career.
WHAT MAKES YOU A UTILITY PLAYER
1. Playing With Both Feet: A player who can handle the ball well with both feet will always have advantage over the one that uses just left or right foot.
As a young player you should start to learn how to shoot accurately with both feet as well as hold the ball and pass it from one leg to another as you make your moves.
2. Defending Skills: A utility player is one who can win balls 1v1 on ground challenge or aerial battle with an opponent.
A player who shows an intense and focused commitment to defend until possession of the ball is regained from the opponent.
3. Attacking Skills: A utility player is one who has the ability to beat a defender 1v1 situation. The player who has the ability to hold the ball under pressure and make visionary/ accurate passes to fellow team player on the move.
A utility player is one who has knack for scoring goals. Who can shoot accurately at goal and easily displace a goal keeper.
4. Work Rate: Perhaps, this is one skill that catches the coaches’ attention the most. Coaches usually prefer players who can return back in good speed. Who can run thro and fro with exceptional combative spirit to win or intercept the ball from opponent.
A utility player should be able to sustain such work rate (stamina) throughout the duration of a match.
5. Goal Keeping: You may say this isn’t part of it, but sometimes in a game, a player may be required to take the place of the goal keeper.
A utility player should also learn the rudiments of goal keeping and be good at it also.