In the passion of football, fans watching the game and screaming for effort and commitment from players, it is often easy lot miss the intricacies of the game itself. Focusing on the missed cross field pass by a player often clouds your judgement to the link up play before the errant pass or the tracking back and tackle to deny the opponent a clear shot on goal. As coach Tony D'Amato said in 'Any Given Sunday', "football's a game of inches" and that these 'inches' are all around, in every break of the game and in every play.
Fair dos, it was American Football but the adage still stands - we need to look at the small things a player does to really understand their worth and not focus on the supposedly massive errors that are often too obviously visible.
So, Rodolph Austin, what do we know about him? Would Leeds United really miss him should this supposed transfer away from the club go ahead? After all, we've just signed Palermo's Granddi N'Goye on loan until the end of the season and he's a similar player. First up, Austin is a beast of a unit - often unshiftable in the tackle and this shows in the stability of his tackles figures. Last season, Austin attempted around 4.5 tackles per 90 minutes and was successful with 3.6 tackles per 90 (season total 178 attempts - 141 successful tackles - 79% tackle success) and that has pretty much continued in this season's Championship campaign. So far he has been attempting around 4.2 passes per 90 minutes and has been successful with around 3.4 of these attempts (season total so far 67 attempts - 54 successful tackles - 80% tackle success). So, if N'Goye were to step into Austin's boots, then he is going to have to be a high-volume tackler with a high success rate.
Rodolph Austin also comes with a reputation as an enforcer, helping to shut down the productivity of opponents' midfield players. In that respect, Austin has a decent number of intercepted passes, more so per 90 this season than last. This season Rudy is making around 1.8 interceptions per 90 minutes (28 in total) versus a per 90 return last season of 1.1 interceptions per 90 (45 in total). In this respect, what Rodolph Austin has shown is an increased effort and efficacy in anticipating opponent ball and intercepting passes before they reach their intended target. In regard to reading the game, I don't think that Austin is given sufficient credit in getting into the right places and making effective stops and blocks; a skill that represents another important facet of his game. Austin is efficient at being in the right place, at the right time; blocking around 1.2 and 1.4 passes per 90 minutes for this season and last season respectively. Again should N'Goye or any other Leeds player wishing to step up to the mark would need to be able to cover these areas.
But, Rodolph Austin isn't simply a defensively-imposing figure hewn from obsidian; there is actually more to him than that.
Passing, something that you wouldn't expect would link up with a defensively-minded midfield player. However, it is something that Rudolph Austin does well and something that has improved since last season's Championship campaign. Last season, he had 1144 successful passes (25.3 short passes and 3.7 long ball passes) from 1472 attempts (77.70% accuracy); this season has seen him register 615 successful passes (33.8 short passes and 4.7 long ball passes) from 766 attempts (80.40% accuracy). Since last season, Austin has developed into a higher volume, more accurate passer of the ball which has been helped by his seemingly perpetual energy and drive. Again, any potential replacement would need to cover this area of Austin's play.
So, it does seem that on face-value, Leeds United fans are guilty of judging Rodolph Austin for errant passes making up 20% of his game, the one time he is caught out of position as a ball is played past him or that 1 tackle he misses in the 90 minutes he plays. I'll concede that he's a little trigger happy and hardly Mr Accurate Shooter with shots either destined screaming for the top corner or the car park behind the stands.
OK, so it's Rodolph Austin rather than Steve Austin; more likely a sub-£1 million rather than $6 million man but, even so, Leeds would be a little crazy even by our standards as a club to let him go.
Thing is, crazier stuff has happened down LS11 way.