From hockey to football: The history of pressing

Everyone talks about pressing, from embarrassing commentators on television to bastards at pubs. But what is pressing, how does it work and who is the first to use it?

In 1934, a hockey coach named Thomas Patrick Gorman – or more briefly Tommy Gorman – came up with an idea. Until that time, hockey teams were playing with their instincts when there was no ball: backing down to defend the goal from an opponent’s attack. Gorman wondered what would happen if he did it the opposite way, when they put up and put pressure on the opponent to deploy attacks from the first steps?

coach named Thomas Patrick Gorman – or more briefly Tommy Gorman – came up with an idea. Until that time, hockey teams were playing with their instincts when there was no ball: backing down to defend the goal from an opponent’s attack. Gorman wondered what would happen if he did it the opposite way, when they put up and put pressure on the opponent to deploy attacks from the first steps?

Klopp Pochettino - Squawka

Gorman directs the strikers to put maximum pressure on the opposing players who are deploying the ball. One approaches the player who holds the ball near the opponent’s goal, others block the pass. Gorman also asked the defenders to block in the middle to cut the pass quickly or block the opponent if the puck crosses the striker.

Gorman’s students puzzledly scratched their heads, because it was like suicide. If one of them failed to complete the task, the opponent would have a large gap in front of them. And even when everyone is good at their duties, a group of wise and technical defenders can completely get out of the noose with a series of quick passes.

We have no idea how Gorman has convinced his team. Perhaps he told them that wise and technical players don’t want to be defenders. It took some time for his hockey team to get used to the new tactic. They lost four of the first five matches. But then what must have come. Gorman’s team turned into a machine.

Eight decades later, Gorman’s reform in hockey in North America was mentioned by all English football, although not by the name of “forechecking”. What people talk about today is called “pressing.”

The reason this tactic is so prevalent: Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp are using it to make a big impact at Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, and they both love talking about it.