With all the controversy flying around football right now about the throwing of coins and other objects at players, it is sometimes easy to forget that there is a toss of a coin that takes place at every match at every level and sets the scene for all that follows. This is of course the referee's toss up with the team captains for choice of ends.
This age old ritual before the start of the game is, for most observers, a complete irrelevance. On some days the weather can obviously have an effect on the choice with a strong wind blowing down the pitch or, like at Victoria Road on sunny winter Saturdays, a low sun to contend with. Most times though, the teams seem to just play the way they are facing and off we go.
So is this really how it works?
It seems that most clubs have a preference for which way they will play at home in the second half of games. For Spurs it is towards the Paxton Lane End (right, unfortunately not an artists impression of the "new" Victoria Road) and for Liverpool it is towards the Kop for instance. For these clubs this can be easily explained as these areas are where the hard core support tend to be and when things get down to the wire in the second half of tight matches it helps to have the crowd baying at the away keeper and defence.
Dagenham & Redbridge have a marked preference for playing towards our own clock end (left), the Bury Road End of the ground, in the second half. This is so much so that they have played that way in 20 of 24 matches at Victoria Road this season so far. In segregated games the same argument could hold sway, although at Victoria Road most of the baying that goes on comes from the Seive, but in other games this cannot be a significant factor as the crowd tends to change ends with the team.
So does the direction of play figure in Garry Hill's instructions before the game?
It would seem that it does given the comments of the man who has worn the armband most often recently, Steve Heffer (right). "If we do win it, which hasn't happened that much lately (I'm getting a bit like Nasser Hussain) I normally decide which end to attack" said Steve. Of course cricket is one game where the toss is vital to the outcome and luckily football is not nearly so reliant on lady luck.
Against Farnborough Town things turned around for Steve. "We did win the toss and decided to kick towards the clock end as that was the way the wind was blowing and we wanted to try and take advantage of it first." That game ended in a win, although the team found itself 1-0 down within 93 seconds of the start.
But should the team think about this a little more deeply?