Date:Tuesday October 17 2006
Last season Mathieu Flamini was called upon and in no uncertain terms, the boy stepped up.
Playing out of position in one of the most physical and demanding leagues, helping to keep clean sheet after clean sheet in one of the toughest cup competitions on the planet. I challenge anyone to say that this guy was found wanting.
Indeed most of us were more than happy for the young Frenchman to continue at left back while the storm clouds began to surround the now disgraced Ashley Cole. His performances in our defence were characterised by a steely determination not seen since William Wallace sacked York. His attitude was spot on, he did not grumble nor at any stage give less than his absolute all. In keeping with the time honoured phrase, he left it all out on the pitch.
So what of this gutsy and more importantly loyal warrior? How have his herculian efforts been rewarded? Answer, anonymity. It is as if he was washed from the very face of the earth. Okay so he did feature early on in the season, even popping up to score a goal in our Champions League qualifier, but since then it has 'all gone quiet over there'.
I suppose the real question is, do we really care?
Even in those heady days when the European giants fell at our feet and we cheered his name along with the rest of our heroes, we all knew that he was only covering in that position, that it was a temporary fix. That when one of our 'real' left fulls was back (or we bought a new one) that Flamini would go back to his natural position. Mathieu is of course a midfielder, so to reward his loyalty and never say die attitude, who should we drop? Gilberto? Fabregas? Rosicky perhaps? Or Hleb? - Tough one, isn't it? Do we believe that he is good enough to replace any of the above?
In my opinion the answer is no, nor if I am being honest do I want him to play as a reward for loyalty. And if many of you are honest with yourselves I think you will agree. As fans we demand loyalty from each other as we share a common obsession. Equally we project this expectation onto our players, but perhaps this is, to a degree at least, a tad unfair. Don't get me wrong, apart from the serious money these guys earn, it should be considered a priviledge to play professional football for any club, but do we (or those who pick the team at least) owe those same players the same type of loyalty? If we do then perhaps we are being somewhat unrealistic. For despite the expectation we have of our players to live and die for the team, we quickly forget their efforts with the arrival of someone who is quite simply better.
I would like to state that despite what I have written, my hatred of Cashley Mole continues to grow at a steady rate of knots. That said, it is something to think about. We were in need, someone stepped to the breach, but now that the need has waned, the chap has been left to fester.
Such is the fate of the homeless war veteran or to be less dramatic, the ordinary footballer who once raised his game.
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