Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Saturday October 21 2006
Howdy people, it's been a while has it not? But for once I've been a little snowed under with work which explains my infrequent posts. The death and subsequent resurrection of vital football has terminated my existential crisis as life again takes on meaning again. (From this day forth let 16th October be referred to as Good Monday).
Anyway, I've had this article in mind for a while, but with vital football still receiving CPR on the pavement outside the dog and duck, I had to put it on hold. Like most great ideas it was borne out of the bottom of a creamy guinness glass. Some mates and I were having a slurred discussion over a few jars which I felt would be easy prey for our forum members. So, just who is your favourite non-Arsenal player?
Before I give my suppositions, I must assert the somewhat drunken ground rules imposed by myself and my ale guzzling chums. Firstly, it cannot be a former player, otherwise Villarreal's French wizard would probably hoover up most of the votes- Pires might get the odd vote too! The other condition is that it must be a current professional who either does now, or has plied his trade in the Premiership. So no Ronaldinho's or Romario's please. A pre requisite I insisted on is that it cannot be somebody obvious, in the interests of a stimulating debate, there can be no, 'that Rooney looks like he might be a bit good.' I'm thinking more here along the lines of which players you've, perhaps inexlicably, had a soft spot for. As much as I admire and revere the talents of Scholes, Makelele and Aaron Lennon, let's face it, they are the nemesis so they are not worthy of my prestigious vote.
Needless to say, in my drunken stupour, I considered my answer very carefully, before belching my answer through ale soaked breath. But there were two players who immediately shot to my mind. The first I believe is somebody who has a place in the hearts of most gooners and a player I would love to have seen grace our red and white. His scoring record against us in the 90s was impeccable (not 'elbows' Shearer then) and he ruined many of my afternoons, but I think that grudging respect undertook a new dimension one spring evening at Highbury. The player of which I speak is of course Robbie Fowler. Nearly ten years ago at Highbury (was it really that long ago?) Fowler went through one on one with Seaman, having hurdled Spunky's challenge with no contact whatsoever, the referee pointed to the spot. Amazingly, Fowler turned around and pleaded to the referee to reverse his decision. Of course, referees being the supersillious meglomaniacs they are, the plea fell on deaf ears. (I'm also convinced Fowler missed the subsequent penalty on purpose, only for McAteer to ruin the chirade).
However, it is not only his remarkable act of sportsmanship which earns my admiration. Fowler is a predator, somebody who was put on this earth with a mission to score goals. I suppose my admiration for him stems from his likeness to our own Ian Wright, a player who lived for goals and could score all sorts of them. Fowler also demonstrates an awareness to the paying public which extends beyond a cursory applause at the final whistle- and this has got him in trouble on numerous occasions. Who could forget his brilliant retort to Evertonian cries of 'coke head' when he celebrated a goal by getting to his knees and pretending to snort the touchline in front of them? It wasn't big, it wasn't overly clever but it was bloody funny! Being a celery munching lefty, he also ingratiated himself with me by revealing a 'save the liverpool doCKers' slogan on a calvin klein tee shirt. Whatever your political sympathies, it was a gesture that was in touch with the Liverpool area. It was Martin Luther King who said, 'the measure of a man is where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.'
However, he does not get my casting vote. The bum waving at Graeme Le Saux could be construed as a comical incident, but did have homophobic undertones, whether deliberate or not. No, believe it or not given my distaste for that disgusing slob Allardyce, my vote goes to a Bolton player. A man for whom the phrase consummate professional was invented (not 'elbows' Shearer then). Step forward Gary Speed. A busy and quite unspectacular midfield player, who glories in 'doing the laundry' in central midfield. Speed is a member of an exclusive club of players who has played in the Premiership in every season since its inauguration (not 'elbows' Shearer then). Speed has been the heartbeat of a title winning Leeds side (a sighter into how old he actually is!), the fulcrum of Everton and Newcastle sides suffering illusions of grandeur. At the age of 37, he has adapted his game to be a key component of Bolton's success. The more youthful Speed was a dynamic attacking midfielder with a penchant for late arrivals in the area, a true box to box midfield player. However, with age putting something of a creak into his limbs, he intelligently adapted his game to become a top 'screener.' Even at 37, he rarely misses games and has an attitude to admire. The Premiership is a ferocious league played at break neck pace, Speed has been in the heart of the battle for 15 years now, and shows no sign of abating. In his long stint in the top flight, can anybody remember a diving controversy, or an act of thugishness from Speed? (Don't forget, he plays for Bolton!) Have their ever been any pictures of him stumbling out of night clubs with page 3 girls clambering all over him? Speed is the epitome of how the modern footballer should conduct himself and pursue his profession and for this reason, as well as his undoubted qualities, I've always had a soft spot for him. Since the Leeds side of 91, I've always felt Speed was unfortunate not to find himself in a United or Arsenal or Liverpool side. I think this is indicative of the quiet and dignified manner in which he conducts himself. Even now, his age defying performances draw little more than a murmur from thse who'd rather drool over Michael Owen flogging fast food to young children. Speed is a criminally under rated player, a team player, and this probably goes some way to explaining my liking to him. (With the time now precisely 3pm on Saturday, doubtless I will turn on soccer saturday to find he has been sent off for diving then spitting on the referee before groping a female steward).
So who does you vote go to? Who is the player you have had an irrational soft spot for? As a disclaimer, I should say, if anyone says Alan Shearer or Steven Gerrard, I will personally come to your house and urinate on your favourite house plant! I now throw open the forum.
Date:Saturday October 21 2006
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