When god was dolling out physical attributes like speed, agility, balance or just a basic coordination of limbs, some of us missed out. For us lesser gifted souls, having a kickabout with some infants is this the closest we’ll get to being really good at football. Goading five year olds into tackles they cannot possibly win, adding a bit of commentary, “oh he’s still going, they can’t stop him, this is sensational!”, and finally, taunting the keeper by performing the worst and most deliberate step over ever. Of course, this is the only time someone like me would dare attempt a moment of flair; if I tried it on a fives pitch with my mates I’d suffer such a swift and brutal humiliation that I wouldn’t feel confident playing a simple pass for weeks. Playing football with massively inferior opponents is therefore great. Being a big fish in a small pond might seem unambitious. But, on the other hand, why expose your talents to their limitations if you don’t have to? Better to ply your trade at level were you can thrive. Clearly some professionals agreed.
In my mind, the lower league showboater is one of the finest and most important characters in the game. If you’re going to play at a s**t level, you may as well live out your fantasies and be fawned over by your public. In recent years no one has shown more dedication to this role than the magnificently named Lee Trundle. We hadn’t seen swagger like this since Ricky Otto played a pass with the outside of his boot at Southend. Soccer AM’s Showboat segment gave Trundle a stage, and he intended to occupy it for as long as possible, reportedly calling the show himself to alert them to his latest highlights. Watching Trundle’s clips it was hard to imagine his repertoire of five-a-side skills would have been anything other than useless at a higher level, but in League One and Two, he was Ronaldinho combined with Zidane. If a simple pass would suffice, Trundle would deliver it as some sort of no-look flicked back-heel. This is the hall-mark of the lower league fantasista – a devotion to pointless flair. Trundle did try to make a step up when he signined for Bristol City in the Championship, but the goals and, more importantly, the Soccer AM highlights, dried up. His legacy is an important warning to all aspiring Football League Francesco Tottis – stay in the shallow end.
The football journalist Michael Calvin believes Watford has lost its identity under the ownership of Giampaolo Pozzo, and has made a point of saying this whenever the club is attracting media attention. When Watford’s manager, Beppe Sannino, resigned from the club yesterday, this is how Calvin responded.
So Beppe Whoever has gone from Watford. Club without a manager as well as an identity.
I like Calvin, but this is complete bollocks. The Watford Observer’s report on Sannino’s sacking highlighted the owners’ concerns with Sannino’s training methods, and his relationship with the players. I don’t think he failed because he couldn’t grasp that the club was important to the local community. Watford fans liked Sannino, and he liked them. The connection was as much as you expect from any manager in modern football – he wasn’t in the pub pulling pints, but he spoke about the fans in every interview, he always acknowledged and thanked them.
In terms of being a community club, there’s no evidence that Watford’s reputation here has suffered under the Pozzo’s ownership. The club continues to send first team pros to events at schools around the town and surrounding area, and the pre-season open day is extremely popular with younger fans and families, who get to mingle with the players. Nothing remarkable, granted, but the club does seem to have a presence beyond the stadium.
Leeds are not a club that seem to win much support from the neutrals (if such a group exist). They’re one of the old school villains of football, and fans who have no real reason to dislike Leeds still seem to turn against them, because they’re Leeds, dirty Leeds! But, this pantomime hatred suggests Leeds have an enduring status in English football. Surely, only a club that mattered would be reviled in such a way. Whenever you read or hear anything about Leeds, it often includes the suggestion that they belong in the Premier League, or even that they have ‘rightful place’ there. You might think that a decade of football in the second and third tier would dampen the aspirations a little, but this is Yorkshire and it doesn’t work like that. The question is, having bottomed out in League One, are Leeds still a big club?
For those of us who’ve been hanging out in the Championship for a while, it’s always satisfying when a big fish gets caught by relegation from the Premier League. It gives you something extra to look forward to when the fixtures are released. Leeds were definitely a big club when they came down; they had been in the Premier League since it was founded, had Champions League experience, and a 40,000 capacity stadium. And, get this – according to Wikipedia – when the East Stand opened in 1992-93 it was the “largest cantilever stand in the world”. Bow down! Leeds in the Championship definitely felt odd at first, and it must have been even weirder in League One. But, that was ten years ago, and things change.
When Nottingham Forest were relegated in 1993 that was also big deal – they had been one of the better teams in England for the past decade and a half, and it was unthinkable that they were no longer good enough for the top. I was delighted, though, because it meant they’d be coming to face Watford at Vicarage Road. Twenty years later they’re regular opponents, and I’m disappointed if we don’t take any points from them. This is a team that won the European Cup, twice! I still consider it one of the bigger fixtures in the League, but to many younger fans Forest’s history won’t mean anything, just like Preston North End’s means nothing to me. The same is starting to apply to Leeds, they’ve been away for too long. To illustrate the point, Fulham (13), Bolton (13), and Middlesbrough(14) have all spent more time in the Premier League than Leeds (12).
Another year. A few things to look forward to and a few things to dread in unequal measure
No more laughing at United
Before writing this I had a quick look back at United’s results last season because I’d almost forgotten how shit they were. David Moyes’ side lost so many times at Old Trafford that it completely devalued the achievement of winning there. Even Pardew won there. EVEN PARDEW.
It wasn’t just the defeats, either. It was the pervasive sense of blunder that accompanied everything United did. I mean, that story about Moyes’ high tech bunker was risible enough, but the full extent of their fall from the heavens was revealed when Steve Round got snapped with that ring binder at Everton. That was the final straw. Here was a club that had swaggered all over everyone for two decades, reduced to waving printouts that looked like they’d been knocked up in the school graphics department. And, of course, there was the plane, laying bare the breadth of twattery that exists within United’s fanbase.
The thing is, that’s happened. It’s done, and you sense that come October, it will feel like very ancient history indeed. While the arrival of Louis Van Gaal does not guarantee trophies it almost certainly rules out a repeat of last season’s humiliations. We’ve only had a handful of pre-season games but the swagger is already returning.
United fans are already bristling at the prospect of being good again, and will no doubt ram it down everyone’s throat if they are. Expect them to be unbearable.
Regista: The football blog that kisses the badge in celebration of the best aspects of football and surrounds the ref to complain in vain about the worst.Covering topics across the football world, including: Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga, the Champions League, the English Premier League and Championship football.