Eoin O’Neill laments the loss of the quintessential macho leader that was everpresent in years gone by in the Premier League.
Last weekend, for most Liverpool fans, brought with it the new 2014/15 ritual. Once the brilliantly bearded Mile Jedinak dinked home Crystal Palace’s third goal at Selhurst Park, a bout of “channel flicking” took over. This writer suddenly found himself engrossed in the non-event that was Lewis Hamilton’s march to the Formula 1 driver’s championship.
Queue 15 minutes of champagne spraying (in Abu Dhabi that is) before daring to venture back to the comforts of the Sky Sports studio. Amid much debate between Messrs Carragher and Coleman, an interesting topic was raised and again on MNF… the absence of so called “on the field leaders” at Liverpool.
The synopsis of the Carragher’s debate was… “Liverpool doesn’t have enough leaders”, “They don’t have enough guys who will pull and cajole the other players around them”, “Liverpool are mentally weak”. An increasingly nodding Chris Coleman stayed on Carragher’s side of the fence (given that Coleman was once a supposed “leader who bawls’ and shouts”, this was no surprise).
Carragher you may remember, was also part of a Liverpool squad who finished 7th, 6th, 8th and 7th in four consecutive seasons from 2009 – 2013. In no way am I diminishing the merits of Carragher’s argument, it does however lead me to my subject title.
Once upon a time, in a land far away, every team the length and breadth of the British and Irish isles had 1, if not 2 on-field leaders. This prototype of a player would walk through glass, bloodied from head to toe, to see his team gain 2 points. Note: 3 points came into fruition when this prototype began to become extinct, bar a few recent luminaries.
Long before the days of glossy football fanzines, the front covers of ‘Shoot’ and ‘Match’ magazines would be adorned by Terry Butcher, Bryan Robson, Graeme Souness, Kevin Moran, Billy Bremner and to a lesser extent Graeme Roberts! This was the archetypal snarling, fist pumping, footballer to whom the average football fan could identify with. For those of who played on cold Saturday morning’s u11’s – u15’s, every opposition team seemed to have one.
So what changed? Where has Mr. Neanderthal El Capitano disappeared to? Is John Terry the last of this dying breed? Was Carragher lamenting the disappearance of this type of player?
To Jamie Carragher,
The influx of Ravel Morrison and his Bentley driving posse types, have rendered our “on field leader” nonexistent. The respect that these once colossi had no longer bears fruit with the new all signing, all dancing player. In a sense Carragher’s harking back to the past, may well find its way back to Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger.
Both of these, giants of the managerial game, inherited great clubs immersed in a drinking culture. The era of the macho, tough as teak footballer was alive and well in both Manchester United and Arsenal. Both managers set about eradicating this element and with it, a new breed of footballer was born.
This footballer ate and slept they’re new found profession. Neville, Scholes, Beckham, Wilshere, Gibbs, Walcott, the poster boys for this new generation.
As the technical development of players increased & the influence of Johnnie Foreigner grew, the Jamie Carragher ‘type’ becomes less sought after.
Liverpool’s problems are not the lack of “on-field leaders” and “allowing teams to bully them”. Liverpool’s problems are the players are not performing at the same level as last year. The high intensity, pressing football that enthralled football fans last season has disappeared. Allied to fact that the defensive problems have not been addressed, makes for a team short on confidence.
What Carragher should have centered his argument on, is the defense solidarity that’s nonexistent. If Brendan Rodgers solves this, then he’ll be half way towards rejuvenating this team.
Eoin O’Neill, Pundit Arena.