My nan can do better than that

22 01 2011

With no Bangor match today I went to watch Liverpool’s match in the pub. At some point in proceedings, I forget the exact point, some bloke shouted “JESUS JOHNSON, YOU’RE SHIT. CAN’T YOU FUCKING PASS!!” as if Glen would hear it through the television screen. Christian Poulsen seemed a little off the pace today so he was next in he firing line; “POULSEN YOU’RE SHIT, FUCK OFF BACK TO DENMARK!”. Yes Ladies and Gentleman a gig in Llandudno is one of the toughest in showbusiness.

The dapper denizens of the Queen of Welsh Resorts won’t have been the only people doing this.  At some point after 3pm at least one morbidly obese man, probably wearing a replica shirt over his  jumper, will have  stood upright to bellow a one line critique at a so-called hapless player; “FUCKING HELL, CALL YOURSELF A FOOTBALLER. YOU’RE SHIT YOU ARE”. Other obese intellectuals will have added their voices to the maelstrom with something like; “YOU’RE NOT FIT TO WEAR THE SHIRT. YOU’RE CRAP”. It probably didn’t matter which side the object of their attention played for as the fury and righteous indignation needed airing. The irony of  fat people berating athletic people for a lack of finesse in a physical activity is never lost on the Jet Set.

Fat people won’t have been the only critics today, or any matchday for that matter. All manner of people are willing to offer their freelance career advice to professional footballers. During matches the air can be turned blue  (or maybe red if you consider the vein-bursting intensity of feelings) by short critiques. But are football fans the right kind of people to deliver opinions about the ability of footballers?

If some people don’t possess the requisite skill to deal with a situation that requires some skill then these people are not adequately equipped to judge that situation. Fans are fans because, generally speaking, they are not good enough to play for their team but some people never let this idea stand in the way of a rant. This may be a controversial thing to say but I’d like  say that the majority of footballers are better than your average bloke on the street A.K.A  fans. Just follow my logic.

After watching Liverpool I ventured to Maesdu Park to watch Llandudno, the match was quite exciting. Last year the Jet Set and I played against some of Llandudno’s players in the six-a-side League. We lost and lost heavily. They were more skillful and quicker in thought and deed than every other team and some of their matches were embarrassingly one-sided. In other words a team in Llandudno’s position has players that are better than your average bloke on the street. In our league there are also players from clubs lower in the Welsh Pyramid than Llandudno (Glan Conwy, Llandudno Junction and Mochdre) and  quite a few of them are more skillful than your average bloke on the street as well.

The Welsh Premier League (WPL) has quite a negative perception both inside and outside Wales so people will label the players as crap. However continuing with our argument, if Llandudno’s player are rather more skillful than your average bloke on the street then it’s logical to assume that the players from the higher league will be better than Llandudno’s. Especially when you consider that the majority of Bangor’s players used to play for league clubs or were considered good enough to be offered trials by league clubs.

Some people  might like to say that  Bangor’s player are obviously not be good enough for so-called “professional football” therefore they are crap. But these people think about football in  terms of absolutes – a world where the unglamourous is discounted as worthless. There can be a multitude of reasons why a player didn’t make it; they are too short, too fat, too “slow” or maybe the coaches didn’t like their attitude on that wet Tuesday in October 2007. In my view the players in the  WPL are not crap because they play in the WPL. The WPL’s players are more skillful than your average bloke on the street.

To continue with my idea;  football is a Darwinian struggle so the higher the division in England/Wales the better the player. (Let’s say that the WPL is inferior to the Blues Square Premier – A.K.A The Conference). Follow the sequence, it’s easy:

  • Llandudno’s player are more skillful than your average bloke in the street,
  • WPL players are more skillful than Llandudno’s,
  • Blue Square Premier (BSP) players are better than the WPL’s,
  • League 2 players are better than the BSP’s, etc etc………

In this way the players in the premier league are so much better than your average bloke on the street it’s difficult to comprehend. Then consider the fact that Football clubs have a vigourous sifting system (trials) and regular training. Fakers and chancers will be found out. To make it at pro clubs you have to be better than good but even that might not be good enough. Take the now famous example (thanks to Nick Hornby) of Gus Caesar;

“He was also voted the Worst Player Ever to play for Arsenal in the fanzine The Gooner.

In 1992, Arsenal fan Nick Hornby in his book Fever Pitch, muses on Caesar’s downfall, pointing out that he had considerable talent as a youth (or else Arsenal would have never signed him in the first place). Likening it to his own frustrations as a (then) failed writer, Hornby concluded that talent and determination alone were not enough to bring about success:

“To get where he did, Gus Caesar clearly had more talent than nearly everyone of his generation… and it still wasn’t quite enough. […]

Despite these barriers to the like of us, a load of people still call players crap.

The way fans view players can seem odd. Last week I watched a documentary about Brazilian football called Futebol that I’d picked it up for £3. Part of it was about two Flamengo players, Lucio and Iranildo. To judge from the voiceover these players were considered skillful and effective at the start of the 1996/’97 season but over the season’s course,  despite showing moments of skill and great play, they both became scapegoats for Flamengo’s bad form in the eyes of the fans. The fans could be rather cruel in their criticism even though the players were obviously skillful. They took the blame, they were terrible the fans said. The programme was a bit sensationalist in its tone (They were either bench-warming nobodies or potential superstars) so when Lucio scored a vital goal at the end of the season after weeks in the doldrums he was a superstar. At the end of the programme Lucio had left for Santos but Iranildo was still there.

I was intrigued  by their story so I found  the playing careers of Lucio and Iranildo on the internet. They would both be considered Journeymen by a lot of fans. In football the term “Journeyman” is almost an insult, it’s shorthand for “Nothing Special but at least “it” turns up to training”. After a few indifferent games the fans that see the game in absolutes will remember a journeyman’s nomadic footballing existence before around for a conversation; “It’s no wonder he didn’t make, at _______ , just look at him”.

If you look at their record in another way you could say that both players are good enough to be paid for playing football for 15 years. It’s funny that unless players have stellar careers of wealth, fame and a chestful of medals they are considered almost worthless. “Good honest pros ” are sidelined as some kind of inferior specimen.

Why are so many fans judgemental about players? A lot of judgemental fans seem to be of playing age so maybe a lot of them are like the bloke that Dan (from the Jet Set) met the other week. Dan was invited along to an hour of indoor football in Colwyn Bay and just after arriving a bloke came up to him and warned; “I’ve had a trial with Tranmere” before walking off. It turned out this was an unnecessary warning as Dan said the bloke wasn’t as good as his first line in suggested.

What exactly did this bloke think he was doing by making an  introduction like this?  What kind of impression does he have of himself? Dan thought that the reason was that he wanted to give the impression he’d somehow “slipped through the net”. Maybe he has a list of reasons why the coaches would have taken him on but for……. If only he’d had the right breaks, sounding just like Terry Collier. Maybe a lot of people are afflicted by delusions of competence, thinking they’re “a bit special”.

Just to underline the fact that it’s not that easy to make it in football here are a few final thoughts. If you consider that there are 92 clubs in England and Wales and let’s say that each club has a first team squad of 25 that’s roughly 2,500 pro players. In the UK there are over 60 million inhabitants, you do the maths. With statistics and the barriers to pro football in our way it’s no wonder that not many people make it. Even in the light of this some people will still say they are crap. This is not logical.

P.S. Fans may be correct when they slag off players for not trying.

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