Monday, February 19, 2007


Where have all the hard men gone

I was sitting in a traffic jam the other day, a common occurance here in Jakarta, and for some reason my mind moved on to hard men. Players who would get stuck in, win the mental battle in the first 30 seconds.

When I was young (oh god, not another old bore!!!) there were loads of them. Leeds United had 11 of them on the pitch every game. Peter Story, Ron Harris, Tommy Smith, there were loads of them. I knew most of them from reading Shoo! There was none of these here blogs, little TV coverage, in fact little information out there about football but I knew Norman Hunter bits your legs.

As I moved from the living room to the terraces Jimmy Case, Remi Moses and Graham Roberts kept up the tradition. Some of these could also of course play a bit. The Manchester United team of Atkinson in the early 80's were no mugs. Moses, Robson, Whiteside, Hughes, these guys could play football but they also mixed it a bit.

Other names spring to mind. Mickey Droy at Chelsea. Dave Mackay, Kenny Burns, Graeme Souness, Martin Keown, Stevie Williams, Peter Reid, Kevin Moran, Shaun Elliott, Denis Mortimor, Nobby Stiles, Colin Todd, Billy Bonds, David Batty, Terry Hurlock, Billy Whitehurst, Steve MacMahon ...

At Arsenal we had Paul Davis, a softly spoken modest lad who many felt wasn't good enough but he stuck in there and, one classic Highbury saturday afternoon, he lamped Glenn Cockerill, breaking said player's jaw in the process. We were dumbstruck, we never knew he had it in him but to be fair he wouldn't consider himself a hard man and nor did we.

More recently we've had Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. Like an earlier generation they could knock the ball around pretty well, the physical part was just another aspect to their game. But were they the end of the breed? I spent 10 minutes thinking of a hard player and the best I could come up with was Robbie Savage. But he's shit. He's a run of the mill player who is trying to push himself as something but he's more Vinnie Jones than Norman Hunter. More pantomime clown than footballing legend.

So where are thses midfield tough guys now? My theory is that they have been yellow carded out of existance. As football gets more and more twee to pander to the numpties in the boxes and their corporate toadies, we are getting rid of what made football fun and passionate for another generation. There's a simple honesty in Tommy Smith snarling at an opposing forward, better that than Ronaldo and his diving antics.

But as football authroities have clamped down on anything and everything the hard man , the genuine hard man, will soon be an anachronism. Much like 3-5-2 and a Tottenham championship winning season. Football is getting soft in it's old age and it's not all a good thing. A lad I know recently went to see Arsenal play Blackburn at the Emirates. He thought it was the mutts nuts, a young Indonesian lad, first visit to football in England, he was dead chuffed at paying 150 quid to sit in the heavens and take in the atmosphere. He doesn't understand why I'm so cynical. I sent him a couple of links off You Tube. Ahh he says, I understand!


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?