The third in our series on Aaron Ramsey is penned by James “Raul” Stokes. James is a regular blogger of delicious post and this is a particularly succulent titbit .You can , and should, find James at ” The Armchair Gooner” and on twitter @JamesRaulStokes
Meteoric rises aren’t uncommon place in football. Every so often, a player leaps majestically from the waters of obscurity like a glorious salmon to land smack-bang into our collective consciousness. It usually only takes a mere moment of brilliance to catapult a young man into the throes of superstardom. Some reside there for years, others only enjoy the success fleetingly. Few can claim to have gone through the entire gamut of emotions before bursting through as Aaron Ramsey can.
When Aaron arrived from Cardiff City in 2008 for the seemingly paltry sum of £5m, I knew little or nothing about him, only that it was well documented he was one to watch for the future. Having beaten off the grubby advances of Sir Alex Ferguson and his assembled minions to secure the deal, Arsene Wenger was delighted to have gotten his man. Whilst appearances were few and far between, reserved usually for cup ties against so-called ‘lesser opponents’, there were immediate signs of Aaron’s potential and ability; he had a good touch, determination and an engine to rival that of a Ford Mustang.
Now, as with any blathery piece of writing pertaining to Aaron Ramsey, we all know what follows the initial parts of his Arsenal career. One moment the young Welshman was dancing through the midfield exchanging passes with Cesc Fabregas, the next his leg broken in two thanks to the neolithic contribution of one of football’s greatest morons. It shouldn’t be underestimated how much impact, both physical and mental, that Shawcross challenge had. Imagine a similar situation befalling yourself; the world is your oyster, only for that bright future to be taken away and replaced by the very real prospect of your career being completely in tatters. Personally I can’t relate to it, and I sincerely hope I’ll never have to.
The road to recovery was one wrought with peril and apoplexy. From this point, I should be honest and admit that I am one of the people who doubted Aaron’s ability to succeed at Arsenal. Not because I believed he lacked the ability or desire, but because of that injury. Past occurrences of a similar nature have seen both Abou Diaby and Eduardo have promising tenures cut drastically short. A compelling case can be presented for both players having never fully recovered from their respective injuries. I feared Aaron would very much go the same route.
For a long period, his performances, whilst some distance from woeful, fell short of the high standards we would expect from him. I see no issue with saying that. I’m sure most Arsenal fans, and Aaron himself, would admit it. What he was subjected to from a certain element, however, was truly appalling. Questioning a player’s ability to progress after such a harrowing event is normal, as is pointing out poor performances. What is loathsome to me is scapegoating a single player in a team sport and unleashing despicable bile across the internet at a young man simply because there’s a deep-seated hatred within you.
Every football team has its supporters and every football team has supporters to be ashamed of. Arsenal are no different. Whilst, mercifully, the anger and viciousness of some of the remarks directed at Aaron came from a select, idiotic few, it was almost impossible to ignore. Some followed the startlingly opposite stance and defended his every move with a similar opprobrium to the aforementioned detractors. My Mum always used to say to me, “James, you take the two frothing-at-the-mouth extremes and look somewhere in the middle to find the truth” and that’s the best way to look at the situation.
To his immeasurable credit, Aaron never gave up, he never went missing on the pitch and always maintained a high level of professionalism. Even on the days nothing went right for him on the pitch and the cacophony of dissenting voices echoed throughout the stadium his head never dropped and he kept trying to make things happen. When you consider the emotional turmoil heaped upon a boy of his meagre years, I find that to be truly remarkable.
And it has paid off in spades. Slowly but surely he began to show us what he was truly capable off, his performances began to catch the eye and those voices of hatred became less apparent. In the past 18-20 months, Aaron Ramsey has rightfully established himself as one of the finest midfielders in Europe, the previous season being the breakthrough his perseverance warranted. There was a time I would have struggled to see a place for him in the starting 11, now it’s inconceivable to selected our best side without him in it.
I didn’t think he’d come back from that injury. I was wholly, breathtakingly, unabashedly wrong and I have no qualms admitting that. Aaron deserves each and every plaudit, each fantastic moment on the pitch and all the numerous, glorious moments I am sure will follow. I think the best way to end this conglomeration of words is with a brief moment of cogitation. Picture Aaron wheeling away, glee etched across his face, as he scored the winning goal in an FA Cup final and ponder wether you’d have believed it likely as little as two years ago. I didn’t, but I’d wager Arsene Wenger did. That’s why I’m sat behind a computer desk and he’s managing a football team at the highest level.