22 Comments

No More Heroes Anymore?

Earlier today I saw a Tweet from Blackburn George asking his ‘followers’ who their current favourite player was, as well as proclaiming that Granit Xhaka was his. Certainly few could dispute that Xhaka has been one of, if not the, most consistently good players since Christmas: his appetite for hard work, his on-the-field leadership and his game changing performances at the heart of the midfield have all played a part in the gradual climb towards a more respectable league position. But not many, I suspect, would have him as a favourite – and certainly none of those who manufactured outrage and abuse against him, and then spat their own dummies as he responded in kind. He is a player many fans love to hate, especially those who have been influenced by anti-arsenal pundits.

As is one of my almost favourites, Hector Bellerin, guilty in the eyes of many for no less a heinous crime than suggesting that some of the louder and more prominent supporters make a living out of negativity. Guilty too for taking a while to come back from a serious ACL injury. And guilty, I suspect, for not conforming to stereotypical footballing virtues, such as short back and sides and unambiguous masculinity.  Perhaps it is certain fans’ dislike of him that is one of the things that George likes most about Xhaka, that I like most about Bellerin. And indeed there can be a certain smugness about going against popular opinion, or of believing that you see qualities missed by others.

But having football favourites or sporting heroes is not just about point scoring – and I think it is certainly far more than being a ‘fan boy’, that pejorative term thrown in the direction of any one who dares to voice support for a player not currently the flavour of the month. I got to wondering what makes me side with one player over another, and what qualities they have that elevates them to favourite status. And from there I began to wonder whether it is because they show qualities that I recognise, that I perhaps have something in common with – or whether it is because they have abilities that I may only dream of, so far beyond my abilities they are. 

Of the current lot I like Bellerin, but that is mainly because I remember watching his debut game and enjoyed seeing him progress from there: I happen to think he is a fine player (I prefer him to Cedric Soares) and I always want to see him do well, but he doesn’t really qualify as a true favourite. Should he leave and return to Spain it will not sadden me unduly. I can certainly understand why Tierney is admired by so many, but great though he undoubtedly is I suspect he will never be a favourite, whereas Nacho Monreal was (and I can’t quite explain why, something about rooting for the underdog maybe). Chambers is a favourite but I doubt I’ll see any more of him in an Arsenal shirt, whereas I think that ESR has enough brilliance to become a favourite player of mine. Ozil was definitely a favourite, given that he possessed many of the qualities I look for in a sporting hero (sublime but fragile and inconsistent – in old fashioned cricketing terms a Gower rather than a Gooch) and I had a ridiculous soft spot for Danny Welbeck, who never quite managed to live up to the extravagant hopes I had for him.

So I begin to realise that to qualify as a hero of mine a player must either have frustratingly mercurial brilliance, or feet of clay that occasionally transform into match-winning ability. I am aware that any half decent psychiatrist would make much of my enthusiasm for vulnerability, which is perhaps why I almost prefer the Arsenal in its post 2005 state than in the years of its impossible pomp. But I would also love to know who are the ones that you support more than others, and what it is about them (and you) that makes them stand out as especially worthy of your support. This is not a call to debate who are the best players, merely an opportunity to reflect on the absurdity of investing our hopes and fears in those we will not only never meet, but who will never ever know of our existence!

Tim ​Head @foreverheady

22 comments on “No More Heroes Anymore?

  1. Over the last 20 odd years, my favourites have been, Dennis, Cesc, Rosicky, Arshavin and Mesut, I like artistry. I have less regard for hard work, physicality and speed. As Tim said, imperfections sometimes endear them to me more. And even when their search for artistry reduces their effectiveness, I don’t care.

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  2. It annoys me that people expect “the best player” to be your favourite player.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Absolutely. I had a lot of problems with Alexis Sanchez: I could see he was brilliant, was obviously super thrilled whenever he did anything that helped us win (which was quite a lot) but couldn’t bear him.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am drawn to the ones with intelligence, persistence, and a sense of adventure about them. Ramsey and Nacho, as examples.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The 71 side produced so many Hero’s as I was only a Kid Charlie was probably my favourite but Geordie, Frank, Radford and obviously sir Bob after that Terry Mancini was my next Love not a particularly brilliant player but a real character and as I was a defender he was the man. Then the late 70’s side Chippy, Rixy( who was better than hoddle) the full backs Sammy, show your Arse, Nelson and big Pat. When that side broke up spider was the one who stayed so you had to live him just for that then there Davis punch your lights out, Steve’s gonna get ya then the wonderful Don Howe youngsters Rocky, big Tone and Mickey it’s up for grabs now, again being a defender Stevie Bould has got no hair was a favourite and of course then Arsene team with the Likes of Dennis and a massive favourite of mine Kolo Kolo Toure and the red haired Freddie. I also liked Remi as well.
    What about the record breaking youth combination of Lord Bentner and Artur Lupoli and yes of course Cesc.
    Flamini should be in everyone’s books just because he was a real character, he’s loaded and he’s a mate of Mesut.
    Recently it’s been difficult to pick but obviously Mesuts in there with Granite and my number one at the moment Hector.
    Oh I nearly forgot the funniest keeper you will every see Leaman, he was a great keeper but comedy gold as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. here is one of my favorite players ever and he was only here about six months, and was inconsistent in his play, but he had everything that I want in my favorite players, skill, skill and a bit more skill, the man is Vladmir Petrovic. if i remember correctly he was sold right after having probably his best game for us, in a win against West Ham

    Charlie George was my first favorite, Liam Brady my biggest favorite, David Rocastle the one i was saddest at his leaving, Brian Marwood an unexpected favorite, as was Kenny Sansom, others on my list include Charlie Nicholas, Tony Woodcock, Paul Davis, Cesc Fabregas, Robert Pires, Aaron Ramsey and lets not forget two of the very best to ever play for Arsenal, actually fuck that, two of the very best to ever play the game, Dennis Bergkamp and Mesut Ozil
    of the current bunch Saka and Smith-Rowe might make the list if they keep progressing.

    Two players who had the ability to make my favorite list but who I never fully fell for were Robin Van Persie and Thierry Henry, there was just something about them that stopped me truly taking to them.

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  7. the two early kickoff results

    Burnley 1-1 Leicester City

    Sheffield Utd 1-0 Aston Villa

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  8. must say that Cazorla and Rosicky were my type of players too, as was Overmars, Rix, Armstrong, not forgetting Kanu and of course Reyes and what a pity injury wrecked Richie Powling’s career before it really got going.

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  9. How about the ARSENAL George Best Peter Marinello

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  10. FT: Crystal Palace 0-0 Man Utd

    Utd are now 14pts behind Man City with 11 games to go, greatest league in the world you know

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  11. I see many afc fans creaming themselves cos we have been linked with Brighton defender Tariq Lamptey as a replacement for Hector Bellerin, I do wonder how many of them have ever seen him play, how many of them realize that he is only 5ft 5in tall or should that be short.

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  12. Liam Brady back in the day.

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  13. Nice one Tim, Xhaka all the way in this team, but suspect Saka will be our player of the season.
    I know it’s been said many times, but love the fact, the more you throw at Xhaka, the better he gets. I really think he should still be captain, and is a superb player in his own right.
    But also take your point on Bellerin, a fine player and by the sound of it, an evolved human being.. Not sure he dovetails seamlessly with Pepe but that might not be Hectors fault!
    In recent times, Kos was always a player I admired, and another who really stood out for me was Rambo, similar reasons to Xhaka above.
    But one who really stands out for me, Santi Cazorla, for me at least, the spirit of Wenger on the pitch. TheN, the PGMOL and EPL…and other hatchet men gave him no protection, he got horribly injured like so many other Arsenal players, but still, came back and did rather well. This player is one of many reasons I wish Mike Riley sleepless nights for the rest of his days

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  14. Only sleepless nights, my wishes are a deal darker than yours,

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  15. You may have a point, but think Riley is nothing more than a minion for others more powerful, that’s why he got the job.
    perhaps sleepless nights in an institution at her majesties pleasure? Or darker still?

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  16. Santi Cazorla.

    I suspect the many fans singing his name from his first few matches onwards till end also agreed.

    I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed watching a footballer as much.

    A tiny elf tearing it up in midfield in Riley’s PL?

    Well, I guess that puts England’s unsuccessful record in the sport in spite of the billions churning through the league into the proper context: I mean Santi Cazorla is a hero as exposes or exposed the fraudulence behind Riley’s failed concept for his Rugby Football variant.

    Much more then just a hero.
    An anointed and ascending Saint.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Bellerin and for making this season and last bearable Saka for me.

    Saka could be something truly special. If his ankles don’t get the old Jack Abou Aaron Eduardo Santi Freddie Robert & Saka treatment.

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  18. Yep , Cazorla was pure joy, he seemed to enjoy it as much as the fans. I think a few players suffered when he was no longer there, must have been hard for Wenger as well.

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  19. There have been so many great players over the last 60 or so years that I have supported the club, that it is impossible to single out one.

    All I will say is that we have been lucky to have so many of them, even at times when the rest of the team did not come up to scratch.

    Unfortunately, too many of them left too early, whilst a few others may have overstayed their welcome.

    What is positive is our ability over the years to turn so many ordinary players into great ones.

    We have now moved into decline, which I anticipate will last for some time until we can get another inspired leader like Graham or Wenger.

    I have made no secret of my view that Arteta does not fit the bill, but I am always happy to be proved wrong.

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  20. football.london reporting that AFC will be losing 3 of the biggest talents in its Academy this summer, Okonkwo, Balogun and Taylor-Hart, all 3 have been offered new contracts at AFC but have not shown any sign of accepting the terms offered.

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  21. Arsenal post losses near to £48m as Covid hits revenues
    Updated / Friday, 5 Mar 2021 17:48

    Arsenal have reported a loss of £47.8million in the last financial year as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted schedules and forced games to be played in empty stadiums, the Premier League club said on Friday.

    The north London club said the losses for the financial year ended 30 May, 2020 – up from £27.1 million in 2019 – have been a result of a decline in matchday, broadcasting and commercial income.

    A number of the matches from the final stages of the 2019-20 campaign, including Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph at Wembley, have been completed in the current financial year ending in May.

    “Matches continue to be played without fan attendance and consequently the club is operating without one of its key revenue streams,” the club said in a statement.

    “The club continues to have the unwavering support and commitment of its parent company, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, and its ultimate owner Stan Kroenke.”

    In January, Arsenal borrowed £120million from the Bank of England to ease the strain on their finances — an amount that the club must repay by May 2021.

    These funds enabled the club to refinance the debt on their Emirates Stadium last year.

    The report also showed Arsenal spent £10.4 million in replacing manager Unai Emery and his coaching staff with Mikel Arteta and his assistants in December 2019.

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