Sunday, 7 October 2012

Close but no cigar.......

Today in the office we've been talking about the nearly men of football, those that didn't quite reach their initial promise, maybe hyped up too much by the media? Or took their eye off the (foot) ball during their early career? Maybe a career wrecked by injury, anyway here's a few noteworthy suggestions...

Chris Kirkland

Touted in his early career as the next great hope for English goalkeeping his potential @ Coventry was spotted by Liverpool and he made the trip to Anfield to follow in the glove prints of other keeping greats such as Ray Clemence, Bruce Grobbelaar and David James.
At the time his fee of £6 million was a record for a 'keeper, but this was a position that the Reds needed to strengthen, as consistant performances from the men between the sticks had become something of a rarity @ Anfield and it was due to some dodgy keeping from Jerzy Dudek that saw Kirkland get his chance.
But with his stick like frame and almost constant injuries the fans on The Kop could of been forgiven for thinking Kirkland was made of matchsticks, a run in the side saw him once again in the England reckoning but still that elusive cap eluded him.
It wasn't until he moved on to Wigan and almost as the forgotten man made his one and only appearance for the Three Lions coming on as a sub against Greece, winning his Dad ten grand in the process after he'd put a bet on his son as an eleven year old that he would play for England.........some cynics would suggest that the then national team boss Sven Goran Eriksson got a cut of the dosh..

Lee Sharpe

Though not coming through the youth ranks he was still considered one of 'Fergie's fledgings', the golden generation which included Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and Butt. A wide man who appeared in the side before Beckham and might have had his fame and success if he had managed himself better. Sir Alex's no nonsense approach to his starlets plus ironically the emergence of fellow fledgling Ryan Giggs soon saw Sharpe in and out of the side, this wasn't helped by growing injury concerns and was eventually shipped out to Leeds.
Still remembered fondly with the Man U faithful for performances in the Cup Winners Cup and League Cup, maybe if he had concentrated solely on the football he may have stayed around and prolonged his career.
Any player with skill and flair catch the eye upon their arrival on the scene but for Sharpe it all ended at Bradford City and after football catching the eye of Abi Tittmus on Celebrity Love Island.....

Joe Cole

Every few seasons a player comes along that is seen as the next big thing, Joe Cole had his time as that very player. With Gazza a dewy eyed distant memory much was hoped for from the pint sized midfielder from Paddington. His prodigious talent saw him raved about while still a schoolboy - scoring seven goals in an England Youth game does that sort of thing and a reported £10 million bid from Man Utd when only 16 also doesn't help with all the hype. He stayed at West Ham though and was captaining the side @ the age of 21 before childhood club Chelsea came knocking.

The Blues provided his most successful spell, but with Chelsea's revolving door policy of both managers and foreign players he didn't stand much chance in the end, although when he made his free transfer move to Liverpool he was still highly regarded, maybe a different team may have seen a different outcome but from his first appearance (that ended with a sending off) the writing was on the wall, at West Ham there had been less competition for places time out with injuries didn't help and after a loan spell @ French club Lille Cole is now looking at a new start back @ Liverpool at the age of 30.

Paul Gascoigne

Maybe not an obvious choice, but Gazza really did have the world @ his feet. Arguably the greatest talent to come out of the British Isles since George Best, Gascoigne had the advantage of playing for England. Meaning a place on the world stage eventually beckoned and it was @ Italia '90 that he came of age, with him England's dreaming almost became a reality, close but no cigar. But it was in his failure and resulting tears for souvenirs that Gazzamania was truly launched, scenes reminiscent of a boy band concert at White Hart Lane the following season were witnessed and he was everywhere from chat shows to Top of The Pops.
From the streets of Newcastle - and eventually starring for his boyhood team, he played the game with the same schoolboy enthusiasm throughout his career moving on the Tottenham after being scouted by the legendary Bill Nicholson.
From then on, we all know how it ended. Though his career briefly peaked with a trip North of the Border with Rangers and proving to be the Scots undoing with that goal @ Euro '96 he really wasn't the same player after his - some would say self inflicted injury during the '91 FA Cup Final. With his demons off the pitch that we couldn't possibly try to go into or solve on this blog, we see him now as a shadow of his former self with a tinge of regret of what might have been

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