Several factors make players appealing while there are things that others do that doom themselves to a career of boo’s, whistles and cat calls. Shiners don’t whine while losers frequently dive, complain, and often roll on the pitch with fake injuries.
The whiners exhibit bad body language, a persecution complex, immaturity, lack of confidence, and an entitlement mentality that somehow they deserve special treatment.
Shiners go about their football with grace, good sportsmanship, confidence, finely tuned skills, and reflect genuine joy and appreciation for the sport they love and have trained all their lives to reach the top.
So what players are the “real-deal” and deserve the plaudits of millions who cherish the beautiful game? And whom do we love to despise? What players live “down” to the traditions of English football? And how about managers?
Sir John offers opinions on ten players and four managers who are Shiners and six players and one manager who are whiners. His thoughts are based mainly from observations on television and to a much lesser extent on media coverage and player quotes. Having had an extensive career in TV news and then media politics, Sir John knows the media’s trustworthiness is highly suspect.
In this discussion, a player does not have to be a super star or a scrub to qualify in either category and managers need not be titleholders or relegation-bound. It is not whether you win or lose that matters, it’s how you play or manage the game.
1. Darren Bent, Aston Villa striker
Bent is a classy, humble professional who conducts himself on and off the field with remarkable grace. The 27-year-old Englishman of Jamaican descent joined Aston Villa in midseason last year after scoring eight goals in 20 games at Sunderland and then put nine more goals in the net for AV. He received no Yellow Cards. He is a worthy selection for England and a pleasure to watch.
2. Kenwyne Jones, Stoke City striker
The elegant 6’ 2” Jones from Trinidad is a gifted athlete with fluid motions. He is professional in his demeanor and shows respect toward referees and teammates. Jones came to Stoke City from Sunderland and although he is known for doing back flips after a goal—his body language indicates it is never done as a way of showing up opponents but delighting fans. He is married with three children.
3. Joleon Lescott, Manchester City defender
Lescott, born in Birmingham is a hard-nosed defender who handled the move from Everton to big budget Manchester City with professionalism and modesty. Whereas he was one of the main cogs at Everton, Lescott plays when and where his manager directs with no complaints. He had one Yellow Card last year. At age 5 he was in a car accident and after being dragged on the road was left with facial scars still visible today. I’m not sure where that figures in his likability, but it is an inspiring vignette to his life.
4. Alex Dodrigo Dias da Costa, Chelsea defender
As fierce a looking bloke as you would ever want to meet, in real-life Alex is a gentle family man whose life revolves around his wife and daughters. Injuries kept him out of the lineup for most of last season and while he had three Yellow Cards in just 12 matches last campaign, he plays fairly and seems to be a “throw-back” to defenders of old. His stoic expression never changes, telling fans that he cares about what he is doing and is always tending to business. He rarely complains and if he does makes his thoughts known without dramatics.
5. Barcary Sagna, Arsenal defender
The Frenchman of Senegalese descent with the stylish “do” seems to always have a pleasant but determined look on his face. Sagna never loafs and while he is a tough defender, he is not known for the cheap tackle or unsportsmanlike conduct. The 28-year-old looks and acts like someone you would like to be friends with.
6. Dirk Kyut, Liverpool midfielder
The 31-year-old Dutchman is a bundle of energy who goes about his business with determination, hustle, and an unselfish approach to the game. He is not a diver and totally professional. Kuyt’s work ethic on the pitch reflects his family heritage; his father was a fisherman. He and his wife are heavily involved with charity work.
7. Park Ji-Sung, Manchester United midfielder
Park is a pro’s pro. At 30, he has the battery of a 17 year old; a non-stop, give-it-your-all approach to the game and a demeanor on the pitch of total respect for football and those he is playing with and against. Sir Alex Ferguson has gone through spells using Park a lot or sparingly. Whatever his assignment, Park never complains and always produces his best effort.
8. Shay Given, Aston Villa goalkeeper
Shay Given never started a game for Manchester City last season. He lost his position to Joe Hart. So how does he qualify as a winner? Easy. Through all of the disappointment, the 35-year-old Given never pouted, complained or gave negative body language from the bench. The Jack Lemmon lookalike is tending goal for Aston Villa this season and all football fans hope he has a good season after being such a classy example to young and old. Given and his wife, who do charity work for cancer causes, received a Papal blessing from Pope John Paul II(who was an amateur goalkeeper) at their wedding.
9. Manuel Almunia, Arsenal goalkeeper
Few players have been subjected to such savage treatment by the media and fans than Almunia who played just eight games for the Gunners before being replaced by Sebastian Szczesny. The 34-year-old Spaniard’s frequent howlers and criticism from his manager would have made most players bitter and sullen. Not so with Almunia, who despite being relegated to third in the pecking order has shown great grace under personal pressure. Sir John still thinks he is a good goalkeeper who will help another team.
10. Managers David Moyes, Harry Rednapp, Steve Bruce and Ian Holloway. The discussion above was about players; however, the managers just mentioned have off-the-chart likability factors. Whether it is post-game comments or touchline body language, they are men you are happy for their success.
1. El-Hadju Diouf, Blackburn striker/midfielder
Diouf is the captain of the team fans love to despise; however, when, where and if Diouf plays this season is up in the air. The 30-year-old Senegal player has modeled kits from several teams and has also been loaned out. Current manager Steve Kean said Diouf (who would drive anyone to drink) should leave the club.
Diouf will never live down his disgraceful behavior after Jamie Mackie suffered a double fracture of his leg. Diouf, at his classless worst, yelled obscenities at Mackie while the player was down.
Diouf always seems mad at the world and carries a wise-guy smirk the entire match except when he is griping at the officials (which is much of the time). Diouf has a bad case of rabbit ears and is baited by fans at every venue. Flops and dives are this clod's specialty.
2. Mario Balotelli, Manchester City striker
The 20-year-old Italian with a troubled childhood has the emotional make-up of a five-year-old, at least the way he behaves on the pitch. Sulking and temper tantrums are common, he never smiles and his interest in teammates and the club’s success seem secondary to what’s best for Mario. This loose cannon will implode.
3. Craig Bellamy, Manchester City, striker
On loan to Cardiff last year, it’s unknown where he will wind up this season. Bellamy has bounced around with various clubs and left a trail of controversy and ink on police blotters. The 32-year-old Welshman is admired for his determination and grit; however, they are off set by his body language and demeanor that remind you of the playground bully.
4. Andre Arshavin, Arsenal midfielder
Arshavin is curious commodity. The 30-year-old rosy-cheeked Rooskie came to the Gooners and had a strong first season. Since then he has turned into a moody, often lethargic shell of his potential. Blessed with intelligence (he has a college degree in fashion design), Arshavin is especially irritating when he does his finger-to-the-lips gesture.
5. Joey Barton, Queens Park Rangers midfielder
Barton is the EPL’s ex-con who has done prison time for violence. The moustache he grew and then thankfully shaved off only made fans boo him more. Although the slapping episode with Gervinho adds to his villainy, he could become a cult hero in London.
6. Herelho Gomes, Tottenham goalkeeper
The 6’3” 30-year-old Brazilian is a one-man stand-up comic in goal and has produced many memorable howlers in his tenure at Spurs. What causes him to lose out on the likability factor is his body and facial language when an opposing player bumps into him. You almost expect him to break out in tears, much like a school child who has skinned his knee on the playground. Replaced by Brad Friedel in the starting XI, Gomes is missed if only for his slap-stick.
7. Arsen Wenger, Arsenal manager
Wenger, who has not won any silverware in six years, has been the Gunners manager for 15 years. Intelligent and articulate and the most successful manager in Arsenal history, Arsen believes the footie world is against him. However, after Sunday's humiliating 8-2 thrashing by Manchester United, Wenger's post-game comments were classy and gets sympathy from this observer.
So, there you have it, the good, the boorish and the ugly.
If you have a shiner or whiner nominee, let me know.
Until next time, I remain,