Dimitar Berbatov: Class Act

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As the transfer window draws to a close, one of Manchester United’s most enigmatic players has departed in a relatively low-key affair to London-based club; Fulham. Low key that is, compared to his dramatic deadline day signing in 2008.

As a Manchester United fan, watching the events unfold was extremely exciting. I sat on the edge of my seat whilst the clock slowly but surely moved towards 11:00PM. Did they leave it too late? Would he sign in time? Well now we know that he did, but at that time, it was nail-biting stuff!

When his four year contract had been signed and it was all official, I not only felt a sense of relief, but also a sense of excitement. I mean, Manchester United had just spent £30m on one player. It’s just not the sort of thing that happened, even four years ago.

Not only that, but Dimitar Berbatov. Honestly, the only adjective which I can use to accurately describe this man, not the player, the man, is class. He oozes class. No Mario Balotelli, not “swag.” CLASS.

He had trouble fitting into the squad, but we blamed that on the fact that he needed to settle in. I will not deny the fact that after the first half of the season, I was a sceptic.

He seemed, large and cumbersome. He obviously had to change his game for the transition from Spurs to United. He was no longer the ‘main man’ so to speak. I think that this is what the problem was. He seemed like he needed to be the focal point, for everyone to work around him, at his pace. But this seemed impractical when Old Trafford was home to one of the most powerful attacking triumvirates in Premier League history. He could not match Ronaldo’s speed or skill, he could not match Tevez’s hunger or desire and he could not match Wayne Rooney’s power or versatility.

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Maybe he thought that his time would come. With Rooney dropping back as he made way for Tevez and Ronaldo, he may have thought that as Ronaldo’s departure was imminent, Sir Alex Ferguson would do things the way that he wanted to do them. Yet, as both Ronaldo and Tevez left, Wayne Rooney seemed to find his shooting boots. He filled the void of goals which the media thought couldn’t be filled. But that was Berbatov’s job. Rooney scored 34 goals in all competitions in the 2009/10 season, his personal best at the time.

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Clearly Rooney could not be ignored. Not just because he seemed to be more successful than Berbatov in front of goal, but also because of his ability to drop into midfield, his passion and desire to help his team out.

To my younger and more foolish self at that time, he seemed lazy. I knew that he had superb ability, but I was just willing him to work harder, and get selected. But no, it took me a long time to realise that this was not laziness, he was merely only using his energy when he needed it. Why run when you can walk through Ewood Park, from box to box and become the only foreign player ever to score 5 goals in a Premier League match? Or float in the air against Liverpool and place the ball into the back of the net? Or even flick the ball past a West Ham defender on the byline to gift Ronaldo a goal? He’s not lazy, he is merely wise. Players like Messi are foolish, running around the pitch for 90 minutes, no wonder his hair is a mess. Have you ever seen Berbatov with a hair out of place? Never.

In the 2010/11 season, Berbatov seemed to find goals. Some superb matches against Liverpool and Blackburn lead him to a Golden Boot Award after netting 20 goals and also lead the club to our 19th League Title. It is a myth that he only scored in a few games against poor opposition, when in fact, his goals were relatively well spread out. That was his best season. But when he was left out completely from Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans in the UEFA Champions League Final, it seemed as though Berba’s relationship with Fergie was at an all time low. He spent most of the 2011/12 season either on the bench or in the stands. Eagerly offering his services, but not being chosen. Many modern footballers would have “chucked their dummy out” so to speak, yet Dimitar never spoke ill of his club and continued to train and go on the pre-season tour as normal.

Because of his penchant for the Godfather trilogy, his perfectly slicked back hair and his smoking habit, I have always had this vision of Dimitar strolling through defences at The Theatre Of Dreams wearing a smoking jacket whilst smoking a pipe. But alas, it was never to be…

Ultimately, I feel that it is a shame that he did not fit into Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans, but even so, it has been a pleasure witnessing truly effortless football from a gentleman. Berbatov’s respect for this football club is something that is rare in today’s game and as a fan, I’d truly like to thank him for that, and also scoring 20 League Goals to lead us to our record 19th Premier League Title. Thank you Dimitar Berbatov, and goodbye. We wish you well.

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Picture/Poem courtesy of @BeardedGenius

Is 2012 The Year Of A United Britain?

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For Great Britain, this is a unique year. It is a year in which our Queen celebrates her 60 years on the throne with her Diamond Jubilee. A year in which we host the Olympic Games and where England has qualified for the European Championships. Granted, maybe ALL of Britain might not be united in supporting the latter…

Yet I could not help but feel a sense of unity and patriotism over the Jubilee weekend. As those musical greats, and JLS, performed outside of Buckingham palace last night at The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert, there were not only English people watching in the mall. There were people from all over Britain and indeed the world. Although there are many cynics who question the role of royalty, I felt as though amongst the street parties and celebrations, there was a genuine feeling of British-ness over the weekend. We’ve been hearing in the media about how there is no real definition of ‘British characteristics’ but I think there is. This Jubilee weekend epitomised Britain. The street parties which still took place, with blatant disregard for the weather and those people who cheered on a woman who they didn’t even know, in the soaking rain on the banks of the Thames showed them. This celebration and token of appreciation from the British people towards our Queen showed what Britain and indeed British people were about to the world. Every person in Britain must have known what was taking place, as the bunting industry had a huge sales boost and I don’t think anyone, royalist or otherwise, could help but feel proud of this country. What a great job that woman has done, she deserved every bit of that for her life of dedication. And look at it this way, when was the last time we all agreed on anything?

Moving on, the Olympics. Now I’m not a fan, and I’d rather have The World Cup, but we’ve won the bid now so we might as well host it. The country went crazy for the small allocation of tickets on offer and many were therefore disappointed when they didn’t get any. As I saw in my local town centre last week, there was a large turnout to see the Olympic Torch, as there was in many other towns and cities throughout Great Britain. There seems to be a degree of excitement about hosting the Olympics. It is such a prestigious event and is being billed as a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity as something like this will ever happen again in our lifetimes. A great deal of effort has gone into the infrastructure of the games and to great cost to the taxpayer, yet (mostly) the country is looking forward to the games. We also have many bright prospects and this seems to be their time to shine. As a country, we are united in the sense that whether we like them or not, we are proud that our great nation has been chosen to host the games. Even if that good old British cynicism does blur that view at times.

That brings me on to the European Championships, and therefore the England football team. I touched on my views in my last post. I was very pessimistic about the team’s chances. But as I lay in bed last night, I thought ‘What if?’ What if we somehow, by some complete fluke, won the competition? How amazing would that be? And every single England fan, no matter how low his resources on hope are, will be thinking the same thing. Outwardly, we’re all thinking, ‘here we go again, another major tournament that we’ll be knocked out of by a team that we should have probably beat on paper.’ But inside, we’ll be thinking, ‘what if Andy Carroll just decides to score? And what if Stewart Downing learns to assist in Poland?’ And here we are. The whole nation, united as one. That one thing which brings us all together. Football. That’s the only thing we need, to win a major competition again, then we’ll be invincible… Haha

2012. This is the year in which Britain has been and will be united in more than 3 ways. The whole country will be thinking the same thing. We are tremendously proud of our country, and we love to show that off. Whether it be through a Jubilee celebration, the Olympic Games or glory in football, we want to show the world what we’re made of. The world seems to view us as a waning power, but we know that this is the best nation in the world, we just need to show it. We have certainly done that over the Jubilee weekend, let’s do it this summer too. When was the last time, or when will there ever be a time in which this nation will be so united in so many different ways, in one year? Let’s do it properly and put the ‘Great’ back into Great Britain.