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

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Roy Hodgson: My Thoughts

Did the FA make the correct decision in appointing Roy Hodgson?

When Fabio Capello resigned as England manager, I couldn’t help but feel a little optimism. I was never a big fan of Capello, primarily because he wasn’t English, but that wasn’t his fault. Yet in the qualifiers building up to the World Cup he had built a squad which was organised and effective. They also did the most important thing in football; they won. At that point, I chose to ignore his nationality as if he led England to glory, I couldn’t have cared less. But then came South Africa. We heard tales of how poor his relationship with the squad was, and how he treated the squad of players like little children. Granted, some of them do have the reading and speaking ages of 7 year olds. Actually no, I’m being too generous to Wayne Rooney there. Back to the matter in hand though, after such a disastrous performance in that major tournament, the players were to blame. In part. But it seemed as though most of the players in the squad just didn’t perform. This was extraordinary. It wasn’t a lone player who decided not to ‘show up’ but most of the squad. The media was quick to point the finger at the manager. Weirdly, I found myself agreeing with them. Yep, you read that right, I agreed with the press. Therefore, I was actually quite glad when he decided to resign earlier this year.

Now I was quick to jump onto the Harry Redknapp bandwagon. I think that he has done well at Tottenham, especially looking at their great Champions’ League run in the 09/10 season. He is a great man-motivator, and most importantly English. I’ll be honest here, I completely forgot about Roy Hodgson (No, not ‘Woy’ stop reading that comic book called ‘The Sun’). Even though I admired the work which he did at Fulham and I was quick to jump to his defence once things turned sour during his reign at Liverpool. I think that he is a great manager, but not someone who I saw as a plausible candidate to manage the national team. I then dug a little deeper into this profound choice by the FA. Although I don’t agree with many of their choices on such matters, they do always have their reasons for making them. Firstly he has invaluable international experience in management as he led the Swiss national team to the knock-out stages of the 1994 World Cup, their first major competition since the 1960s. Secondly, he speaks a vast array of languages, and is a sophisticated man, interested in Art and American Literature (I know it’s American, but it still counts… Sort of) unlike that wheeler dealer ‘Arry who was accused of tax evasion earlier this year, yes he was found to be not guilty but it still tarnished his image. These things therefore make Roy Hodgson a suitable ambassador for England on the world stage.

Moving on to his management. I was in an AS English Literature exam when the squad for the European Championships was announced, and it’s safe to say that once I found out, I was surprised. I don’t think I was the only one either. The ‘snubbing’ of players such as Micah Richards, Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand and maybe even Daniel Sturridge was a shock. I completely expected the first three of the list to be some of the first names on the list! In my opinion, it was ridiculous to to leave them out. Micah Richards was instrumental in ensuring that Manchester City became Premier League Champions last season, yet he was replaced by Glen Johnson, a player who hadn’t really caught anyone’s eye and helped Liverpool to a measly 8th place. Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick had been the anchors of a Manchester United team which had been littered with injuries, but had still achieved second place in the Premier League. In addition, Daniel Sturridge would have been much more effective than Andy Carroll. I thought that this was some kind of a joke from Roy. ANDY CARROLL?! Oh dear.

He may have thought that Richards and Carrick would still have a part to play in his team as he placed them on the standby list. Yet in their arrogance, both of these players refused. It pains me that they did so. I bet they’re both feeling like idiots now. The injuries of Gary Cahill and Frank Lampard would have secured their places in the squad and they would now be packing for Poland and Ukraine. Instead, their places have been taken by Martin Kelly and Jordan Henderson. Now I don’t have a particularly anti-Liverpool agenda, but Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson, Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly don’t fill me with any hope whatsoever.

When Roy Hodgson was appointed, my usual pessimism toward English football was replaced with a glimmer of optimism. I’m now afraid to say that I have never been so pessimistic before a major international tournament than this one. I genuinely hope we do well, but I would not be surprised in the slightest if we do even worse than we did in South Africa. Until a few hours ago, I didn’t even think that was even possible… Hodgson may be a nice bloke, but as a manager, I haven’t got any hope. I wish him well though!

I leave you with this…

Thanks for this @FootyMemes