There are mantras in football that are repeated so often that people believe them despite the evidence of their own eyes telling them that the complete opposite is true. CaughtOffside contributor Tuckerman seeks out and confronts such cliches.
While good players do not become shambolic, shadows of themselves literally overnight the myth persists among many supporters that if a player has played well in the past then surely that is enough to give them a second chance – no matter how dire their current form or for how long they have been afflicted. Often a single performance or a single goal will be enough to earn a player a career’s worth of faith.
But loads of good players become bad, or deteriorate significantly in a relatively short time period and simply don’t recover – and there reasons are as numerous as the players affected. Injury is probably the most common. The player may officially be ‘match fit’ but heâ€™s never quite as sharp again or lost half yard of pace that gave him that edge before – we’re watching it happen to Michael Owen right now.
Being ‘found out’ is another reason. The player gets worked out, sussed, by the opposition. He has one or two fine seasons and then heâ€™s nullified – the â€œMichael Rickettsâ€ or “Kevin Phillips”. Not maintaining peak physical fitness can take its toll – the “Robbie Fowler”. Extra curricula activities not suitable for a professional athlete – the â€œStan Collymore” or “Lee Sharpe”. Tough time adapting to a new country and/or an awful manager – the “Rebrov”. Being a dick – the “Lee Bowyer”.
The common link here is that most of these players were at some point amongst the hottest properties in the Premiership – some even before kicking a ball – but fell quickly, and spectacularly, off the wagon and never got back to anything resembling their best. Yet they were and will be given chances time and time again by clubs and supporters on the back of their previous form. If it seems silly, it’s because it is.
Yes, some players recover, and if there was a football saying that went “Good Players Can Become Bad But Then Eventually Become Good Again” then I’d address that too. Every supporter can remember certain players at their club who they thought would always come good because of early promise, a goal in a derby or a hefty transfer fee, but never did. So why do we persist with fooling ourselves?
Because football has again proved itself to be beyond any logic that applies everywhere else in the world. Which is why it’s so great.