Guest post by Danzo
If the title above looks familiar then like me you’re probably a fan of the iconic Only Fools and Horses. It was the 1989 Jolly boys outing, a lads trip to Margate when the hapless Rodney Trotter in a wholehearted attempt to pass a ball to his brother Del Boy looks at his mate Jevon, utters the words “Ruud Gullit…Nowhere” and proceeds to welly the ball straight into the face of a full on uniformed up copper. The result? Poor old Rodney ends up having his collar felt and the customary diversion down to the local nick for a few hours. It really was a great moment of comedy… Well I thought so anyway!!
Now whats the point you may ask? Well let me enlighten you. Arsenal football club is the point!! Because guess what Arsenal Football club did? All the way back in 1982 they had their own moment of comedy in connection with Ruud Gullit after turning down the opportunity to buy the 19 year old for a piddling 300 grand. Yeah that"s,300 GRAND!! Now before we go any further let me make a quick point here. There is some debate about the fee Gullit’s club at the time HFC Haarlem were after. Numbers that have been bandied about range from 200 grand to as little as 80 grand. My theory is that its just Tottenham spreading rumours in an attempt to make Arsenal look as nearly as silly as them. So out of pure dislike for the potatoes and a sprinkling of pity for Arsenal, for the purposes of this post, we’ll go with the larger fee. So 300 grand it is. Now where was i?? Oh yeah.300 GRAND!! Now whilst we’re here we may as well put that into perspective. Eight years previous a fella by the name of Bob Latchford cost Everton more money when they signed him from Birmingham for 350 grand. Now Bob Latchford may of been a great player. I have no idea. But what i do have an idea about is that before now I’d never heard of him. Unlike Gullit. OK then, what else? Go back three years previous Trevor Francis broke the million pound mark when Forest signed him. Again from Birmingham for a reported 1.18 mil. Now I’ve heard of him, but nevertheless!! In fact the UK transfer record in 1982 was 1.5 Mil for Bryan Robson which was a 1981 transfer deal between WBA and the red half of Manchester. Now I know he was a good player, But better than Gullit? Let alone five times better. No i’m not having that!
So whats the big deal you may say? Well if you are saying that then you don’t know a lot about Ruud Gullit. Because the fella was superb. Now granted you have to look past the Bob Marley hairdo and the Mickey Mouser tache. But really that isn’t all that difficult to d….errr well no actually it is. But if you can understand that although the fella did look as though he’d be comfortably at home rummaging around in the bottom of a wheelie bin for an old guitar. He looked just as equally at home on a football pitch. Undoubtedly his footballing ability did speak for itself. Mainly playing as a dynamic attacking midfielder,he boasts. Three Dutch titles. The Dutch cup. Three Serie A titles. Two European cups. The 1988 Euro championship with The Netherlands. Chuck a Balon D’or in there as well. There’s a Copa Italia somewhere. A few more cups and individual honours. Its really an extensive list by all accounts.
Now sadly in his latter playing days he did end up on the wrong side of London. But even then he proved himself a supremely gifted footballer in as much as he made up for his aging legs by playing a Libero role for Chelsea. Now on a personal level I have such faith in the mans footballing abilities. That I would have loved to have seen him join Chelsea a few years later. Where in doing so he would manage to garner the idolization of forklift drivers all over the land. Yet equally strike the fear of God into forklift repairmen all over the world. They would line the dole queues of Britain as Gullit week after week would miraculously manage to single handedly carry the Chelsea team containing our very own academy product, the morbidly obese Frank Lampard!! What a feat that would be. Cementing his legendary status. wouldn’t that be a great story to recount among the annals of great British history? Yeah, OK so maybe I slightly exaggerated there. But what is undoubtedly no exaggeration is that all in all Ruud Gullit is one of the greatest footballers of all time. So what about Arsenal then? I mean what were Arsenal thinking!? Perhaps like Rodney Trotter said they thought Gullit might end up…. nowhere. Not literally of course. But maybe like Rodney Trotter having some kind of affiliation with Margate. Playing for Margate maybe? . Well not Margate but the Dutch equivalent. Whoever that may be.
Now something else I have a good laugh about in the same OFAH scene is how in true OFAH fashion just before Rodney wellies the ball he deliberately mispronounces Ruud Gulitt’s name. Proclaiming his first name as "Rude’ and the first syllable of his surname more akin to how you might speak about Brighton and Hove Albion in a certain context. I’ll give you a clue. They take great delight in nicking your chips. So maybe, just maybe Arsenal had something along those lines in mind. Perhaps assuming he would end up working in some supermarket somewhere wearing a badge, bearing his name, which no one could make head nor tail of. Perhaps they thought that was the fate of the young Gullit. Who knows? But what we do know is a few years later Arsenal repeated the trick by releasing Harry Kane as a youngster!Considering him behind Benik Afobe by all accounts…..Yes that’s right the mighty Afobe! Now of course for us there is some kind of silver lining here. In as much as we get to both have a good laugh and be equally bemused at Arsenal yet again. But spare a thought for poor old Harry Kane who now has ended up playing for a small club in North London rather than a slightly bigger one. I’m not including Barnet in case you were wondering.
Now transitioning smoothly, as is my writing style, to the next player. Whilst we’re on the subject of names and players being released as youngsters, cop a load of this one. The fella with a girls name, Michel Platini. Now I know what you’re thinking, but just hang fire before correcting my misgivings whilst I recount my tale of bygone days and you will find that my Dad beat you to the punch by over 30 years. So there I was sitting in front of the telly, you know one of them ones where on a Saturday night you had to keep moving the antenna to get a clear picture, depending on whether you was watching Bullseye or Blind date? Oh yes. Well before the Sky TV days. It was the 1986 world cup QF France VS Brazil where I recall my first encounter with Michel Platini. Now as a six year old with an eight year old sister with the name Michelle, the very first time I heard his name the question was inevitable. “Dad why has he got a girl’s name” The response “Michel can be a boy’s name too”. Well that was enough for me weren’t it. Brilliant I thought, as I quick as a flash started winding up my sister at her having a boys name. The inevitable response come back from my sister. “MUUUM Daniel’s saying i’ve got a boy’s name” my Mum’s reply “Just call him Danielle”. Which oddly enough was OK with me, because right in front of my eyes was a fella with a girls name playing for his country in the world cup, yep he even scored too!! Now having said all that lets wrap this thing up.
Michel Platini another one of the greatest footballers of all time was rejected as a youth by F.C Metz considered “to feeble” to make it as a footballer. But hes not the only one. Ronaldo(the original) Franco Baresi, Antoine Griezman. The list just goes on and on. It really is a staggering list of players considered at one time or another as not good enough for various reasons.
So what does this all tell us? Well besides the fact that you can, like Ruud Gullit, look ridiculous and still be good at football. That like Platini you can be a fella with a girls name and still take on the mighty Brazil in the world cup. It also makes you think of the various youngsters released by our own club this summer. Several who have not been granted a contract extension. Neufville, u23 LB. Went out on loan to Newport this season. Young CB Josh Pask, last year he looked a right prospect, Toni Martinez, outstanding goalscorer at U23 level. Or at he least used to be. Noah Sylvestre. All U23’s. Even younger than that Jay Mingi, Mason Barrett, Kevin Dalipi, Odysseas Spyridis. U18 lads. Come the end of the summer there could be more, young Martin Samuelsen for instance, undoubtedly a talent seems to be just about hanging in there at least for now.
On a personal note you gotta feel for them really. I just imagine the excitement and anticipation on the day they got news of their trial, to now what appears to be a shuddering halt to their dreams and aspirations. I mean lets face it if a six year old boy is OK with having a girls name if it means he gets to play in the world cup, then the dream truly is strong in the mind and heart of a kid who wants to become a footballer. But the good news for any of these kids is that if they want the motivation to keep going they will find quite a list of rejections and bad news that past players received and then who went on to become greats. Even close to home our own Declan Rice, released by Chelsea. Looks like he’s gonna go right to the top of the game. Alan Devonshire so I been recently informed on this very forum was considered not good enough at one point. Yet another outstanding footballer. So there’s more than enough there to encourage them to keep their own dreams alive
However having said that one thing is clear in every case of a rejection turned to success and even though the late,great John Sullivan sings in the final line of the OFAH theme tune “Why do only fools and horses work?” I have to disagree with the great comedic genius. These youngsters are also gonna have to work and work hard in order to bounce back from similar rejection. But If they do then who’s to say what they can achieve….. They could end up facing corruption charges and cop a lengthy FIFA ban als……Oh wait!!