The GoatyGav Column
Panto Villains - Your Least Favourite Opposition Players
So I fancied a break and am posting a, mainly, negative article today. Good to be a bad guy occasionally, after all, and this piece is all about the bad guys.
My least favourite player to have played against is, undoubtedly, Bernie Slaven. Every time I hear from him he seems to be having a pop at West Ham United. The bloke really needs to let it go and chill out but his head looks like it’s about to explode every time he’s drawn on the subject of the hammers. For me it started in an evening match at Upton Park in the late ‘80’s while he was at Middlesboro. He scored both the goals in a 2-1 Boro win but it was his actions that really wound me up. After both goals he came up to us in the corner between the North Bank and West Stand to celebrate and fist pump towards us at length. The referee of that game had to, practically, drag him back to his own half for the ensuing kick off. Several fans were extremely angry and on the brink of invading the pitch. He can count himself lucky he didn’t incite a pitch invasion.
I don’t know what his dislike of our club comes from, and perhaps he was like that towards all opposing teams, but there was no mistaking it. On a couple of occasions since that game, thirty years ago, I’ve witnessed Slaven’s loathing for our club. At a televised ‘football masters’ veteran tournament where Slaven, who was a pundit, was clearly backing every team that West Ham played and took clear delight in anything that went against us. When we ended up winning the final it looked like his head was about to explode.
He’s certainly not the only one to show an aversion to our club but, for me, he stands above all others in my ‘wouldn’t give him the time of day’ stakes.
Not anti-West Ham in particular Jamie Carragher is another who gets Goaty’s goat. Apart from some of his antics it was his retirement from England before his change of heart just before the 2010, South Africa, World Cup when he ‘temporarily’ came out of retirement. As a man who couldn’t be bothered to help England qualify it really got on my nerves that he, suddenly, decided that a World Cup appearance was something he was ‘prepared’ to do. More like he fancied the profile it brought him and the jaunt to the southern hemisphere IMO. The fact he was given the opportunity at all only irritated me further. When he ended up warming the bench for so much of that competition it was of some consolation.
A player that I have no issues with at all, but is viewed by a few in a dim light, is Eric Cantona. The admirer of trawler following seagulls was, perhaps, most famous for his Kung-Fu kick on Crystal Palace supporting Matthew Simmons rather than any kick of a ball. I was listening to the, once enthralling, commentary of Jonathan Pearce (his commentary is now just top quality – not as enthralling as it used to be) live on Capital Gold when I first learned of Cantona’s attack on Simmons. There were those who wanted ‘King Eric’ banned from the game for life. I’m pleased that never happened as, I believe, we’d have missed out on so many special moments he subsequently brought to the English game.
Phil Neville can be quite intense. Running the length of the pitch to celebrate a goal in front of the Liverpool fans will certainly not have improved the Merseysiders’ view of the player. His actions may, or may not, have been the inspiration for Emmanuel Adebayor to do the same against his former club, Arsenal, for Manchester City but, either way, it didn’t endear him to the Gooners.
These Pantomime Villains add a certain spice to footballing rivalries. Without them the game would be missing something. So which player, or ex-player, gets under your skin most and why?
Saturday’s game was frustrating. There were patches of decent play but I struggle to remember the last time the team made so many stray passes. Disjointed would be the word I’d use to describe it. Fabianski and Chicha are the only players who can truly hold their heads up after that one. That said all’s well that ends well and it turned out to be a memorable and entertaining game in the end. Big improvement needed against Everton however I fully expect one. Goodness knows we need the three points before the boys visit Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford thereafter.
A week of no West Ham to endure now but let’s hope for an enjoyable England appearance for Declan. A well deserved call up if ever there was one.