Thursday, 3 January 2013
Strangelove: Or why Rooney should have a better nickname
There is now a cottage industry of football sites which bemoan the state of the modern game. Everything is wrong with the game - the fans, the stadia, the managers, the owners, the administrators and more besides. Part of this is deplorable hipsterism, part of it justifiable nostalgia and part of it is a rage against the machine.
I don't buy into this too much. Of course, there are problems but there are also many joyous moments and things to cherish. I've written before 'In defence of football' and ''In defence of footballers'' and would happily do so again.
Whilst others get terribly upset about the way ''Sloop John B'' is taking over terrace chanting like some form of vocal Japanese knotweed I despair at the demise of the good nicknames in football.
Consider the most famous players in the English game. Wazza, Stevie G, Lamps, Macca, Welbz, Giggsy, Scholesy, Becks and so forth. These are the sorts of names boys give to each other in the playground. None of these are equal to cricket's ''Whispering Death'', ''Bloodaxe'' or ''The Wall''.
It seems to me that fine - sometimes literary - nicknames in the English game are dying out. Fitz Hall has the magnificent ''One Size'' and Luis Suarez has always enjoyed the moniker 'El Pistolero'' but these are rarities in an ocean of medioctrity. I must admit I enjoy the recent phenomenon of calling Paul Scholes ''Sat Nav''. There should be more of this sort of thing but, I must confess, I'd have preferred 'Ordnance Survey'.
I blame the commentators, writers and bloggers. Of course, Manchester United team-mates are going to call Wayne Rooney ''Wazza''. It is for those of us who describe the games ebbs and flows to be more poetic. His team-mates may call him 'Wazza' but we don't have to. He can be ''The Rhino'' or ''The Cannon of Croxteth''
In British footballing history we have many fine examples. Alex Young, of Everton, was ''The Golden Vision''. Across Stanley Park, Ron Yeats was ''The Colossus''. Nat Lofthouse was ''The Lion of Vienna''.
Around the world, see similar originality and we see poetry. Cafu, so famous for those wonderful surges up the right flank, was ''The Pendolino''. Emilio Butragueño, a fine poacher, was The Vulture. The slender and tall build of Alessandro Altobelli led to 'The Needle'. Youri Djorkaeff, with his quickness and intelligence, was ''The Snake''. Juan Sebastian Veron, with a nod to his father's nickname, was 'The Little Witch'. The original Luis Suarez was ''The Architect'' (a name now shared now by Andrea Pirlo).
Add to those the joyful ''Swan of Utrecht'', 'The Mortar of Rufino', 'The Galloping Major' and 'The Green Angel'* and it is clear that we are missing out.I blame the commentators, writers and bloggers. We aren't creative enough. We do not pen nicknames for players. We do not take the time to describe them creatively. I don't believe Lofthouse's teammates called him 'The Lion of Vienna'. They no doubt called him Nat or Lofty. Marco van Basten was probably MVB or Marco on the pitch. rather than ''The Swan of Utrecht' on the pitch to his comrades.
So let us start being more creative. We can create new nicknames at any moment - it just takes a second to make one stick. van Persie, with that wondrous left-foot could be 'The Bird Charmer', Bale 'The Cardiff Cheetah' and Xavi 'Pythagoras'. Mascherano could become 'The Bulldozer', Mata 'The Butterfly' or Iniesta ''The Boa Constrictor'. Wayne Rooney, with his unique predilections for the older lady, could be ''Dr Strangelove''.
I am sure my followers and friends can come up with better. Our terraces need to come up with better chants not to that infernal Beach Boys tune. We wordsmiths need to consider how we describe our players. Our players deserve better and we would be part of a true footballing tradition.
*Marco van Basten, Bernabe Ferreyra, Ferenc Puskas and Dominique Rocheteau respectively.