The Cult Hero in football is a romantic and sentimental side to the beautiful game that will never fade away. In today’s game, the cult hero is even more important with the vast amount of money involved with the sport and the multi-media coverage of the top players in the game. So forget Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, even your Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand at least for the time being as I construct the essential ingredients as to what makes a Cult Hero.
When constructing the recent Top TEN Cult Hero article, I had a list of 50 odd players and probably even more if I kept on researching. The fact is, the cult hero is in abundance in the game and this week they should be celebrated because without them, it just wouldn’t be football as we know it! But what makes a cult hero? The standards are pretty high and wide so let’s go through some of the necessary traits…..
The Unsung Hero – The player that does not make the headlines but always gives 110% without fail. He may not get on the score sheet often or be partial to a step over or a Cruyff turn but when he’s out of the team you realise what an important player he is. Ian Holloway summed up this type of player with this funny quote : “It’s all very well having a great pianist playing but it’s no good if you haven’t got anyone to get the piano on the stage in the first place, otherwise the pianist would be standing there with no bloody piano to play.”
The Eccentric – This player is all about personality. Whether it’s the comedy factor of Jimmy Bullard or Gazza, or the crazy hairstyles like Marc Bircham or Taribo West, there is something about them than the average footballer. Or it could be players like Andrei Kanchelskis or Lee Trundle who liked to do some showboating on the pitch, check them out on YouTube for your own entertainment. Also the likes of former USA defender Alexi Lalas fit this bill perfectly.
The Trouble Maker – The pantomime villain that the opposition love to hate but you love him for exactly that. Whether it’s the exuberant tackles or moaning to the referee, it’s always a fiery encounter when they are on the field. Robbie Savage deserves a mention here although he could also fit the eccentric side of things with his flowing blonde hair. Other shouts have to be Vinnie Jones and FFC’s very own Neil Ruddock, without these types of players football wouldn’t have character.
Mr Football Club – Joining the club as a young boy and playing out his whole career at the club. This Cult Hero is in the fans’ hearts forever although he may not have been the best they’ve ever seen, his loyalty is seen as something far greater. Southampton can boast a fair few of these players with the likes of Matthew Le Tissier, Jason Dodd and Francis Benali. Also former Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Steve Bull, these types of cult hero’s are usually involved with the club long after they retire.
The Foreigner – Perhaps more favourable away from the top clubs where players from abroad are in abundance, the foreign signing can become a bit of a cult favourite amongst a section of supporters. I fondly remember the likes of Argentinean left back Gino Padula at QPR who looked a bit out of place playing in the old Division Two but was admired at Loftus Road during his time there. Other shouts have to go to ‘Nobby’ Solano of Newcastle and Richard Sneekes at West Bromwich Albion, let’s not forget Juninho and Emerson at Middlesbrough.
It’s in the Name – Everyone loves a good football chant and some players’ names are just asking for it and in return they become a hit with the fans. It wasn’t that long ago down at QPR where we had Doudou and Shittu playing in the same team, other names include the likes of Uwe Fuchs (Middlesbrough, Millwall) and Joseph Desire-Job. It does not have to be a funny name for a popular chant amongst the terraces, I have a dozen of examples I could use to prove my point but such language would not be appropriate.
So bad, they’re good – In some cases the Cult Hero stems from the player being so bad that they actually have an ironic following by supporters. That striker who never seems to score but always finds a way into the first team, Carl Leaburn anybody? Or it could be the likes of former Arsenal midfielder John Jensen or current Watford defender Lloyd Doyley who score once every solar eclipse but the fans love to shout ‘shoot!’ whenever they get the ball.
One Hit Wonder – Ever heard of Jimmy Glass? He is a Carlisle United legend despite only making 3 appearances for the club on loan. Why? Because the Goalkeeper scored, yes scored, an injury time winner back in 1999 in the last game of the season which kept the Cumbrian side in the Football League.
These are the archetypes of the Football Cult Hero, please feel free to comment with your own cult heroes below or alternatively tell me on Twitter – @verbal_football
[bet_365 type='odds' size='300' af_code='365_050711']