When it comes to shirt numbers I’m sure many people won’t even bat an eyelid at the significance of certain digits and the importance that they hold within the walls of a football club. There is a number, however, so revered in English football you’d think it was a crown jewel considering the proud way fans talk about it. The number nine shirt means a lot more to football fans than they could possibly explain. To wear the much-respected number you have to be a certain type of player and more importantly you have to earn it!
Since individual squad numbers were introduced into English football in 1993 they have soared in tandem with transfer fees. Don’t be surprised if, in the very near future, you see a maverick player sporting three digits on the back of his shirt. In my opinion squad numbers have become a bit of a gimmick and aren’t treated with the respect that they once were. That said the number nine shirt will always retain its majesty, power and prodigious tradition. Since the dawn of our beautiful game that digit has grown to signify something holy and special turning an average player into a symbol of hope and glory. It takes an amazing character to take up the mantle of being a number nine and I believe the game needs them to separate those who play football with pride and those who play for the wrong reasons.
A majority of footballers, these days, are seen to be lacking in passion and commitment with the sport now just an avenue to a colossal bank account and a stress free existence. Traditions seem to be lost on this new breed of player as they continue to lose touch with the people that come out to support them every week. The chasm between players and fans is widening every year and doesn’t look like stopping with there being no feasible way to relate or feel connected to footballers anymore. They are more focused on fast cars, expensive watches and garnering a celebrity status. They are visibly ignorant and a poor representation of the traditions that once made football romantic and magical. Being a Newcastle United fan I know full well what that shirt means to those who wear it and those who chant their name from the stands. Jackie Milburn, Malcom MacDonald, Les Ferdinand, Alan Shearer and dare I say it Andy Carroll are just some of the names to sit above the famous figure and all have been worshipped in their own right at St James’ Park.
Everyone knows that number nines are goal scorers but they hold much more importance than that. They are the focal point of the team, the spearhead if you like, and in no uncertain terms are the ultimate heroes of a football club. Whilst their job is to hit the back of the net they must also keep those faces in the stands smiling broadly and wear the shirt with absolute dignity and honour. There may be shouts that I’m being biased but you have to agree with the sentiment that Shearer is the greatest number nine the Premier League has ever seen. His first class attitude, consistent goal scoring exploits, roughhouse nature and battering ram approach to games made him the archetypal leader on the pitch. He was the first to throw his head into a crowd or charge down an opponent when possession was surrendered and didn’t mind taking a few cuts and bruises along the way. To cut a long story short he was inspirational and is still idolized to this day despite hanging up his boots over five years ago. Blackburn Rovers fans i’m sure you’ll agree?
The fact of the matter is Shearer encompassed the sort of passion and respect that the makes a number nine so special. He knew what it meant to wear that shirt and how much it would hurt the fans if it was ever besmirched. He is the model that every number nine should aspire to be and it seems that they are a dying breed. The adoration and esteem that surrounds the number nine shirt makes it sacred to so many football fans around the country. Perhaps the pressure surrounding it is considered too much to handle at any club. Thats why a special type of character is required to take on that role as avant-garde. As well as being seen as a leader they’ll also be identified as an equilibrium between fans and modern footballers. Someone who understands the tradition that they are currently steeped in. The influence a player like that holds should never be underestimated No one ever forgets a true number nine!