People often talk of things signalling the end of an era. The final mini off the production line at Longbridge; Concorde’s final flight in November 2003 and the conclusion of the utterly hilarious and widely admired sitcom, ‘My Hero’ in 2006. All of these lamentable moments drew a particularly memorable period to a close. Two of these things involved revolutionary design, innovative forward-thinking and status as a national icon and treasure… the other was one of the worst programmes ever to have been broadcast. Anyway, I digress…
It would appear that this weekend is the last time we will see some of the most famous people associated with the Premier League and English football in action. A veritable cavalcade of the top flight’s greats and stalwarts will call an end to, in many cases, a highly successful career as they step aside, clearing the path for future legends.
The retirees this weekend include:
Sir Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher, Paul Scholes.
There is little left to be said about Sir Alex Ferguson; he completely relaunched an already successful football club into an international sports brand of barely-equalled magnitude. Yet, despite the commercial position Ferguson leaves the club in, it is of course the utterly remarkable level of consistency of success on the pitch that is the real hallmark of Fergie’s reign. Never has one manager been able to last so long at one club at the very top level of football, with the many and varied pressures that brings.
Ferguson’s commitment to a certain style of attacking, pacy football and his ability to form new teams whilst maintaining an incredible record of picking up trophies is both admirable and astonishing. There was plenty about the Scot that neutrals couldn’t bear, but only a truly partisan moron would deny that the outgoing Manchester United manager is by far the greatest manager of the Premier League era.
You have probably seen pictures or video of David Beckham’s final game as a professional yesterday. The Londoner bowed out of the game with a victory and yet another championship win, making him the only Englishman to win league titles in 4 countries.
Few, if any figures in football history have gained the worldwide fame and profile of David Beckham, but those, and there are many of them, who focus with a critical eye on his off-field endorsements and celebrity lifestyle fail to give due respect to a Premier League legend. This is a man who has won the Champions League, La Liga, the Premier League, Ligue Un, the FA Cup, oh, and the MLS Cup, as well as numerous individual awards. Not only that, he has remained a) tirelessly committed to his fitness and improving and b) an obvious fan of the game – something other players don’t always seem… naming no names… ahem…
Michael Owen – when I hear that name, I still think of France 98 and that magnificent, impudent goal against a shell-schocked Argentina (well, Carlos Roa was busy thinking about what he was going to do in his remaining year-and-a-half on the planet, before the world ended around 2000). Unfortunately my mind then pulls me from my nostalgic stupor and reminds me of what Owen has become. A bench-warming, horse-racing has-been, who’s career very much reflected the old football adage about ‘two halves’. First half: full of speed, potential, medals, including European Football of the Year in 2001, and class. Second half: injuries, frustration, bench-warming, and interests elsewhere. A real shame that Owen doesn’t leave as a true great.
It’s true that you rarely see a one-club-man in modern football, especially in the top flight, so those Premier League players who spend their entire career with one club are often ludicrously feted as almost saintly heroes (even John Terry). However, it means a lot to fans that in the truly international world of the Premier League, there are still local boys doneing good and sticking around with their hometown club. Despite being a boyhood Evertonian, Jamie Carragher has been turning out as a professional for Liverpool since 1996.
In that time, the Scouser’s Scouser has scored a fair few own goals and frequently been beaten for pace by an arthritic snail, but the passion, commitment and downright bloody-mindedness of Jamie Carragher make him a legend of Anfield. He will leave Liverpool as a reminder of days gone by, they may not have been the club’s greatest years but he is certainly one of its greatest battlers.
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