Fan's eye view: Time to celebrate the casual way

Gentlemen and Players
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The Independent Online
WHAT IS it with footballers? During the week, they are presumably decent types, the married ones remembering to collect the kids from school, helping out with the homework, all the while hoping a telephone call from the England manager will divert attention away from the algebra.

They have big houses, cars and unfortunately, egos and it is the latter that worries me. What would Roy of the Rovers have made of it all? Whither Corinthian Casuals? The only thing the modern pro has in common with that team is the length of their shorts.

Why is this? Perhaps it all started when Chelsea decided to be part of the entertainment industry in the early 1970s. The likes of Hudson and Hutchinson could not make up their minds whether they were footballers trying to be pop stars or the other way round (Charlie Cooke exempted). So what happens when a decent family man pulls on a football jersey?

A transformation in which faculties are abandoned apart from the ability to kick a football, run around a lot and argue. It's a sort of cloning, leaving them totally unable to appreciate the mood of the moment. Witness Oxford's cup-tie mauling of Chelsea. With moments to go, Vialli wins a dodgy penalty and Leboeuf scores. To the armchair neutral, the Frenchman's celebratory jig was irritating indeed.

He should have taken a leaf out of Denis Law's book when he scored the goal for Manchester City that send United down (chortle). The pained expression. It hurt.

Then there was the Overmars goal that wasn't against Sheffield United. Kanu takes the flak, but Overmars is buzzing, arm raised, calling for the pass, totally out of touch with the mood of the moment.

What to make of all these goal celebrations? I do find the sight of a group of grown men standing by a corner flag on one leg doing some sort of shuffle highly cringe making. So is their habit of running into the crowd after a goal is scored, to be extricated by the stewards. They are paid huge amounts of money to score goals. That is their job. Anyone would think they had never scored one before. In days of yore, "Sniffer" Clarke's finger raised in salute or Mick Channon's windmilling arms were celebration enough. Don't footballers realise that to run back to the middle with just the slightest handshake would be, well, cool.

Footballers even like to share their celebration with opposing fans behind the goal. Unsurprisingly, this is not always received with cheers, of "well played, that man."

A player recently conducted a television interview in which he attributed a run of bad results solely to the manager and reasoned that the poor fellow's sacking had been his just desserts. He seemed unable to appreciate that players on the pitch hoofing the ball around might have had something to do with it.

The old 'uns claim it was no different in their day. It's just that the cameras now pick up everything. I don't agree. I have just watched Tommy Docherty's Chelsea play Aston Villa on Bobby Charlton's Scrapbook. The ball was returned to the opposing player at free-kicks. Players chatted to each other during the game. Even "Chopper" Harris wore a smile.

No, what we want is a return of the Corinthian spirit. Come on you players. Your shorts have returned to a decent length. Now let's have some gentlemanly spirit.

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