RABONAS, RAINBOW FLICKS AND RED FACES

Furore. It’s a funny word isn’t it? Never sure how to spell it or how to pronounce it and it hardly rolls off the tongue. It reminds me of all those magnificent words those masters of footballing ceremony, Arthur Montford and Archie MacPherson used to purvey; ‘sensational’, ‘stooshie’ and the immortal ‘stramash,’ as they graced our screens on a Saturday night and a Sunday afternoon. Furore of course has two meanings – One, a great, widespread outburst of admiration or enthusiasm, or the other, a state of excitement or confusion, commotion or indeed, uproar. So what better way to describe the reaction to Nathan Oduwa’s audacious piece of skill than by saying, in true Arthur Montford style, “what a furore”. I just wonder what they would have made of it all.

Disrespect

There is no doubting young Oduwa has talent. The very fact that he should try such an act of footballing wizardry, that he knew was guaranteed to provoke a reaction, would tell you that this was not a one-off. He’s clearly ‘that type of player’ and he would have known, make no mistake about it, that his fellow pro’s would snipe and snarl at his audacity as well as accuse him of ‘taking the piss’. But did he really? This is a generation of footballers who have been brought up in a time when tackling is a dying art, and the physical side of the game is frowned upon. The staple of the community programme graduate and the academy trainee has become the rabona and the rainbow flick, just as mine was raw meat and sharp, metal studs.

These kids are encouraged from a very early age to express themselves in matches and are taught to use those skills and tricks, in order to both beat, and embarrass their lumbering, defensive counterparts. Surely then, we shouldn’t be trying to knock it back out of them as soon as they reach the first team? It is also important at this stage to dispel the myth that the rest are “gonnae get ye” or “try it with me and i’ll put you in the stand.” That unwritten code of honour among footballers that implies if you are disrespectful, you’ll get what you deserve. The game has changed to such an extent that any attempt to ‘even it up’ will normally result in at least a card, or the inevitable early bath. At that point I am certain that he who has sinned, will be the one facing the wrath of his team mates for disrespecting THEM by getting himself stupidly sent off.

Gone are the days of being able to get away with ‘one for nothing’ without any discernible punishment as it was in my day. Smashing into any fleet-footed forward who had the gall to take an extra touch, as he tried to skip past and bear down on goal in his fancy coloured boots is no longer feasible, nor acceptable.

Cameo

But as i’ve said, was he really being disrespectful? Andrei Kanchelskis, 6:0 up at Hampden against Ayr United, standing on the ball and pretending to look out over the pitch, THAT was disrespectful. Jim Baxter, sitting on the ball at Wembley, as Scotland toyed with the World Champions, THAT was disrespectful. Both unnatural football movements, both ‘taking the piss’, but young Oduwa? He was only showcasing a skill he had learned and (almost) perfected through years of tippy-tappy academy football.

Sure, he may well have been better advised to leave the fancy footwork another week or two and play himself into Scottish football, rather than making himself a target for the Championship’s hammer thrower’s during that 10 minute cameo role. In my opinion though, he was only doing what came naturally to him, although I do have to say that I bet he was rather embarrassed at the ‘furore’ created, given he was unable to execute the move successfully and indeed, lost possession and had to give away a foul to try and gain it back.

Hardly Messi, as was portrayed in some quarters, but don’t mock him for having fun and trying it.

Gazza

I was lucky enough during my career to play against two of the best players to grace Scottish football, namely Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup. Laudrup was the better of the two, possessing pace, power, skill and two incredible feet even the greatest would have been proud of. Gazza was different to that, without the blistering pace, but had an unbelievable bag of tricks allied to the strength of a cruiserweight and elbows that would jab you like knitting needles as he surged past. I remember a game at Easter Rd where the ball broke to me in the middle of the pitch and without hesitation, I stuck it in behind the Rangers defence for our strikers to run on to. As the ball ran aimlessly for a goal kick, Gazza sauntered over and said “calm down and pass it” “take a touch.” He wouldn’t have known me from any other fresh faced Jock, trying to impress himself on the game and make his presence felt, so little did he know, THAT WAS MY TOUCH.

Later in the game, he picked the ball up around 35 yards out and ghosted effortlessly past two players, before making his way toward goal. By now, my less than intimidating presence, just inside the 18 yard box, was all that stood between him and another majestic, solo effort. He jinked to go right and made a ‘legover’ movement, going over the ball and dragging it away from me with his left. Classic Gazza and unfortunately for me, so classic that I had failed to read the first ‘dummy’ and ended up on my arse with my trailing leg by now hovering like a trip wire. Had he been prone to going down easily, there would have been no need as, on this occasion, the trip wire done it’s job and sent him sprawling. A stonewaller, converted for a Rangers goal and as I stood there, stooped over, hands on knees, red-faced and trying to avoid eye contact with our bench and the inevitable manager’s glare, the pitch felt like a lonely, empty place.

Gazza’s trickery had done for me, although I needn’t have felt so alone as Paul Gascoigne had done that to many, many better players than me. At that moment, I caught a glimpse of him, as he bounced back to the halfway line and from the corner of my eye, just about raised my head high enough to see the trademark, Gazza wink. It was enough for me to know, that even though i’d been dumped on my Scottish backside, by nothing more than a moment of Gascoigne magic, there was still a respect for the footballer.

If Nathan Oduwa does manage to pull off some of his repertoire of trickery on one of Scottish football’s hardened pro’s, I hope he has the good grace and humility not to rub anyone’s nose in it. If he does that, he’ll show that not only does he have the ability to grace a higher level, he also has the class to go with it. Just as one of his legendary predecessors did.

My first book – TAXI FOR FARRELL: FOOTBALL BETWEEN THE LINES is now available to pre-order from http://www.tecklebooks.co.uk All pre-orders before November release date will receive a signed copy and free delivery.

All material in this feature is the Intellectual Property of the author and as such may not be reproduced in print or for commercial gain without the prior permission of David Farrell

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