What Mario Balotelli and I have in common

What Mario Balotelli and I have in common
Vernon impersonating Eddie Gray

Vernon impersonating Eddie Gray

No, not that! My body beautiful days are behind me.

But I also scored a great goal once, writes Vernon Grant. Those who were there remember the day I latched on to a loose ball 35 yards from goal and struck it beautifully with my left foot. The same left foot which, many years later, the great John Charles would label as “deft.”

Back then, in the sixties, my arrow like strike was last seen heading down the A4 in the direction of Heathrow Airport. They didn’t have nets on the goals when I played for my junior school. Wearing the Springwell School colours of purple and black (a fetching look never taken up by a Premier League club), I could not have struck the ball better. It flew into the top left hand corner. One brother got to the ground just too late to see my best moment on a football pitch, but those who were there still talk about that goal.

That’s where Mario Balotelli comes in. Do you remember the last great goal he scored?

Liverpool are considering the future of Balotelli and the enigmatic player is himself thinking about where his career goes next. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says that Balotelli is not suited to the style of play he, Rodgers, believes is the best style for Liverpool.

Rodgers said: ‘I think we’ve seen that it’s not really his game (the 3-4-3 system). Having worked with Mario during the time he’s been here, we’ve seen that he’s a player who is better in and around the box, so that level of intensity and pressing isn’t a part of his game.

‘But you try to get the best out of the players that you have, and the qualities that they have, so that’s something that we’ll focus on.’

That begs the question…why did six employees of the club think it was a good move to pay 16 million pounds for the player? Jose Mourinho, possibly the best man manager of recent years, said Balotelli was “impossible to manage.”

I’m not picking on Balotelli. It is true that too many people have singled him out as the problem at Anfield. The ever loyal Liverpool fans have stuck by the man because they know he is not the only reason the season has, so far at least, been a disappointing one.

Just like that Mario!

Just like that Mario!

Balotelli once asked: “Why always me?”

His off field activities while playing for Manchester City were responsible for the ludicrous amount of publicity he received, totally out of proportion to his importance.

But I do have a big gripe with Balotelli on the pitch. He is so lazy. I have never seen him chase down an opposing defender who is bringing the ball out of defence, or receiving it from his goalkeeper. Balotelli just ambles around or stands there like a statue watching the opponents come away with the ball. Why doesn’t a manager order him to put pressure on defenders?

Mario has scored more great goals than I have. Below is just one example. It reminds me of my own great goal, though Mario is much more modest with his celebration.

Mario does celebrate goals in a much better, more understated manner than I can ever recall doing. But then, unlike Mario, I have had little practice.

I loved his spectacular finish for Italy during Euro 2012. The one that preceded his removing his shirt to show middle aged men like me what might have been, had we only kept up with gym membership.

But lazy players with such special ability in their locker annoy me. That’s because they don’t put in a shift for the team. The side as a whole is playing at less than 100% because one player is doing his own thing. Balotelli is far from the first footballer in history to do that. It doesn’t matter who they are, or in what era such players performed. Entertainers will deliver memorable goals. But only once in a while and only when they’re in the right mood.

I’d rather have a striker who scored more goals, tap-ins as well as a sweet volley or two. My favourite footballers ever are Pele and George Best. Both entertainers, for sure. But they also worked hard. In his prime years Bestie chased back. Entertainers such as Rodney Marsh would put pressure on a defender (though Rodney avoided tackling if at all possible). Colin Bell was an athlete. He could run all day for Manchester City and England. Bell wasn’t known for being a goalscorer, but he was a fabulous footballer. Jimmy Greaves and Denis Law were entertainers and goalscorers. Many of their goals came from within the penalty area, or six yards from goal. But that doesn’t matter. While we all like to see the spectacular, such goals do not win you any more points than a tap in.

The ideal mix is a footballer who can do the unexpected, while also working hard throughout the 90 minutes. What type of player would your rather have in your team? Let me know via the comment section below.

As for my footballing career. Well, I was a one hit wonder. I was never able to repeat that great goal that is still talked about. At least in my household!

Front row, far left. The one hit wonder

Front row, far left. The one hit wonder

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