The only reason Van Dijk isn’t the greatest ever – yet

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The only reason Van Dijk isn’t the greatest ever – yet

The only reason Van Dijk isn’t the greatest ever – yet


VVD is not the best ever… yet Regarding Kompany’s claim that VVD is the best centre-back in Premier League history, he certainly caveats his statement by saying that although VVD hasn’t earned the longevity yet that Ferdinand and Terry did, the qualities he has shown over a period of 18 months are beyond anything we have seen thus far. Just the fact that people bantered him over being dribbled past for the first time in a calendar year points to the ridiculous standards this guy has set.

I still would not bestow the title of best center back of all time just because he didn’t do it over the period that other former greats did, and this definitely should be a consideration. However I believe VVD on his best day vs Terry, Ferdinand or Vidic(surprised Kompany did not name check him) is superior. Let’s not forget that Terry’s style of defending, while certainly very effective, was kind of frantic and often relied on last ditch challenges and tackles, something VVD rarely does because his incredible reading of the game allows him to snuff out danger before the opening is even created. In that sense, he shares qualities with Maldini, another defender who rarely went to ground or into last ditch tackles, relying mainly on intelligence and anticipation. Ferdinand and Terry were both excellent on the ball, but not in VVD’s league imo. The shoulder drops and caressed accurate long balls are indicative of a defender whose footballing ability could allow him to play further up the field if he wanted to. Vidic, although not as comfortable on the ball as the other 3, was a brute force of a defender who simply battered opposition strikers(not named Fernando Torres) into submission and was simply unbeatable in the air, not unlike VVD, who is similarly completely imperious in the air, but in a more graceful, controlled manner. VVD is certainly quicker than all 3 of the mentioned center backs were, in fact he clocked the quickest sprint in the champions league from last season.

Simply put, VVD is not the best center back of all time on the basis of longevity, and respect has to be paid to the likes of Terry, Ferdinand and Vidic who were at the top for many years while winning major trophies. However, his traits are collectively probably superior to any center back we have seen in the league, and if he can produce this level or close to this level of performance for at least 3-4 more years, while winning trophies, he will take that spot. johnnyWicky, Toronto


Are England likeable? One thing I’ve noticed with debates about this England team is a sharp dividing line between two types of fan – and, quite possibly, two types of people in general.

This division comes up again and again in football, and neither side is right or wrong, it’s purely a matter of preference / values. Where we see it most acutely however is with Southgate’s England – specifically around this question of “likeability”.

Likeability is the go-to adjective for this team according to its acolytes, being used to describe both the manager and the playing squad. However this argument rarely seems to move people – myself included – who, ironically, greatly dislike this England team, especially in comparison with iconic sides of the past such as the Euro 96 squad.

What people like myself are looking for in a team, I’d suggest, isn’t likeability but a different, largely incompatible attribute: charisma.

The definition of a charismatic player or manager is something like this:

– They have highly pronounced, individual, “characters” – Fans feel like they really know what that player is “like” – They tend to be somewhat controversial in some way – They tend to be famous beyond the sport – They have something approaching a personal “brand” (deliberately or accidentally) – They are generally both loved and hated by different groups of fans (it’s hard to be charismatic and universally popular)

Examples of charismatic football figures include:

Eric Cantona Gazza Jose Mourinho Zlatan Ibrahimovic David Ginola Sam Allardyce Ronaldinho Cristiano Ronaldo Gianfranco Zola Roy Keane Ian Wright Didier Drogba Gordon Strachan John Terry Dwight Yorke etc.

If you look at that list and think “what bunch of pricks” (excluding Zola who is one of the few charismatic and universally popular players) then you’re probably part of the “likeable England brigade” – which is no bad thing. If on the other hand you’re like me, you want the game to have more colour and texture of the type provided by these guys – in which case this current England team (and indeed a lot of current football in general) probably leaves you cold.

That Euro 96 squad included: Seaman, Neville, Pearce, Ince, Adams, Gascoigne, Shearer, Sheringham, Campbell, Fowler… a colourful bunch. Maybe you wouldn’t want them at your dinner party as much as the current crop of nice young men, but that’s not what I’m looking for in a footballer personally.

Ultimately it seems to me that “likeable” is just a term we apply to players who we know nothing about, have no “public personality” to speak of, and essentially do nothing that would make someone form an opinion of them – for better or worse. This comes as a result of, presumably:

– Higher professionalism in the game – Media training – The more rarified, less “human” lives of the players (hard to identify with) – Higher levels of scrutiny / abuse on social media – Etc.

It makes the game seem so corporate, so “HR approved”, so bloodless. It’s completely understandable, but not everyone has to like it. Alex


England hindshite Tom Reed’s piece on England really was like anti-England fan bingo, with hopeless romanticism and right on box ticking there in spades. I get that Laurie Cunningham was a pioneer, a star in every sense and died tragically young, but was he really better than Chris Waddle, a man who Nick Hornsby delightfully describes as waltzing through the great Milan defence ‘whenever he chose’? And are we really supposed to blame the England players for the commercialisation of football, and refuse to support them because they play under the aegis of the Football Association? No, there isn’t a playmaker to quicken the pulse like Gazza and both the 90 and 96 sides were more talented overall (mainly in defence) but he conveniently glosses over the fact that both were pretty rubbish at points in those tournaments, and it must be said that describing England losing in extra time to Croatia as ‘disintegrating’ is ludicrous hyperbole.

F365 is a publication that (rightly) skewers other outlets for hot takes that use intentionally provocative positions as click bait, please don’t do the same thing yourself Phil, London


…England then and now, Gazza and Euro 96 may well have been as awesome as suggested but it also smells of looking at the past in rose tinted glasses. You could also point to the 5-1 thrashing of Germany as a high point for England (still got the t-shirt) but Euro 96 was a team carried by the Euphoria of the country and that Germany thrashing was one good performance amongst years of relative misery before and since (OK, misery is a bit harsh, how about mediocrity?).

As someone who started watching England around Mexico ‘86 with Lineker in his wrist cast, from then until the early 2000’s has seen very consistent patterns of English football. With a host of supposed quality players from Lineker, Hateley, Beardsley, Shearer, Sheringham, Gazza, Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney, Owen to Beckham and beyond, our team performances and results have been way below par. England have typically scraped through qualification with the odd failure and have had a host of games against supposed minnows that we control the possession but only manage to win 1 or 2 nil or too often scored a couple of late goals to put some gloss on a terrible performance.

Remember, this is a team that hadn’t won a competitive knockout game for donkeys years before Gareth Southgate came along. A team that other than Euro 96, Le Tornoi, beating Germany 5-1 and the odd win on penalties (special mention to Stuart ‘Psycho’ Pearce) just before going out in the next round were our high points.

Fast forward to now. We have breezed through qualification for 10 years. We have a young manager who is getting the best out of his players. We have an attack that would worry any defence in the world. We are playing entertaining football with some quick passing, clever play and not the sterile possession of the past reliant on feeding one or two players. We play much more as a team. We have adventurous full backs and ball playing centre backs.

Yes, we may have made too many mistakes at the back against Kosovo but we have scored 19 and conceded 4 in the current qualification campaign. England teams of the past would not have done that, we may well have conceded less but we would have also suffered a couple of draws in this group already while this current crop have blown sides away.

England have much that they can improve, but past sides were sterile and many successive quality experienced and proven managers could not put their finger on why the whole was much less than the sum of their parts. I’m loving this England for their attacking intent, their entertainment, their ability and that they still have potential to improve. Jon, Cape Town


…Why the heck are so many of you bitching about this England team? It is the most exciting it has been in ages. People like Rashford and Hudson-Odoi are on the bench FFS. Can you not appreciate a good thing when you have it? Pull your finger out FFS. Such negativity Viren (Man Utd since 1995, Coimbatore, India)


Reed was right Tom Reed took an unbelievable about of stick for his “this England leave me cold” article, some of of completely justified, there’s nothing wrong in the current generation getting excited about England doing well in a World Cup, it’s fantastic and everyone gets wrapped up in it.

However, I’m on Toms’ side, this current crop don’t inspire me or fill me with (unjustified) hope, I believe they are “bang average” albeit with the potential to improve.

John, Wolves, England, says that the 96 team were “absurdly lucky to even get to the semi-finals” and he’s probably right, but the fact is, they underperformed, not overperformed and the excitement grew as we began to think they may actually realise their potential. As an excersise, pick your best XI from the the semi-final team and Tuesdays line up, even if your too young to have seen them play, the names will leap off the page, a little difficult as Venables played a 3-5-2

Seaman/ Pickford Seaman

Southgate(!) Adams Pearce All 3 ahead of Keane, Maguire, Chilwell

Anderton Platt Gascoigne McManaman I love JH but can’t get him in! Maybe TAA as a wing back

Shearer Sheringham 4-3-3 might get Sancho or Sterling in

The 96 quality is massively above 2019 and even on the bench we had Fowler, Ferdinand, Neville (G) and Campbell, all who would walk into the current team, oddly we also had two goalkeepers!

I, as much as the next person, want England to win a major tournament again, but I don’t want to build my hopes up on an overhyped (if I’m not careful, I’ll say overpaid!) group of players, who, are the worlds’ best this week and will be a bunch of tossers next time if they too, underperform.

If you love this England, your suffering from foreshite but it may get better. Howard (and the 70 World cup team was the best of the lot!) Jones


Top of the ladder Bad call on number 1 in the ladder. Was this done just for a reaction I wonder? Haven’t we listened to the noise that comes out of the England camp from players and manager about Kane’s professionalism, setting incredible high standards, and getting the most out of yourself. When that man is also the captain, on track to be record goal scorer, there is no way you are not first name on the team sheet. Sterling would have to be Messi for Kane to be anything other than the permanent number 1. Silly J, Ireland


Rung again …I have always looked forward to the England Ladder. Until now. It is dead to me. Mason Mount number 14, Dele Alli number 29.

At the age of 23 Dele Alli had scored 42 premier league goals and 31 assists, Stephen Gerrard had 16 goals and 3 assists, Frank Lampard had 23 goals and 19 assists. Not bad company.

Mason Mount. He’s had a reasonable start to his Chelsea career in a poor Chelsea side. He had a reasonable season last year in a reasonable Derby side (so did Tom Huddlestone). He’s scored 2 goals in the PL and has no assists.

What’s going on. If Mount plays for England ahead of a fully fit Dele in the Euros this summer I’ll wear a waistcoat to work. NPR (THFC)


County concern George Gillett’s son, Foster, who held a management position at Liverpool FC during his father’s abominable co-ownership, is reportedly in takeover talks at Derby County. Bemoaning the state of club ownership regulation feels like pissing into the wind at this point, but it’s still worth reminding people that he was part of a ownership and management team that nearly drove an otherwise profitable enterprise into administration due to financial mismanagement. Like greedy hogs at a half-empty slop trough, the families Gillette and Hicks (Tom Hicks Jr is a close friend of Donald Trump Jr, apropos of f*ck them both) copied the Glazer’s parasitic finance model, borrowing the GDP of a small provincial city to take over Liverpool FC (while assuring supporters that they “wouldn’t do a Glazer” with the club). There, they planned to let supporters and TV rights pay off the loans while they pocketed large “management fees”. Or so they thought… The world economy began to go tits up in February 2007. The US economy began to tip into recession in August of that same year (according to the NBER, a US gov’t body which retroactively calls recessions based on economic data). They’d not actually paid any money out of pocket for the club and created a shell company to stack off-balance sheet loans on the club’s books as their financial situation deteriorated. By the end, Liverpool FC was paying $100k per **DAY** in interest charges, incurred solely to finance Owner’s Equity. With the club days from administration in October of 2010, the Royal Bank of Scotland*, itself preparing taxpayer-funded bailout requests (of £45 billion) in part due to shoddy loan underwriting practices (as well as shoddy investment decisions related to loan-backed derivative financial instruments, essentially, “bets” that people & business who’d take out loans would pay them off — or, gambling losses), had called in about £250 million in loans on the Hicks/Gillete shell corporation. Fortunately for Liverpool, John Henry & Tom Werner’s Fenway Sports Group were able to step in and save the club from even more dire consequences.

Now, with a possible global recession on the horizon and one likely going on right now in the UK (adjusted figures won’t be finalized until the new year), the FA is going to let one of these parasitic f*ckwits waltz back into club ownership. It’s appalling. It’s bad enough that these entitled sh*theel “aristo-capitalists” get to run around with their family’s money buying up regular businesses, then rich-f***ing-brat-splain to the rest of us rabble why their taxes (and our services) should remain low, but … eh, f*ck it. I gotta get back to work.

Best of luck to Derby County supporters. Management in football’s governing body will be handsomely compensated for allowing a leveraged buyout of your football club, by a (probably) smug asshole, with absolutely no say-so from you. Maybe the well-compensated bankers financing this deal will be representing an adequately capitalized institution ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ?** Ian, LFC Hartford, CT USA * RBS just issued their first dividend last year, the UK taxpayer is still out a few billion quid. The Chairman of the Board, last year, admitted that the government will probably never get their money back. ** politicians debt-financing new spending right before an election isn’t at all a similar means of acquiring private benefit with public means, so no worries


Looking back F365 articles and mails often feature arguments around ‘then vs now’. The BFI is a great archive particularly because much of the content is amateur and or not actual TV programming. It is also free!

The following is a link to a film made by the police of the 1976 Leeds v Man Utd match. It is just footage and no sound but in its own way unfree from bias captures a piece of social history. It resonates for me because it is the same year as my first match at Anfield and I went to live in Leeds 10 years later.

Any thoughts? David lfc


Nostalgia XI Doug, AFC, Belfast – nice on chief, here’s mine:

GK – Rene Higuita – for the “scorpion” and nothing else LB – Roberto Carlos – just because of the ball twatting thighs CB – Frank Rijkaard – because he’ll never be remembered for how good he was, just that he spat at Rudi Voeller CB – Fabio Cannavaro – for being a brilliant “little” centre back RB – Tony Hibbert – Just the best ever right back on planet earth CM – Redondo – one of my favourite ever players – remember that back heel around Henning Berg? suits you CM – Edu – silky Edu, the most underrated of Arsenals invincibles team RM – Dave Beckham – simply the most consistent cutting edge you will ever have in a team LM – Cristiano Ronaldo – obviously CF – Dennis Bergkamp – the magician, the orchestrator, the dirty bastard CF – Didier Drogba / Thierry Henry – because we will never see the likes of these players ever again Fat Man


…Reading Doug, AFC, Belfast’s email made me think about my own footballing moments.

GK Carlo Cudicini (was a truly amazing value reserve ‘keeper who sometimes became world class in CM2 (97/98) and seeing him emerge at Chelsea to become the best keeper in the Prem at the time gave me a cool hipster glow before I even knew what a Hipster was)

RD Gary Neville (The way he celebrated Manchester United’s late winner against Liverpool in 2006; pure hilarity)

CB Rio Ferdinand (His name is Rio and he dances in Japan!)

CB Traianos Dellas (Won me the fantasy football league and the money, basically single handily, when Greece won the Euros)

LB Paulo Maldini (Watching Italian football on a Sunday afternoon and not understanding how any human being could be so amazing)

RM David Beckham (That free kick against Greece. Always knew it was going in)

CM Paul Ince (Covered in blood playing for England; it isn’t fashionable to admit it now but I do love a bloke that really works hard on the football pitch)

CM David Platt (I was 10 when Italia 90 happened. The goal against Belgium made me have feelings I didn’t understand!)

LW John Barnes (Used to truly love him playing for England and there is also, the small thing of, that World in Motion rap)

CF Ally McCoist (Bumped in to him in a bar in London recently. Really nice bloke and told me to never give up playing football)

CF Fernando Torres (Went to Barcelona on a ‘lads trip’. Went to see Ronaldinho do his magic. Some young blond lad scored a truly amazing goal (and Ronaldinho missed a penalty too))

Subs Steve Book (went to Uni in Cheltenham when they got promoted to the football league; was more interested in interacting with the crowd than saving shots), Paul Parker (Didn’t look like football at Italia 90 but was immense and started my love of right backs), Ricky Otto (I was young and went to watch Southend play; he could actually control a ball), Darren Anderton (What could have been without injury and love the story about being the fittest Englishman at Euro 96 even though had missed the whole season with an injury), Michael Owen (That goal against Argentina)

Manager Steve Cotterill (singing “Stevie Cotterill’s red and white army” with a few Stella’s in my stomach and mates arms around my shoulders!)

Massively based around England I know; but what can I say. Matt Southend


…Thought I’d weigh in with a Nostalgia / Special Moments XI of my own! Here goes:

GK: Walter Zenga – I don’t know how highly he’s regarded in the great pantheon of goalkeepers, but I remember him keeping a LOT of clean sheets at Italia 90 and then having to hold back the tears when Italy conceded one.

RB: Michael Reiziger – In the mid 90’s Ajax won the Champions League with a team of schoolchildren who were marshalled by Danny Blind. I remember Reiziger effortlessly making a supreme tackle on a very good winger (can’t remember who, Giggs maybe?), he just caught up with him and took the ball off him with a Cruyff turn. And then made a nice pass to a teammate. Ugh! Swoon. No one had heard of Reiziger at this point.

CB: Victor Onopko – Can’t even remember which tournament it was now, but Russia was in it, and he was literally 40 years old, barely able to run, and I had a really good knowledge of footballers at this point but I’d never heard of him. My word he was class personified. I could only imagine how good he must have been in his late 20’s.

CB: Per Mertesacker – FA Cup Final two(?) years ago, his final game, and arguably his finest game too

LB: Gabriel Heintze – For no other reason that I just really bloody loved watching Gabriel Heintze play football.

CM: Patrick Vieira – More specifically, Patrick Vieira’s debut against Sheffield Wednesday where, as an Arsenal fan watching him, you immediately knew that this was an amazing player. Best yet, when you went to school, college, work the next day, everyone else saw it too.

CM: Jack Wilshere – Very nostalgic this one. His season as an 18 year old, 19 maybe? THAT game against Barca. The reason we still refer to it is because he was a teenager with barely 20 appearances under his belt who dominated Barcelona. Ravaged by injury since and that’s very sad.

CM: Juan Arango – I used to be a professional football writer back in the day for another website, and my first ever paid work was in 2004. I had to stay up all night every night and watch the Copa America, and write a daily “scouting report” and highlight all of the players who “could do a job in Europe”. I called many right, before they were famous: Mascherano, Renato, Jefferson Farfan, among others… but the player I fell in love with was a Venezuelan midfield genius called Juan Arango. A cross between McManaman, Veron and Petit, and was getting on a bit too. He absolutely rocked it, and it turns out he already played in La Liga, for Villareal I think.

FWD: Alvaro Recoba – Italian football on Channel 4, and this guy was the mercurial, frustrating, left-footed genius that I’ve grown to love. My proto-Ozil, and I love Ozil.

FWD: Dennis Bergkamp – My favourite ever player, and in my opinion one of the top 5 ever to lace up a boot.

FWD: Jan Aage Fjortoft – I’m not sure I’ve spelled that correctly, but being a Swindon lad I grew up with Town actually having a decent team in the late 80’s and early 90’s. We had Hoddle, Bodin, McLaren, Ling, Moncur and up top we had Fjortoft, who scored when he wanted and also celebrated with the aeroplane. What a great time to be a Town fan, and also he was my neighbour. Lived in the same cul-de-sac, and it was mind blowing when his house sat empty for a month during USA 94 – coz he was at the actual World Cup. Wow! Dale May, Swindon Wengerite

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