Memories of your favourite footballing moments normally involve a triumphant derby or a victorious team with a Cup held aloft. I give you permission to activate nostalgia. Cast your mind back to your own favourite. As I type I’m now at Wembley and the team have climbed the stairs to finally get their hands on the Cup. Our Captain, mouth agape in a grimace of joy, has the Cup in his hands and it looks like he never wants to give it back,
The Captain of the team reaps the glory in the bad times and suffers the worst of the wrath in the leaner of times. Under duress, the Captain must deliver words of inspiration and give looks of pure conviction. He must be the man that does not wilt under the most blazing of fires. As the flames lick lasciviously at his flesh, he must stand firm and set an example to the younger of his squadron. They must look up to him, want to play harder for him.
Mclintock. O’Leary. Hapgood. Mercer. Groves. Adams. These men were forged in the iron smelter. They were assembled primarily to lead troops and breed the habit of victory. Nothing sated their hunger. Images of Captains with bandages and war wounds haunt the public but it serves as a reminder as to what people expect.
The outcry when the Captains Armband, the most sacrosanct of all responsibilities, was tossed from pillar to post in an England friendly and the game ended with England having had FOUR Captains during the 90 minutes, was tangible. A Captain is supposed to be the best the team has to offer. definitely NOT Phill Neville. It still is talked about to this day. So a Skipper is still held in some regard.
Rules from the F.A state that the Captain alone is allowed to discuss decisions during the game with the match referee. This again gives the Captain another role. So when choosing who dons the armband, the Manager must query who not only holds the respect of his team mates, but can also express themselves clearly despite crucial decisions going against him. It is a responsibility that holds huge gravitas but must weigh down upon the bearers.
What an honour though. As aforementioned, it isn’t only under times of strife that a Captain must come to the fore. When it is time to shine for the camera, when it is time to represent the club or nation you adore, when it is time to claim the adulation of the fans who scream your name. The armband represents so much for just a scrap of material.
During Evertons turgid goalless draw versus West Brom – a flash of controversy occurred.
A penalty was awarded to Everton after former Toffee Joleon Lescott – now at The Hawthorns – handled in the area. Cue beatnik set-piece specialist Leighton Baines to step up and tuck it away, surely? We know now that instead of Baines – who coincidentally has scored 15 of 16 taken penalties in his top-flight career – it was Mirallas who deigned himself the Top Penalty Taker and snatched the ball and ignored the indignancy of Romelu Lukaku and Naismith. No, instead he strode toward the penalty spot and put the ball down. Baines went to him, gave him a few choice words and let him take the penalty. Then came the inevitable miss and the half-time hook from Everton Boss Martinez.
Why didn’t Toffees Skipper Phil Jagielka step forward and let Mirallas know in no uncertain terms that it was Baines who takes the spot-kicks? Why didn’t he act on his cpmrades half-hearted appeals for sense to Kevin? Instead, he chose to say nothing.
It would seem to raise heckles is to court controversy. In todays sterilised game, any hint of discord willmean an unceremonious boot to train with the kids. If that is the case then, why wouldn’t Mirallas receive this punishment?
Another role for the Captain is to make sure that harmony within the squad flows unhindered. In a squad of over twenty men, all with different tastes, views and mannerisms, it will be difficult not to occasionally overstep the line with over-exuberant banter. This must be a regular occurrence. So the Skipper is the fellow who makes sure that any grievances are aired quickly and not allowed to fester. Something Jagielka has perhaps allowed.
In the petri dish of a Premiership squad, all cultures and opinions will clash to a degree. Appointing someone like Mikel Arteta – who commands your respect and your ear if nothing else – is one way to go. Another method is to go for someone of the ilk of Per Mertesacker, who currently also has the added task of collecting the fines from his teammates.
The Captain must nip in the bud rapidly any change of tide. He must be a regulator and also be a creator for emotion, to whip up a frenzy to heat the loins in the face of a formidable adversary. It’s a thankless task but such an honour that no one would refuse.
Jagielka not diffusing a potential bomb may turn this event askew. The armband did not speak on this occasion, and former skippers everywhere shook their heads. Choppy seas ahead for Everton and Martinez.