Tag Archives: leader

O Captain, My Captain

The game has changed massively over the years. In fact, blink and the version your eyes see will be different to the one pre-blink.

Perhaps not, but season after season changes the sport we all enjoy. Just look at this latest incarnation of the Premier League. VAR has transformed how we view all instances, and even how we celebrate goals, a hush falls over player and fan alike as we wait for the permission to celebrate or commiserate.

Surely though, the values that embody a captain of a football club haven’t changed, have they?

Maybe they have. As the sport changes, does a role within a team have to change? Take a midfielder for instance. It used to be that a man in the centre didn’t have to be a presence in both areas of the pitch and have a skillset reminiscent of an elaborate Swiss Army Knife.

There are still roles on the pitch that demand a very ‘boxed-in’ set of talents, but as the pace in the Premier League speeds up and the technical quality increases exponentially, it means players must rise with it, or fear being left by the wayside and plying their trade in the lower leagues.

A captain though, what does it mean to lead the team out week on week?

That is how you pick the right man for the job. The Skipper predominantly is the middle man between the manager and the team on the pitch. Relaying dynamic instructions from the sidelines, and picking up when those instructions slip.

The man wearing the armband is also the mouth for the team, when decisions require a quick convo with the man in black he is the one who must offer his side’s argument, or try and appease the ref if he is thinking of reaching into his pocket.

Both require a cool head, a temperament that can remain literate even when the red mists have descended.

So, from our pool of five captains, do any of them tick these boxes?

The first choice who will be the skipper for the majority would have been Granit Xhaka – before Monday’s events.

Xhaka Capt

This has been a major point of consternation in our fanbase. The Swiss man divides opinion in a big way, and his high profile errors have stained his copybook with many. Can a player who is letting the side down, then expect to pick up his teammates and squeeze out an extra five percent of effort from them?

Alternatively, Xhaka is one of the few players we have that does attempt to keep his teammates on their toes. After we score, you often see Xhaka point to his head in an attempt to show his comrades that THIS is the time that demands concentration.

It would be good if he could take his advice of course…

You need the man wearing the armband to be the arm round the shoulder in times of crisis or duress. You need the skipper to be the man stepping up when his men need them to. The old-school version of a skipper may well be a thing of the past, but some of the attributes are still highly relevant.

His actions after being booed now mean that we need someone else to stand up. His tenure with the armband is over, his temperament is not suited to lead the team.

We do have some prime candidates for the armband, such as Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding. These boys seem to be well stocked in heart and cold hard sense when it matters most, but is it too soon to name players of their age?

No, not really.

Because there is one facet of wearing the armband that is more important than anything else. We have had captains that have lacked it and the results were expectedly poor.

A captain should above all else, love the club that they represent. They should see the captaincy as a privilege.

Can we say that about Xhaka?

Because we can certainly say that about Bellerin.

What do you think?

Skipper On Our Shopping List

The summer transfer window may cure some ills for Arsenal, but at least one of our failings may well be carried over into next season.

It will require targeting from our recruitment team to rectify the situation, otherwise our next campaign we will still be bereft of a true captain.

Unai Emery changed much in his first season, and one of the myriad of variants he brought in to dispel the old era was to appoint five nominated skippers. All five brought a little something different to the table and perhaps combined, they made one true leader.

Mesut Ozil brought a true example to look up to for the younger players, and his ice-cool temperament is a skill that many could need.

Petr Cech is a born winner and has been victorious in every club competition he has entered.

Granit Xhaka is a motivator, rallying the troops vocally and attempting to rouse the warrior within them all.

Aaron Ramsey is the consummate professional and is the prime example of where hard work can take a young prospect as the Welshman is the purest evidence of this.

Then there is Laurent Koscielny. The Frenchman has been at Arsenal for eight years and has put his injury-ravaged body on the line every time he has put on the shirt. He is still probably our best defender at a tender 33 years of age and the squad look to him for a mixture of all of the above.

Next season is a different story though. At times we have missed a captain of the ilk of our previous luminaries. Players who can grab their teammates and the match itself by the scruff of the neck and change things.

Koscielny deserves the armband, but is he vocal enough? Does he have the right mixture of fear, adulation and respect?

Only the squad can answer that, but at times last season we looked a little rudderless, games slipping from our grasp because of our sloppiness, mistakes that could have been weeded out by a captain who makes sure everyone is accountable.

arsenalcaptainarmband1705

When was the last time we had a skipper who gave the team that 5% that lifted them above the ignominy of another poor show?

Previously, we awarded the armband to our stars as a makeweight of sorts, another thing to add to the plate that is offered to a star that is looking at pastures new; “Instead of leaving, please stay, you can be the captain of the team.”

Patrick Vieira then, was probably the last time we had someone who was the embodiment of a captain, someone who naturally has an air that lends itself to turning heads, opening ears, inspiring performances.

Koscielny is the nearest we have to that in our squad. He never lets the side down, he gives his all. Those are mandatory for the captain, they need to show the level that is expected.

We may need to look for a player in the window that has the DNA strand that is true leadership though. With Koscielny on his last legs and Rambo no longer a Gooner, we are in more need than ever of a player to take the armband.

Our rivals have players of that ilk, or at least captains who can scream a player into playing a little better. Cesar Azpilicueta and Vincent Kompany especially are true leaders and give their sides that little extra when they struggle.

Now Raul Sanllehi and Emery must put someone on their shopping list that isn’t weighed down by the armband. Instead, they see it as an honour and use it to eke everything than can out of themselves and their comrades.

Who should be our Captain?

There has been plenty of talk surrounding our club of late – and for good reason.

The winds of change are sweeping around The Emirates, and Unai Emery’s appointment has sent the media into a froth over the inevitable variances that will occur after over two decades under one man’s stewardship.

One thing that hasn’t really come into focus is who will lead our men on the pitch.

The subject of our next skipper is an important one. The person who wears the armband next season will be the link between Emery in the dugout and the enacting of his demands.Not only this, but when it comes time to dig our heels in, the captain is the man who leads from the front.

Jack, Xhaka and Ramsey - who is our next captain?

Many think that Aaron Ramsey is the perfect candidate. The model professional who leads from the front, there is no denying he is the perfect example for our youth for triumph in the face of adversity, and never giving up.

Does the Welshman have the chops though? Many say that vocality is a dying trait when it comes to wearing the armband, and all that is needed is someone to lead from the front with their talents.

I would have to disagree. We have had those types of leaders before, back during the time when we dished out the armband as a lure to wantaway players – it didn’t work.

Captains need to have the ability to pick players up when they’re either having an abysmal game or if they’re making errors. They need to have that extra clout to be able to say what needs to be said, without recrimination. The players will listen because he is the leader, without fail.

If it isn’t Rambo though, who should it be? It isn’t as if we are stocked to the rafters with leaders – many people would say this is one of the many reasons we have struggled over previous seasons.

We have had a decent skipper recently though, but Mertesacker’s lack of minutes on the pitch undermined his strength. We need a player who will play the majority of our games.

Perhaps Granit Xhaka? Yes, his displays were erratic last campaign, but his will to win and his place in the team are strong. He seems to have the respect of his comrades and with a new man in charge, Xhaka could actually be played to his strengths rather than made to fit.

Other than these two players, we don’t have anyone who should shoulder this immense responsibility. Laurent Koscielny is a fantastic servant for the club, but leader he certainly isn’t. Plus, he is set to miss the first half of the season through injury. Nacho Monreal is the embodiment of consistency, but does he have what it takes to lead the team in difficult circumstances?

Then there is Jack Wilshere. His love for the club is undeniable, and we know he is certainly not lacking in making himself heard, but his future is uncertain – as well as his place in the team. If Jack stayed and picked up his game a little, then he would be a viable choice.

It would seem right now though, that it is a choice of two – and after last season and with a danger of Ramsey not signing a new deal, the Captains’ armband could well be the sweetener Rambo needs to commit his future.

Arsenal Calling Out For A Hero

Originally published on Goonersphere

There are many different approaches to obtaining success in football – and all of them at one time or another have proved that they can all lead to the same outcome.

There is the stoic approach from Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City last season, when they invited all and sundry to break the two rigid banks of four that imposingly stood in the way of their opponents.

There is the Pep Guardiola plan, in which they plan to keep possession of the ball and play around you. After all, you cannot be hurt when the opposition have not got the ball.

Let us not forget Jurgen Klopp’s ‘GegenPress’ model from Borussia Dortmund. It may not be ready for action at Anfield yet, but the idea of your team pressing all over the pitch and enforcing mistakes on your foe has reaped rewards.

Then there are two styles, two ideals, that stand at opposite ends of the spectrum. 

In one corner, you have Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, Chelsea and his Real Madrid. Jose likes to see his side utilise an effective press, but most of all, he expects his whole team to defend when under pressure. Who can forget his tirades directed toward Eden Hazard for his failure to track back? He wants a team effort in every manouevre, and that is an admirable trait, but not at the expense of one of the brightest attacking talents in Europe.

Jose is pragmatic. He realises that it is not how you play on the pitch that will last the test of time – it is trophies. It is winning and getting your team’s name inscribed onto these shiny memento’s. When Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2005, the majority will not remember that United completely dominated the game and Arsenal hardly posed a threat. The details will be lost to the slowly eroding powers of time. All that will remain is the record books, which clearly state Arsenal were FA Cup winners in 2005.

It is not pretty, and it wins few admirers, but Mourinho is perhaps the antithesis of Arsene Wenger, in everything from personality to ideals. 

We are all well aware of the Arsene Wenger way, and how highly he prizes aesthetics over grit. It has become even less diluted in recent years. In the glory years of 2002-2005, Arsenal had a potent cocktail of swagger and power. Fast forward over a decade, and while the skill and passing remain, the grit has been sadly ground down. 

Wenger’s teams need both to succeed. In the nine years which represented our trophy drought, our manager’s juggling of finances whilst maintaining a competitive side is vastly underrated and may rank among the highest of his achievements at the club. How many managers can say they took a team into the Champions League which contained the delights of Pascal Cygan and Mikael Silvestre?

We lost that combative style player in the process though. When Gilberto left the club, there was a few seasons when Arsenal could be steamrollered in the face of sheer physicality. The Sam Allardyce’s and Tony Pulis’s of the League saw this chink in the armour and optimised it as best they could. It hampered Arsenal for years, but surely now with the wealth of midfield options in our side – we now have the necessary crunch in our sandwich that we need?

Jose Mourinho may well have no regard for entertaining the crowd, but he seems to be well aware of the necessity for a midfield enforcer in his ranks. Currently at Old Trafford, much to the chagrin of the Red Devil faithful, he employs Marouane Fellaini in the holding role and when the big-haired Belgian isn’t playing, then the niggly Anders Herrerra takes the spot next to Paul Pobba who has free license on the pitch.

Antonio Conte at Chelsea employs two of this kind of player to sit in front of his defence in Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante and it has had a dramatic effect. 

Arsene Wenger acted to fill this void in our squad many seasons ago, and at this moment we have Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka who can fulfill this role. It isn’t merely a defensive midfielder we needed in our ranks – we needed leadership, an example to follow.

Coquelin, Xhaka and Elneny may be adept at grabbing the ball, but they are not who we should look to when the chips are down. When we are struggling and we need a verbal bashing, who rises to the fore? Who uses their words to pick the players up from their haunches?

In that respect, we have never replaced Patrick Vieira. The Captains armband has been bandied around to whomever was the insirational force on the pitch – not the natural leader. From Thierry Henry to Robin Van Persie, then Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta, these players did our shirt proud when they wore it, but they were not leaders of men.

At this juncture, we sit on a precipice. It is more vital than ever that our Captain provides a solid foundation in times of uncertainty. It is perhaps the most important task that our manager – whether it be Wenger or someone else – has in the summer. 

Tony Adams Is 50 – Our Captain’s Finest Moments

Posted on Goonersphere

The 10th of October 1966 was a special day for Gooners of all ages. Not because of a significant victory or event that Arsenal had – but because it was the day that Tony Adams was born.

Who knew that on this joyous day, the child that was born in Romford would go on to become what many perceive as Arsenal’s finest leader in their illustrious history. 

Fired by his incredible will to win and defensive nous, Adams would break into the Arsenal first team in his late teens, and stay at the club which gave him his chance for his entire career. A one-club player is a rarity in the modern game, but the bonds which tied him to Highbury were unbreakable.

Making his first team bow in 1983, and then retiring in 2002, gave Adams 19 years at the club to forge a career which no one could possibly forget. His much-told battle with alcoholism intertwines with his first 15 years, but much like all the opponents he faced – he eventually defeated the demon drink too.

So, in all those years, and hundreds of games he played, what would be his finest moment? How can anyone possibly choose what is he brightest light amongst many? Adams played, and led, in many historic Arsenal matches, so to select a chosen few is beyond difficult. 

The glaring omissions are not an admission that they aren’t on a par with the ones I have selected. Just that there are far too many to mention. 

So, let me take you on a tour of Captain Fantastic’s amazing moments. Please buckle your seatbelt and keep your arms inside the ride at all times. The Mr Arsenal show is about to begin….

Anfield. 26th May 1989.





























Tony Adams skippered the Arsenal side which had no realistic hope of snatching the title away from dominant Liverpool. Arsenal had kept pace with the Scousers all season, however, Liverpool had a fine pedigree and the week previously had lifted the FA Cup. They were hoping to complete their second double, and the media and majority of fans thought that the Gunners didn’t have a hope of winning at Anfield  – never mind by two clear goals.

Someone never told George Graham and his boys though. The first half went according to plan for Graham- keep it tight, don’t concede. The second half saw Alan smith glance in a Nigel Winterburn set-piece and grab a precious goal, but they still had to snatch another to claim a ninth First Division title.

With mere minutes to go, the image of McMahon holding up a single digit to the rest of his teammates to signify that they had to hold out for one more minute to be champions again is burned into the memory of Gooners. Then, history was made.

Lukic throws out to Dixon. Dixon plays a ball to Smith, who heads onwards for an onrushing Thomas to ride a challenge into the box and slot past Grobbelaar. 

Sweet ecstasy. For some, it is a high that will never again be reached. What is clear though, is that for this titanic effort to have been made, the role of Skipper would never have been more important. Tony Adams led from the front, kept Aldridge, Rush and Beardsley quiet, and instilled in his men the belief that he held inside himself. 

Unforgettable.


1990/91

This could be perceived as Tony’s darkest season, as he missed eight games through his incarceration at HMP. His leadership was so unequivocal, so influential however, that even in his absence his teammates drew strength from him and his wishes. 

The team only lost once all season, and blew away the rest of their opposition as they won the title for the second time in three years. Not only this, but the rock-solid back5 was now complete and conceded only 18 goals. As a captain and as a defender, Adams was top of the pile.

Copenhagen, 1994. ECWC Vs Parma

Another game which Arsenal had no right to win, but this game was the archetypal performance from the famous Back5. Parma were studded with stars, and were widely expected to win back to back Cup Winners Cups. 

Arsenal’s back 5 though, were superb throughout, and nulified Zola, Brolin and Asprilla with tactics, physicality and anticipation. If there was one match to show someone who wanted to know about the finest defence that has ever existed in the UK, then this match would be what you show them. Absolute perfection from Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Bould and Winterburn.

Arsenal 4-0 Everton, 1998.

Still in recovery from alcoholism, and benefitting from Arsene Wenger’s new fangled nutrition tips and fitness aids, Adams was a new man. The team had overhauled a sizeable Manchester United lead at the top of the table and all that was left was to defeat Everton at Highbury to win their first title since 1991.

Adams was still captain, and the sight of him marauding forward to collect a lofted Bould pass still promotes goosebumps. He flicked the ball down with his chest, before depositing a thumping, left-footed volley past Thomas Myhre. 

Adams, whilst skilled in defending, was not known for such finesse, but as he celebrated in a beam of sinshine with his arms out wide, the goal signified a transformation. He had shed his demons, he was just bathing in the enjoyment of it all. My personal favourite.

There are many other memories that still resonate. His winner in the FA Cup in 1993 vs Spurs to exact revenge for the 1991 defeat. Holding the 2002 Premiership aloft.Winning the Cup double in 1993.

It isn’t only the silverware which makes his career a perfect example of how to beat adversity and achieve sporting immortality. Every game he played, every time he led his men, he gave everything to the cause. It showed in every tackle and airborne challenge he made. 

The fact he was so dedicated, and stayed with us for his entire career, means that we should never forget about our Captain. 

Happy Birthday Mr Arsenal. 

Per Mertesacker – Arsenal Captain

The choice of destination for the captains armband may have been derided by some fans, but Per Mertesacker will give his all to the club in his new role – whether it is on or off the pitch.
Towering defender Mertesacker had rivals for the honour of leading the club, but it is he who will lead the troops, and ensure that all the players have an appropriate role model and motivator for the season.

There is a slight problem in that the German is not due to take to the pitch in a playing capacity for some time. This means that the armband will go to the next suitable candidate. Arsene Wenger commented on this very issue, and intimated that experience counts when wearing the inconspicuous strap of material –“I think it is absolutely natural to be him. [In his absence] that’s where it will be taken by the assistants. One of them will be Koscielny, also Cazorla – the experienced players.” ( quote from HITC Sport ).

So, it seems that experience is the key asset that Wenger values when choosing a captain – and Mertesacker has that in abundance.

The player we fans know as ‘The BFG’ is a World Cup winner, and has been at the club since 2011. On the day he signed, which resembled a mad-dash round the transfer aisles on the last day of the transfer window, most had heard of his name, but few would have guessed at the impact he would go on to make.

Largely consigned to ‘average’ territory thanks to a severe lack of pace, Mertesacker’s other strengths more than make up for his glacier-like running speed. His positioning, hewn from years of playing at the top level, and his astute awareness of the attacking instincts of his opponent mean not only can he hold his own – but that he has so much to offer our younger generation.

The latter point above is key. With Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and Krystian Bielik very much pushing through and intent on forming our defence for years to come, Mertesacker’s knowledge if passed down would give these promising talents an advantage.

With Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny as back-up skippers, the voice that booms loudest on the pitch may not be heard, but a true leader will grab his men by the scruff of the neck whether he is wearing the armband or not. Per Mertesacker is the clubs fine collector, he commands respect. More importantly than that, he adores the club – and he will not sit idly by if players are not pulling their weight. 

Jack Wilshere – himself a potential future captain – also commented on the awarding of the captaincy to the World Cup winner – 

It is good news for us. For me anyway, over the last few seasons he has been like a captain,” Wilshere told Arsenal Player.

“He is organised, and he won’t take any nonsense from anyone. If someone is late or on their phone, he is on to them – it doesn’t matter who you are. He is the one who organises our team dinners so for me he is a great choice

He is a natural leader and I know he has picked up a injury, but he can still bring so much to us as a team. I’m sure if you ask the other boys, they will say he would be an obvious choice for captain. We are happy. (Quote from Evening Standard).

So, the players are behind the choice, and Mertesacker will be delighted. He may not have a presence on the pitch, but there will be no doubt that a certain standard will be expected. Woe betide anyone who slips below that, if Wilshere’s comments are anything to go by!

Any captain at Arsenal has an uphill battle. With a former captain being cast in bronze outside the stadium, there will always be comparisons. Tony Adams was perhaps born to lead, and we may not ever see the likes of him again. 

All we can ask for is that our new skipper will do the distinction justice. We should have no doubt that he will. 

Mr Arsenal Was Home – But Not For Long

The old adage goes, “If you love something, let it go.”

Well, in both of Arsenal and Tony Adams case, to tear themselves away from each other must have been an incredibly difficult task.

You see, both go hand in hand. Arsenal and Tony Adams cannot exist without the other. When you think Arsenal, then surely Tony Adams would be one of the first you envisage. When you hear the name of Arsenal’s greatest ever captain, then you think of Arsenal.

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Continue reading Mr Arsenal Was Home – But Not For Long

Next Season’s Captain?

This article was published in the Gooner Fanzine, which can be found outside The Emirates on matchday.

In any walk of life, no matter the capacity, a figure will emerge from the herd. This person, whether vocal or not, will be looked to when decisions are to be made. These figures, these leaders, are nominated by the rest of the pack for good reason.

When the rough seas broil and threaten to capsize the ship, then only the firmest hand should be on the tiller. When a difficult customer is haranguing, threatening and demanding action, then the Manager should be the most sage head in the building. When the rest of your team are pinned down by enemy paintballs and with no apparent means of escape, then it is the most proactive that gives hope.

All these qualities are necessary for a leader to warrant respect from their comrades. As a Gooner, we have had a recent past littered with token Skippers – those who have been chosen simply to lure these mercenaries away from the exit door. They wore the armband but subconsciously or not, their teammates knew of their impending departure. This in turn would lessen the impact any words that would be uttered by these want – away rogues. It was futile to give such an honour to a player who couldn’t give a jot for the club in the first place.

How could they effectively lead the team they care little for? Luckily enough, we have had an improvement in the armband stakes in the last few seasons. Not since Van Persie slithered his way to Manchester United have we had a captain who carries little to no weight when he spoke.

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Since his acrimonious departure, we have had Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker. We have had sporadic skippers, such as Laurent Koscielny, but these players above have been the majority. The Belgian roamer may have left, but there can be no doubt that these players were a vast improvement on the previous incumbents.

Whilst Cesc Fabregas may have been vocal and led well, his limited experience would be a hindrance. William Gallas had the experience and he always brought the noise, but being slightly unhinged was his undoing. Whilst Thierry Henry would only demand the best from his teammates, his style of leadership wasn’t for everyone.

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Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker both have excellent amounts of experience, they command respect from the dressing room to the pitch and they are vocal when the need arises. They both were the correct choice, but now time is running down on Mikel’s playing career, and Per Mertesacker – whilst he may have a few miles left in the tank – will more than likely be facing a battle for games next season.

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So who should our Skipper be next season?

Every league campaign is vital, but with Chelsea getting a new man at the helm, City having the golden boy of Management in Guardiola, and United looking at alternatives to the controversial and dreary Van Gaal – next season will be tougher than it ever has been. A Skipper to keep the troops in line and all singing from the same hymn sheet is the order of the day.

Seeing as Koscielny has already had a taste for it, shouldn’t he be the natural choice? What about Coquelin, as he is a talisman in the centre and isn’t shy about coming forward?

No. The answer lies in goal.

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Petr Cech is the natural successor and heir to the Captains Armband. Some will scoff at this and say that a true Captain cannot bark orders from goal, they cannot dictate in the manner that a true leader should. To this, I answer Peter Schmeichel and David Seaman. Both men could make themselves heard all the way to the opposite end of the pitch. The most important factor is that when they did shout, their teammates most definitely listened.

Petr Cech is already a spokesman of sorts. He has been the one who has offered the most succinct of soundbites when the chips were down this season. After drawing disappointingly against Southampton and losing ground in the title race, it was the giant Czech that came out to the media and gave Gooners hope.

His vast amount of experience can only be beneficial. He can organise from the back with aplomb after being coached by Jose Mourinho in the art of asphyxiation football. He can be who Arsenal needs in the dark times.

When the chips are down, you want a man who can pick up his men by the scruff of their neck and with a few choice words, have them ready to die for you in a moments notice. When Cech speaks, they all listen. When Cech speaks, WE all listen. His choice of words, despite it being his second language, is always sensible and well thought out.

If we were a goal up but facing Barcelona and had to keep them out through excellent organisation, then surely Cech would be the first choice?

The giant-handed, becapped Czech needs to be Arsenal’s skipper next season. He may have earned us upwards of ten points this season, but as Skipper – he could tip the scales in our favour.  Already making a difference, but with everyone looking to Cech for inspiration, our goalkeeper could do a lot more than keep clean sheets.

The Blatter Siege

Sitting in front of the plethora of media microphones, he could feel the uprising of a potential sweat. Whether originating from the raft of dazzling spotlights or the impending address he was about to give, one thing was for certain – his shirt was about to take the strain from an overweight mans sweat glands.

The faces that met his gaze were all from various media sources. Newspaper, digital, TV. No matter where they worked though, they were still all scavengers. Picking apart carrion left by bigger game such as himself. He kept in his sneer. They wouldn’t destroy his proudest moment – in fact, they would only enhance it. The worlds focus would be on him – finally – as they all joined to embrace the world leader of football. His leadership had revitalised the sport and this speech was only the start of the love-in. Honours from royalty, acknowledgments from countries and heads of state, his presence would wash all over the globe, he would bathe in the adulation, drink in the……

“Mr Blatter Sir………Sir?!!!”

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