Записи с меткой «alcohol»

The tale of the tortured soccer genius

The Tale of the Tortured Soccer Genius

Every sporting profession has them — the talented individual that appears to struggle with their inner demons. Despite having enviable skills and physical ability, the tortured genius fails to adopt the mentality of a professional sports star. For every model professional that lives for their sport, there will be another person that plays to earn money and then will indulge in the extravagant lifestyle that their celebrity provides.

Soccer players are some of the most celebrated sports people on the planet, with earnings that make the common working man shudder. With this money and fame comes a greater responsibility to perform both on and off the pitch at an impeccable standard. David Beckham, as the most famous soccer player alive, has coped admirably considering the media scrutiny that his life encourages. But for every David Beckham there will be a Paul Gascoigne or a George Best.

Gascoigne and Best were two of the most skillful players that the sport of soccer will ever produce. With style, speed, charisma and determination, these two players would have the world at their feet and then see it all slip away. Although these two would represent their clubs and countries at the highest levels, their talents would have deserved more than what they achieved.

George Best made his debut for Manchester United at the age of 17, two years after the club scout declared to then manager Matt Busby — ‘I think I’ve found you a genius’. Best would go on to make over 350 appearances for the club, as well as 37 caps for Northern Ireland. Among his honours, Best lifted the European Cup and was named the European Footballer of the Year in 1968.

The ability of George Best was undeniable, but as his skills and looks saw him earn the nickname the ‘fifth Beatle’ the problems would begin. His popularity led to a celebrity lifestyle that would ultimately affect his performances and he struggled with gambling and alcoholism. Best quit Manchester United at the age of 27, a time when a professional soccer player would be considered at their professional peak.

Best’s abilities appeared to wain as he drifted from club to club across a number of countries before eventually retiring at the age of 37 while playing for Bournemouth in England’s Third Division. At the age of 59, Best would die of a kidney infection, a side effect of treatment of a liver transplant. Although Best enjoyed a successful career before and after playing, entertaining soccer fans across the globe with his skill and charm, the question will always be posed as to how good he really could have been.

A soccer player’s career is a relatively short one with the average player getting ten to twelve years to perform at the highest level possible. There are exceptions to this rule, with players hitting the heights as early as 17 and 18 years old and improved fitness helping players continue into their late 30s.

Paolo Maldini Made his debut for AC Milan, aged 16, and continues to play to the present day past his fortieth birthday. Maldini is a shining example of what ability, combined with hard work and commitment, can achieve in the modern game. This shows the different achievements that are possible with the right mentality, attitude and frame of mind.

English soccer player Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne burst onto the international scene at the World Cup Finals at Italia ’90. After dazzling the world with his skills, Gascoigne’s tears during the semi-final against Germany made him superstar. With the soccer world watching, Gascoigne’s season at Tottenham Hotspur would attract interest from Italian side Lazio, who would agree a fee of 8.5 million pounds with his club.

Gascoigne was set to move to Italy at the end of the 1990-91 season following an appearance in the FA Cup Final against Nottingham Forest. With the glorious Wembley Stadium as the venue, Gascoigne’s final appearance for Tottenham was expected to be a fitting swan-song for a fantastic player.

Gazza went into the game with determination and ambition, although his enthusiasm would eventually be his downfall. Eager to impress, Gascoigne crashed into an opposition player and was cautioned. However, this failed to prevent what would happen next as he clattered into Gary Charles and ruptured cruciate ligaments in his knee.

Immediately Gascoigne appeared devastated and in a state of agony. Stretchered off the pitch, he would watch the rest of the game from a hospital bed and would sadly miss the whole of the next season with the injury. His transfer to Lazio would take place 15 months later but for a largely reduced fee of 5.5 million pounds.

Despite a lack of club form and frequent injuries, Gascoigne would continue to represent his country as a talismanic performer. His performances would silence the doubters and media who would scrutinise his private life at every attempt. At Euro ’96, he would be named in the team of the tournament with his performance against the Netherlands an unforgettable highlight.

Gascoigne’s career from here would suffer many more setbacks with injuries and personal problems making headline news. Controversy was never far away, and he would receive death threats from the IRA for celebrating a goal against Glasgow Celtic with a mimic of the flute-playing Orange Order marchers.

Despite a resurgence in his form for Glasgow Rangers which earned him a 3.4 million pound transfer to Middlesbrough, Paul Gascoigne would be omitted from England’s World Cup Squad for France ’98. England manager Glenn Hoddle faced criticism for this decision from soccer fans across the country, as the team were eliminated in the second round against Argentina and Gascoigne would never play for his country again.

At the age of 31, Gascoigne’s abilities were fading and he moved from club to club searching for the adulation that he seemingly craved. A trial in the USA with D.C. United was unsuccessful, as was a short spell in China. A short reign as a manager was cut short due to his battle with alcohol abuse, as he was fired from his role at Kettering Town after less than six weeks.

Fans will continue to follow what Gascoigne does next as they remember the ability, charm and childlike enthusiasm that he effortlessly displayed on the soccer pitch. However, his continuous struggle to escape alcoholism is sadly comparable to that of another faded, tortured genius — George Best. These two talented performers struggled to adapt to the media spotlight that had been thrust upon them as a result of their natural abilities.

Best and Gascoigne suffered similar fates in the game, with careers shortened that had promised so much more. Both suffering from alcoholism, the two would reach the top of their game but with the talent they had could have raised the bar as high as they wanted. There are many more and will be many more to do the same, so it is the soccer fans duty to enjoy them while they can.

Aston villa legends — profiles of the greatest players and managers of aston villa football club

Aston Villa Legends — Profiles of the Greatest Players and Managers of Aston Villa Football Club

So many great players have represented Aston Villa in their illustrious history that putting together a list of twelve or so greats is close to impossible. Nevertheless, we’ve given it a go. With apologies the great players we’ve excluded, here is our list of Aston Villa Legends. (Current Aston Villa players are not included).

George Ramsay

Position: Forward (later secretary of the club)

Aston Villa Career: (as a player)  1976-1884
(as secretary) 1884 -1926  
The earliest of Aston Villa legends, Ramsay served the club both as player and secretary (a role that effectively made him manager of the team).

He was responsible for transforming the team from a disorganized group playing ‘kick and rush’, to an effective unit playing the passing game. And he was a skillful player himself with people coming to Villa matches just see him play.  

Ramsay retired from playing in June 1882 but took up the role of Secretary which he held from 1884-1926. During this time Villa won the League and FA Cup 6 times each, and establishing themselves as the premier club in England.
Archie Hunter

Position: Forward

Aston Villa Career: 1878-1890

Appearances: 367

Goals: 150

Villa’s first great captain, Hunter joined the club in 1878, ten years before the commencement of League football, and remained until the premature end of his career in 1890.

Ensured his status as an Aston Villa legend by being the first Villa captain to lift the FA Cup, and also the first player to score in every round of the cup during Villa’s victorious 1887 campaign.

Tragically, during a League match against Everton in 1890, he suffered a heart attack and collapsed. He would never play again, and died four years later at the age of just 35.

Billy Walker

Position: Forward

Aston Villa Career: 1920-1933

Appearances: 531

Goals: 244
Aston Villa legend, Billy Walker joined the club in 1914 and spent his entire playing career at Villa Park.

A skillful centre forward, he made 531 appearances, scoring 244 goals, and is the club’s all-time leading goalscorer.

He also stands second on the list of highest appearances and was a member of the 1920 FA Cup winning side.

After retirement Walker had a successful management career, leading both Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest to FA Cup success.

Eric Houghton

Position: Forward / Manager

Aston Villa Career: 1927-1946

Appearances: 392

Goals: 170
An Aston Villa legend who is often referred to as «Mr Aston Villa». Houghton played for the club for two decades and scored 170 goals in 392 games. He was something of a deadball specialist with a powerful shot that yielded 58 goals from the penalty spot and 30 from direct free kicks.

After finishing his playing career at Notts County he went on to become Aston Villa manager and led them to an FA Cup win in 1957.

He then had a spell as Notts County manager before returning again to Villa Park, this time as a director.

Trevor Ford

Position: Forward

Aston Villa Career: 1947-1950

Appearances: 128

Goals: 61
A prolific striker, Ford had a relatively short Villa career, playing 128 games over 3 seasons and scoring 61 goals. Still, he was the hero of the Holte End before a British record transfer fee of ?30,000 took him to Sunderland. At Sunderland he was even more prolific, hitting 67 goals in just 108 appearances before another big money move, this time to Cardiff City.

Ford retired in 1956 but returned a year later to play for PSV Eindhoven in Holland. He returned to the Football League and played his last season with Newport County in 1960-61.

Peter McParland

Position: Winger

Aston Villa Career: 1952-1962

Appearances: 340

Goals: 120

Arguably Villa’s greatest player of the 1950′s, McParland was signed from Dundalk in 1952 for a fee of ?3,880. He spent 10 years at the club, making 293 appearances and scoring 98 goals.

During this time he won the FA Cup in 1957 (scoring twice in the final), the Second Division title in 1960 and the League Cup in 1961.  

He later played for Wolves and Plymouth before finishing his career in the North American Soccer League with Atlanta Chiefs.

Charlie Aitken

Position: Defender

Aston Villa Career: 1959-1976

Appearances: 660

Goals: 16

An Aston Villa legend who is the club’s all-time appearance record holder with 659 appearances spanning an incredible 17 seasons from 1959 to 1976.

He was a member of the 1975 League Cup winning team, and also won the Third division title in his time at Villa.

Spent the last two seasons of his career playing for New York Cosmos in the NASL.

Brian Little

Position: Forward / Manager

Aston Villa Career: (as a player) 1970-1979
(as manager)  1994-1998

Appearances: 301

Goals: 82

Little played his entire career at Aston Villa, making 247 appearances and scoring 60 goals, many of them in a prolific partnership with Andy Gray.

Joining on schoolboy terms when the club had just dropped into the Third Division, he was part of a successful youth setup, and after progressing through the ranks he helped Villa back to the First Division in the early Seventies.

He was also part of the League Cup winning teams of 1975 and 1977, before a knee injury brought his career to a premature halt at the age of just 26.

Moving into management he coached Wolves, Darlington and Leicester City before being handed the Aston Villa job in 1994. He led the team to fourth place in the Premiership in 1995–96 and also won the League Cup. In February 1998, with the club in the bottom half of the table he resigned after  three years in charge.

He has since held managerial posts at Stoke, West Brom, Hull, Tranmere and Wrexham with little success.  

Ron Saunders

Position: Manager

Aston Villa Career: 1974-1982

A free-scoring centre-forward during his playing career, Saunders had spells as manager of Yeovil Town, Oxford United, Norwich City and Manchester City before taking over at Aston Villa — then a second division side — in 1974.

In his first season, he guided Villa to promotion and also won the League Cup. He won the League Cup again in 1977, and in 1981, led Villa to the League title for the first time in 71 years.

In January 1982, with Villa in the quarter-final of the European Cup, Saunders surprisingly resigned due to a contractual dispute. His assistant Tony Barton took over, and guided the club to European Cup glory four months later.

Subsequent moves to rivals Birmingham City, and West Bromwich Albion do not sully his status as an Aston Villa legend

Denis Mortimer

Position: Midfielder

Aston Villa Career: 1975-1985

Appearances: 405

Goals: 36

Villa’s European Cup winning captain began his career at Coventry City, where he made over 200 appearances before moving to Villa Park in 1975. He made 403 appearances in Villa colours, scoring 39 goals and winning the League title, League Cup and, the crowning moment of his Villa career, the  European Cup in 1982.

After leaving Aston Villa, Mortimer moved to Brighton and then blotted his copybook somewhat by joining Birmingham City. Still, he remains an Aston Villa legend and one of the club’s greatest ever captains.

Gordon Cowans

Position: Midfielder

Aston Villa Career: 1976-1985; 1988-1991; 1993-1994

Appearances: 528

Goals: 59
A product of Aston Villa’s youth system Gordon Cowans joined the club as an apprentice in 1974, and was part of a successful team that won the FA Youth Cup. He signed as a professional in 1976 and made his first team debut as a 17-year-old.

Cowans had three spells with Villa broken by stints with Bari and Blackburn Rovers. During his career with the club he won the First Division title, the European Cup, European Super Cup, and the League Cup.

After leaving the club for the final time in 1994 he played for Derby, Wolves, Sheffield United, Bradford City, Stockport County and Burnley before retiring in 1997.

Peter Withe

Position: Forward

Aston Villa Career: 1980-1985

Appearances: 182

Goals: 90
Something of a late-bloomer in the game, Withe had spells in South Africa and the US before signing for Nottingham Forest in 1976, where he won the League title. He then spent two seasons at Newcastle United, and in 1980 moved to Aston Villa for a club record ?500,000.

It was to prove an inspired signing as Withe and Gary Shaw delivered the goals that drove Villa to the League title in 1981.

All in all Withe scored 74 goals in 182 appearances for Villa, but his status as an Aston Villa legend is secure thanks to one strike — the winner in the 1982 European Cup final against Bayern Munich.

Paul McGrath

Position: Defender

Aston Villa Career: 1989-1996

Appearances: 321

Goals: 10

Aston Villa legend McGrath began his professional career with League of Ireland club St Patrick’s Athletic. In his first season he won the PFAI Player of the Year Award and attracted the attention of Manchester United.

He moved to Old Trafford in 1982, but his time at United was disappointing, plagued by knee injuries and an alcohol problem, although he did help the club to an FA Cup win in 1985.

In 1989, he signed for Aston Villa, where he would play some of the best football of his life, helping them to two second-place finishes and two League Cup triumphs. He also received the PFA Footballer of the Year award in 1993.
McGrath left Aston Villa in 1996, and had short spells with Derby County and Sheffield United before retiring in 1998.

Свежие записи