Numberwang (slight return)

The end of the summer transfer window draws ever nearer and there continues to be some fairly tantalising numbers free in our squad. Shirts 7, 9 and 11 are all up for grabs.

If I’ve learned anything from 10 years of summer transfer windows it’s this …

a) The player you felt sure was on his way out of the club after 3 seasons of doing nothing more than turn up for training and complain about his ear injury, will still be warming the bench come September the first.

b) Those two or three signings the manager suggested were still to come will end up being a 17 year old from non-league football and a 35 year old midfielder on a free from Tottenham Hotspur.

c) The numbers don’t mean a thing to professional football managers.
In other words, don’t get your hopes up.

The numbers DO mean a thing to me though. I’m always pleased to see a player that fits my expectation of the type of player who should be wearing that number. My expectations were formed watching football in the late seventies and early eighties, fit a rigid 4-4-2 formation and only apply to numbers 1 to 12. I suspect people who grew up in different eras have their own number definitions which fit the formation and style of the time.

I’m always a little disappointed when our current players don’t fit my requirements. I not completely obsessed, I can be flexible about hair colour, but I do like to see players roughly fit this mould. A no-prize for anyone who can identify all the players who have helped form these definitions.

1. Goalkeeper – Either the tallest or fattest member of the team.

2. Right Back – Young and athletic, decent turn of pace, generally dark hair.

3. Left Back – Dead ball specialist, clinical penalty taker, generally fair hair.

4. Holding Midfielder – Combative player prone to rash challenges and regular receiver of red cards.

5. Centre Back – Towering defender, physically very strong, good in the air, often sporting a head bandage.

6. Centre Back – Cultured defender, rarely booked, good on the ball with a great eye for a pass.

7. Striker – Prolific goalscorer, small but nippy, not always involved elsewhere on the pitch but has an excellent eye for a goal-scoring opportunity.

8. Creative Midfielder – Quietly effective central midfield player who pulls the strings, not always noticed but able to keep the ball moving and pick out a decent pass.

9. Striker – Old-fashioned centre-forward. Large physical presence, good in the air, doesn’t score as many goals as perhaps he should.

10. Right Midfielder – Flair player of the side, sometimes plays centrally requiring another number (usually 8) to play “out of position”, excellent in possession, often goes on mazy dribbles across pitch. Decent shot.

11. Left Midfielder – Hard working winger with a decent left foot cross. Ginger hair.

12. Substitute – Nothing to add here.

I’m not sure if anyone who has grown up since the arrival of the Premier League and the introduction of squad numbers feels the same way? I kind of doubt it as you’d struggle to find any consistency in the numbers used but would be interested to know if there are any numbers beyond the traditional twelve that have started to mean something.

3 thoughts on “Numberwang (slight return)

  1. From the decade prior to your experience Chopper, my standards are similar except:

    7 – Speedy right winger – always right footed, ran for the corner flag and crossed it.
    11- Speedy left winger – always left footed, ran for the corner flag and crossed it
    8 – Inside right – headed in the right wingers crosses, or passed them to number 9
    10 – Inside left – headed in the left wingers crosses, or passed them to number 9

  2. I’m with Mike, Chopper – your number 7 should be on the wing! Is Kenny Dalglish clouding things?

    I read a Jonathan Wilson piece once about why they have so many ‘5’ players (holding midfielders over there) – they make so many ’10’ players that they need people specifically to stop them!

  3. I know you’re probably right about the number 7 but for me that number is forever linked with Gordon Davies. I checked Dennis Turner & Alex White’s book of Fulham facts & figures and was surprised to find how often Ivor played in 9 or 10 but somehow my childhood brain connected 7 with the Welsh wonder and it’s remained fused ever since.

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