Years ago when I was writing this thing daily and putting everything into it we stumbled upon an award. David Lloyd got one for TOOFIF at the same time, so we were duly summonsed to the club for a photo opportunity. Hammersmith & Fulham Chronicle I think it was. Anyway, we get there and this photographer chap gets up to speed, works out that I’m here because I do a blog and promptly sees if anyone in the cafe now known as Haynes Place (I think?) has a computer. A computer? Right – he wants to take a picture of me typing.
No. I am under no illusions. Writing a blog about football is not a cool thing to do in the wider world. But I’m not posing for a local newspaper on some borrowed keyboard in a cafeteria while smiling and looking awkward.
But this is how photography works.
A similar trick is new signings. If a club signs someone, said someone appears somewhere with a new shirt held backwards in front of him. He does. It’s the rules.
Thing is, different players interpret this opportunity differently. What can we learn from their reactions?
I’d say Sascha Riether just about nailed it. He’s smiling, but not too much (don’t want to act all desperate), looks affable, the kind of player you want in your team, the kind of player who’s going to make a good impression. And I’d say he lived up to his photo: a nice photo, a nice player.
This is why there are still con-men in the world. Usually people smile, we think “hey, nice, a smile”, but we all know that not everything is as it seems, and here is Darren Bent smiling. It’s an easy smile, too easy probably. Too easy definitely. This is the smile of a man playing a computer game and pretending to listen to his spouse recount the story of her day.
“I’ve had my ups, I’ve had my downs, and I have no idea which this is to be honest.”
The background gives this a kind of “apprehended at 4am” vibe but to be fair, Heitinga was magnificently professional in as bad a team as he can have ever stumbled upon. He’s not delighted to be here and he’s not pretending he is, but he’s going to do his best.
“I used to play for Manchester United. My agent promised me something much better than this. The offers never came. Here I am.”
“Aston Villa! YES!”
What are we supposed to think, hmm?
To be fair he looks like a lovely young man and actually I think maybe he really is. To me there’s an air of “let’s get cracking” here, I think Taraabt really wanted this to work out. The problem then, and every other time, is that Adel is not 16 and playing at school anymore, and so he can’t just dominate through the power of raw talent alone. We all want the world to be like it was when we were small, and I think sometimes society tries to make us leave things behind that really should be retained – after all, the childhood us is still us, isn’t it? We’re almost expected to treat that as a different person, as if being 8, 18, 28, 38 is not just a continuation of the same life. Ironically enough we’re almost all much happier at 8 than at 28, so why are we encouraged down that path when we might be better off turning back towards made us who we are, rather than towards something we never have been. Adel Taraabt was, is, and always will be a sensational footballer, and it would have been lovely for him if he’d found somewhere where he could have just got on with playing his way, which is not my way or your way or many other peoples’ way, but it worked for him and for anyone else prepared to let him carry on with his impressively juvenile skillz (Neil Warnock). Martin Jol would have let him but we all got cross with Martin Jol’s approach, and rightly so: if you’re going to let Adel Taraabt and Dimitar Berbatov play like nine year olds you’d better have some grown ups on hand to compensate.
Derek Boateng is proud. That’s probably the best yet I think. Upright, authoritative, maybe a bit narrow shouldered to be a midfield enforcer in retrospect, but he was told to stand for a photo and he couldn’t have done a better job of it.
If someone had told him “yes, and your old mate Felix Magath is coming too” that face would have changed, quickly.
“No idea who this is but he says he’s just signed for us.”
“It’s William Kvist, Rene.”
“Is it? Hmmm. Okay.”
“William, just for giggles, imagine that you are going to fry my ear for dinner tonight… right… and stare through my head as if you want more of my ear. Yep. And like you haven’t slept for a month. Perfect.”
“And this one?”
“Oh. And he’s a player too is he?”
“Nobody knows to be fair.”