Thursday, November 27, 2008

Seven Shades of... David James

Damn, it's been too long. Our old favourite 'Seven Shades of...' is back once again and for those of you who weren't around prior to October 2007 when we did this last time around, let us explain.

The premise here is to link two disparate souls from football's illustrious past or present over seven spurious steps. Two people who seemingly couldn't ever be connected but are brought together in this best of all possible worlds courtesy of your old friends here at Some People Are On The Pitch.

It's a service we undertake willingly and completely for your pleasure alone, and with that heartening thought in mind, let's start today's 'Seven Shades' with...

David James
Despite his youthful and ever-changing looks, David James is the elder statesman of the English goalkeeping world at a really-quite-old-for-a-footballer 38 years of age. Now at his sixth league club, his career began way back in 1989 (see, we told you he was old) at the then Third Division Watford.

He stayed their for three years and was a huge hit, even winning the club's Player of the Year award in 1990/91, all of which goes to show that if you start your career at The Hornets, you're probably destined for genuine greatness. The same can be said of

Pat Jennings
The mercurial Northern Ireland goalkeeper who at one time held the record for the most international appearances by any player (119). His last appearance for his country came in the searing heat of Guadalajara during the 1986 World Cup where Northern Ireland lost 3-0 to Brazil - a far cry from his first appearance which occurred back in April 1964 in Swansea.

That was in a British Championship match against Wales which Jennings' side won 3-2. Among the men wearing green shirts that day was another little-known player making his debut who was to make a small name for himself in years to come. His name was

George Best
A man that can be summed up in numerous words such as 'legend' and 'icon' although others such as 'inebriated' and 'womaniser' also apply with considerable relevance. Best played at every conceivable level during his career from the giddy heights of Manchester United to the less glamorous depths of Bournemouth, stopping off at clubs like the LA Aztecs and San Jose Earthquakes in between.

Named by many to be the greatest footballer that ever lived (although ranked only 19th by FIFA in their list of all-time great living footballers in 2004), he's even had an airport in Belfast named after him. It's an honour given to precious few, although

Matt Le Tissier
may find something similar coming his way one day, if he's very lucky. 'Le God', as he was known to many, was the archetypal luxury player, oozing skill and quality from every pore but supposedly lazy in any aspect of his game other than scoring goals. Overlooked for a place in the England team, Terry Venables obviously thought he was dispensable, but to Southampton fans he was just irreplaceable.

Winner of the BBC Match of the Day 'Goal of the Season' competition in 1994/95 and scorer of the last ever goal at The Dell in 2001, Le Tissier is the second highest-scoring Southampton player of all time behind

Mick Channon
who, in his favour, had two spells at the club between 1966 and 1977 and later between 1979 and 1982. His goalscoring rate was second to none with The Saints, almost managing two goals in every three games. Sandwiched in between these two spells with Southampton was a two-year run at Manchester City where he even scored one in every three games there.

While at Man City, Channon played alongside well known names such as Peter Barnes, Colin Bell and Asa Hartford, honing his 'windmill' goal celebration with every passing week. It was also seen many a time when he played for England where he became the 15th highest-scoring player ever, level with his old Southampton team-mate

Kevin Keegan
who, having cemented himself as a Liverpool legend, promptly tried his luck over at Hamburg where he became the European Footballer of the Year twice and won the Bundesliga with his teammates in 1979. In 1980, he just missed out on picking up a European Cup winner's medal when Hamburg lost in the Final 1-0 to Nottingham Forest.

Rather than stay on at Hamburg where he'd have undoubtedly shared top billing with some new fancy-dan arrival by the name of Franz Beckenbauer, Keegan opted for a much more alluring future at Southampton where Lawrie McMenemy wanted him to play alongside stars such as Alan Ball, Mick Channon and

Charlie George
among others. George was the hero of the 1971 Arsenal FA Cup-winning side where he scored the goal which sank Liverpool in the Final that year. One of the key members of the team which won the Double that year, he moved onto Derby in 1975 where he once memorably scored a hat-trick against Real Madrid in a European Cup tie.

His career would see him travel the world to numerous places such as the USA, Hong Kong and even Bournemouth, but by 1983 it was all over. This once great player was left with only memories of the 87 career goals he'd scored on the one hand and the finger he'd once lost in a lawnmower accident on the other. Or not, as the case may be.

All of which brings us full circle with a link from Charlie George to the first name on our list, David James. To play in goal, it's essential at the very least to have all ten fingers, but to be a great player perhaps all you need is a name made up of two first names. Here endeth the lesson.

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