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Do Squad Numbers Matter?

By Mike Mew :  05/07/2007 :  Comments (6) :
First off.... this submission isn?t meant to make a huge and serious point for- or anti- the current club management or the board. I just fancied thinking about something that didn't involve Kirkby, or googling "Everton transfers".

Looking on the official site, I noticed that Lescott's performance this seaon has been rewarded with the prestigious #5 shirt - Waggy?s number, Labone?s Number. Now of course, our modern pros probably shouldn?t care about such trivialities given their wage packets ? and I?m sure some don?t. But the place in club lore that some of these shirt numbers carry with them means that a shirt number can become a powerful tool for player reward, recognition, or motivation.

It's not a simple rule to apply ? particularly since the shift to ?squad numbers? - and will be held in various degrees of significance depending upon the characters involved. Cars and Cahill, for example, seem to have stuck with the same number for years and few would question their motivation and attitude. Others can become attached to ?unconventional? numbers for superstitious or personal reasons. A diligent manager must make a judgement on a player?s personality, and balance the positives of increasing one player?s motivation against the potential negatives such excessive pressure to deliver, or potentially marginalising other players.

It is certainly a tool that Moyes has tried to use to his advantage during his tenure. However I can?t remember him ever ?taking? a number from a player once they have been awarded, preferring to re-allocate them when they become vacant.

Probably the most discussed shirt allocation in recent years has been James Beattie?s much hyped award of the Everton #9 shirt ? arguably one of the most prestigious shirts in the history of the game. Clearly no-one would suggest that his goalscoring record has been worthy of its history and perhaps the burden of expectation that came with the award even affected his confidence. However it is arguable that the shirt award, and the general support shown to him by the manager, seemed to re-energise his general attitude, effort and work rate if not his goalscoring performance.

So, anyway, here are some further observations, for those to subscribe to ?performance related shirt theory? - from this years OS squad number announcement

  • Most of the young lads seemed to have moved to numbers closer to the first 11 (eg Vaughan now at 14) a deliberate attempt to quantify/symbolise their emergence from the periphery of the squad, hopefully to play a bigger part this season?
  • Howard at #24? One can only assume this either a website typo or player preference - he is bang on for first choice keeper, but lets face it he's from the US and likely to have a completely different attitude to shirt numbering anyway.
  • Shandy retains #7? Perhaps the fact that he was given the 7 in the first place is more an indication of the paucity of our midfield when he signed - or the degree to which he has underachieved since. Here, if anywhere ? could stripping someone of a shirt number actually do some good? Would it improve motivation or just damage player morale and valuations?
  • Naysmith retains #3, even though he's likely to leave us imminently? can?t see Paddy Boyle (who apparently moves from 29 to 36) being given this number straight away, but who knows?
  • Final thought - still no number 10? One for the conspiracy theorists and transfer spotters to run with?

Reader Comments

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John Holmes
1   Posted 06/07/2007 at 13:27:37

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Interesting ponderances. As for the number 10, obviously one of the most pretigious shirts in the game, worn by Pele and Maradonna. I think the reason for its vacancy is that there is no one to give it to. Arteta could be a candidate but is happy with his current number seemingly as is Johnson. To give it to a young player or fringe player such as Vaughan, Anichebe, McFadden or Vidarsson would seem an excessive statement of Moyes’ belief in them. Far better to leave it vacant and for those who believe in mystical numbers to aspire to obtaining it.
Mike Mew
2   Posted 06/07/2007 at 14:33:28

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I agree, better to leave a shirt number vacant for someone to aspire to.
The real question in my mind is whether stripping a player of a squad number (this has been often called for by fans in Beatties case) can be a useful tactic - its not one Moyes has ever used to my knowledge.

Perhaps our small squad and relatively scant genuine competition for places has meant that it just hasn’t been appropriate to date?
JL Slap
3   Posted 06/07/2007 at 16:22:41

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I honestly believe with 90% of british footballers, it doesnt bother them. They have to seem pleased when for eg Beattie got the 9 last year or Lescott getting the 5 but it wont bother them in the slightest when it comes around to playing games. The 10% it does affect are people like Beckham (no7) who view it as an image thing more than anything.....theres my twopence worth!
Adam Carey
4   Posted 06/07/2007 at 23:53:55

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I completely agree with the other three comments made against Mike?s entry.

Players are rarely stripped of their first 11 shirt numbers and more players seem to prefer other shirts. I myself always liked the number 14 even if I started a game, and I usually played midfield. (Sunday league of course but I enjoyed it.)
Roy Coyne
5   Posted 07/07/2007 at 06:42:04

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Years ago players all strived to get the number of the player that they admired as a kid every one wanted yo be the new Alan Ball(8) or the new bob Latchford(9)etc but now they all just want to be the highest paid, Remember Beckham the other year he admitted he didn’t need the money he was asking but wanted the prestige of highestpaid sad but true so now the numbers are more for identification there original use
Peter Laing
6   Posted 10/07/2007 at 11:37:58

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In the age of image rights I would argue that a number can become synonomous with a player. Before his transfer to Real Madrid Beckham was a prime example of how a player can market a number (in his case the No 7) and Rooney with the No 8 on signing for the Mancs. Footballer?s are generally superstitious ? maybe why Howard has retained 24 and Van Der Meyde persists with the ?lucky No 7?. Riquelme apparently has a penchant for the No 10, has anyone told Blue Bill ?

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