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A question of character?

By Colin O'Keeffe :  15/01/2011 :  Comments (12) :
I?ve recently been revelling in a nostalgia trip via the 25th anniversary DVD of our greatest year ? 1984-85. I hadn?t watched any of the footage from that season since it occurred and the DVD was absolutely magnificent ? complete with well put together footage and excellent interviews with the players. The round table discussions with Reid, Ratcliffe, Gray, and Sharp were especially enjoyable and illuminating.

Watching the footage really brought it back to me just what an incredible team that was. What really came across, as well as the ability of the players, was how strong certain characters were. In Ratcliffe, Reid, and Gray the team had three born leaders, vocal personalities who demanded excellence from others as well as themselves. They were also physically up for a battle. Add the skills and ability of the likes of Steven, Stevens and Sheedy and its easy to see why the team hardly lost a game over a period of three or four seasons.

In the present day team, who are the characters who are going to go out at Anfield tomorrow and take responsibility and battle with every ounce of their being as Ratcliffe, Gray and Reid undoubtedly did?

When I think about genuine character in our team now, only Phil Neville springs to mind. I?m not saying for a minute he was as good a player as Gray, Reid or Ratcliffe ? but he is comparable in terms of personality and vocal presence. Cahill sweats blood for the cause and leads by example but doesn?t have the same vocal presence. Fellaini is a player who takes responsibility and gives his all ? but he?s still a young man and hasn?t matured yet. Ditto Coleman.

Where are the other senior players to help Neville? ? Arteta, Distin and Saha are our most senior players but when do you see them encouraging and assisting the younger players around them and overcoming adversity by sheer bloody mindedness?

A lack of leadership may well be one reason why a team of genuine talent has so underachieved this year. When things are going wrong on the pitch, there?s not enough players taking responsibility and changing things. An interview in the 25th anniversary DVD with Terry Darracott (a coach in 84-85) was telling ? he said how once the game starts there?s little the coaches can do ? but he always knew that the players in 84-85 would react themselves if things weren?t working and do something about it. I?m hoping this team had it in it to do the same over the rest of the season ? starting tomorrow. It's about time new characters emerged in our team ? and what better place for this to happen than Anfield?

Reader Comments

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Robert Pierpoint
1   Posted 15/01/2011 at 15:57:07

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Great article and totally agree. Always said that what we seem to lack is a winning mentality. A mentality that also borders on arrogant, the mentality that expects to win and knows that they should win.

Look at United. Their team is not as good as the classic Van Nistelrooy, Keane, Beckham, Gary Neville team. But they have that mentality, and so does Old Trafford that this place is the winning place.

We need leaders, players who are willing to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Players that expect to win and will force a win. Arteta is paid £70k a week, but do you see him busting a gut when the chips are down? You don't see him....
Dennis Stevens
2   Posted 15/01/2011 at 16:36:17

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Absotively! Unfortunately the manager claiming a few draws at Anfield to be "incredible" is exactly the opposite attitude to that which we need from our leaders.
KPR Williams
3   Posted 15/01/2011 at 17:13:59

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I reckon in the last few seasons we have dominated Liverpool in derbies from the first to the last. We have been the better team and they have turned into the dirty cloggers...

We have been the team trying to play the football and they are playing like we did in the days of the Dogs of War. It's now become their 'cup final'. That to me is 'incredible' given the fact they have a striker who cost £27m and a captain who would have cost what at his peak?

Stephen Kenny
4   Posted 15/01/2011 at 18:35:01

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I wonder if they did take it upon themselves to change things would they be out the side the next week?
Michael Evans
5   Posted 15/01/2011 at 20:41:04

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Colin - totally agree with what you're saying mate.

I remember those great days of the mid-80's - that team HATED to lose.

Chicken and Egg question - should that will, commitment, bloody-mindedness etc come from the players or be instilled by the manager ?

John Ford
6   Posted 15/01/2011 at 21:44:57

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Indeed good central point. We lack leaders on the field. I suppose Neville may be the exception but we need more.
Albert Perkins
7   Posted 15/01/2011 at 23:06:52

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I heard that Reid and the boys were not adverse to taking an underperforming player by the scruff of the neck at half-time. 110% was expected. That team did not gel until Gray came and the younger players matured.

Heitinga has the potential to lead and Coleman has been seen to let it rip at his teammates, but it's true that we need more players to urge each other on.

Those players who aren't vocal can lead by example, like Arteta and Baines.

We need to urge our team on as well. The fans are part of the team and we need to look to our part in the game. COYB!
Andrew Presly
8   Posted 16/01/2011 at 00:51:12

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People were worrying about who would succeed Pip if we sold him to Spurs and that raised two worrying issues....i) he stayed ii) theres nobody there with any leadership quality in the slightest. Even Jags, who is the obvious man, was moaning after one of our many defeats this year about where Phil Neville was. For boxing fans, the equivalent is the late Gary Mason...he won 37 from 38 (he lost to Lewis) and we get people like Haye and Harrison tickling eachother...basically, Reid / PVDH vs Arteta / Baines, there's not much point comparing, the only thing that matters is win at Anfield Moyes...it truly would be "unbelieveable!" ! COYBB!!!
Laurie Hartley
9   Posted 16/01/2011 at 08:29:43

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This is a very important issue that Colin has raised. There is no doubt that Phil Neville is a leader of the first order When the time comes when he can't hold down a first team place, or worse, he gets a serious injury, who is going to be "the manager on the pitch"?
David Moyes needs a succession plan for Phil Neville. There is a leadership group on the pitch (Cahill, Osman, Arteta, Howard, Jagielka). Tim Cahill is the obvious second choice captain but Tim is no spring chicken either and the Captains arm band seems to take something from his game.
Time to blood the young men in my opinion - it might put a few noses out of joint but I would groom Fellaini for the captains job and Rodwell and Coleman as his lieutenants.
Denis Richardson
10   Posted 16/01/2011 at 10:49:43

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Unfortunately Pip does not have the playing quality to go with his leadership skills so if a better RB comes in, we do have an issue in who will take the captains arm band. (I dont want to ever see Neville in centre mid again!).

Not sure if Fella could do it given he can barley speak English. Tevez may not be able to speak the lingo either but Man City have enough other leaders to call on; Toure, Viera etc.

It is an issue but one that does not need to be sorted just yet - lets beat the RS first.

COYB - lets do a blackpool....
Howard Don
11   Posted 16/01/2011 at 11:05:10

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Excellent point Colin as you say successful teams always have players who demand more of others as well as leading by example.

United have had many over the last 20 years, Keane being the most obvious example, the great Arsenal side had Vierra.

Problem is these big personality players are hard to come by. Moyes certainly knew what he was getting with Neville in terms of leadership and winning mentality and it's obviously why 'Arry wanted him at Spurs to push them on a bit. Jonny H has potential in that area, but hasn't stamped himself on the team this year due to being in and out and is perhaps a bit too much of a loose cannon. Distin could perhaps be more of a leader as could Arteta but neither are in the Reid mould that's for sure, but then not many are!
Gavin Ramejkis
12   Posted 16/01/2011 at 11:19:40

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Howard I think Arteta is too much of a nice guy to take the mantle of leader, Cahill or Heitinga have the ability. It needs a big personality and to be respected by the other players but with the addition of a mix of hardened steel to skulldrag them when they aren't pulling their weight.

I want our captain to give a toss when we are behind and screaming the boys into action, the one thing could can't deny about Neville is not being able to hear him.

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