Player Profile #1 – Stuart Ripley

Who: Stuart Edward Ripley

What: Flying Winger

Where: Middlesbrough, Blackburn, Southampton (Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday, Bolton on loan)

When: 1985-2001

“Night Mum, night Dad”, mumbled 5 year-old TMR as the door closed, before adding in a whisper, “Night Stewie”. And with that, little TMR, all bowl hair-cuts, pirate outfits and lisps, picked his nose, wiped the residue on the under-side of his bedside table, and drifted off to sleep…

This was ‘Stewie Wipley’:

There were many factors that co-operated like a regiment of Navy SEALS to infiltrate TMR’s brain and infect it with the ‘football bug’. Daddy TMR and older brother TMR were fanatics; there was always a ball around the house, blah blah blah. The real commander of this regiment was Stuart Ripley. Or rather, the Merlin football sticker depicting him that I owned – which can be seen above – and that was stuck to my bedside table (the upwards-facing side, obviously I didn’t stick it on the bottom with the…..ewwww). He was the first footballer that TheMakéléléRole ever knew and ever set eyes on and thus, by default, he was TMR’s favourite. Ironically it was the man who broke his Blackburn record signing fee, Alan Shearer, who later replaced him as TMR’s most cherished. Every night, we’d trade glances, two men who could not have been more opposite. He was incredibly fast; I could barely walk. He had an England cap; mine had Mickey Mouse on it. He loved Postman Pat; I was ‘Fireman Sam ‘till I die’. Yet this was the man who, through the medium of stickers, influenced TheMakéléléRole to the point where becoming ‘a student of the game’ seemed as logical as wiping the bogey on the bottom of the table. After all, what other options were there?!

On a more serious note, it was only when researching this article that my love for Stewie Ripley returned, and with it an admiration that stems not from his medal, caps and goals, but for his humility, honesty and sense of the real world which TMR can’t help but feel is lacking in many current England-capped, Premier League winning players (or as they’d prefer, ‘legends’, a word tossed around more than an Olympic stadium-related West Ham joke). This is a man who, having represented his country twice – for many the pinnacle of a successful playing career – freely admits that: “If I’m truthful and objective I didn’t deserve to be in the squad…I felt I got in the England squad on the back of Alan Shearer’s success at Blackburn that season. I wasn’t playing to a standard were I justified a place.”

Where to start? OBJECTIVE?! Maybe we’re looking in the wrong place, but TMR can’t think of another footballer who could deploy such a word with ease and nonchalance. But it’s also rare and refreshing to see someone so realistic about their ability. You wouldn’t see Rohan Ricketts admitting that, if he’s honest, with his career performances to date (albeit with some nasty injuries), the Oberliga Nord (IV) is about the right level for him. Moreover, he seemed to know exactly when it was time to retire, and made his decision without fuss (Fat Ronaldo, take note), saying about a match against Arsenal aged 34: “I always considered myself to be a quick player but that fixture was a defining moment for me. Early on, I went to challenge Thierry Henry, but he just dropped his shoulders, flew past me like a gazelle and was six yards up the pitch before I could blink. His phenomenal speed took my breath away. I ran after him but I felt like I had a fridge on my back. I’d played in the Premier League for 10 years and I’d never experienced that sort of blistering pace and turn before from any player. I was 34 and there comes a moment when you realise that you are unable to compete at that level. “

Now, TheMakéléléRole thinks he’s almost being a bit too modest. Ripley had blistering pace, a catalogue of viciously curling crosses and a Herculean work-rate. (Incidentally, was Hercules’ work-rate actually all that great? Anyone got a YouTube compilation?) He was certainly a more important member of Dalglish’s 94/95 Premier League winning Blackburn side than he gives himself credit for.

Frankly, TheMakéléléRole loves Stewie Ripley so much that, were he to have flitted about post-retirement, speaking between courses and telling old, exaggerated anecdotes about Shearer’s early-nights and Jason Wilcox’s party tricks, we would have forgiven him, listened and laughed repeatedly and then moved on to the cheese platter. However, we needn’t have underestimated him. For Stuart Ripley’s business cards do not say ‘Former footballer, available for anything, even Europa League on Five’. They say ‘Stuart Ripley, Solicitor’. That’s right; the former flying winger has turned his hand to law. What else did we expect?

There’s very little more that TheMakéléléRole can say. This was a footballer who had the decency to watch over a young boy each night, bogeys and all. Who had the tenacity to use what skills he did have, and carve a very successful career out of it. Who had the level-headedness never to let that success get to his head, and the sense to retire at the top. A man who now has the fight, the brain and, more impressively, the motivation to become an expert of law. Most of you will have already closed the tab by now, muttering ‘What will he tell us next? That Ripley graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in 2007, with a first class combined honours degree in Law and French? Pah!’

What a LEGEND. To quote a Scotsman who would have loved to have been on the end of your crosses, and who could probably use your solicitor’s skill: Take a bow, Stewie Ripley. And I mean that.

“If You Don’t Want To Know Today’s Scores, Look Away Now”

You’ve arrived ten minutes early to the TV Room. Your uncharacteristic punctuality, half due to excitement, half  to your knowledge, after many years of honing your TV-watching tactics, that 10 minutes is the time it takes to sink to the optimum comfort level in your formerly-blue armchair, now a browny-green colour. Yes, this uncommon time-keeping has its downside: you have to spend ten minutes watching a sincere-looking woman, lips saturated with lipstick, tell you thenews from around the world. As far as you’re concerned, the only news that could possibly merit interest on a Saturday are the football results. Yes, Monday to Friday (except for Monday Night Football, Champions League on Tuesday and Wednesday and the Championship game on Friday night) you are all too happy to make troubled noises regarding to situation in the Middle-East, you may ‘tut-tut’ at yet another inexplicable stabbing in London, and you may whoop with delight at the rescue of a cat from an elm tree in Cockfosters. But Saturday night is sacred. It is, and always has been -apart from the 3 years between ‘01 and ’04 when ITV had ‘The Premiership’, when TheMakéléléRole asked to put into a medically-induced coma– Match of the Day.

At 10:35pm on a Saturday night, other people around TMR’s age might be out ‘throwing mad shapes’ against a backdrop of grime, grunge and dubstep. They might be locking beer-goggles with a member of the female race who, like them, also looks great in the dark, and attempting to fertility dance their way into her XL thong. But not TheMakéléléRole. It’s Match of the Day for us. Don’t be fooled – TMR can fertility dance with the best of them. But there’s a time (usually Thursday nights after the Europa League) and a place for that.

But now TMR has got its mandatory two paragraphs of rambling out the way, let’s get to the point. Every week since it can remember, TMR has heard: “Now for the football results. If you don’t want to know them, please look away now”. Now quite apart from the fact that if you don’t want to know the results on the basis that you don’t care (apparently these philistines do exist) you’ve either changed the channel already or fallen asleep on the sofa watching Eurovision 30 minutes previously, TheMakéléléRole thinks it’s pretty safe to assume that if you’ve made it this far, it’s likely that your next televisional destination will be Match of the Day.

However, last night a worrying thought crossed TheMakéléléRole’s admittedly small mind. When was the last time that TMR watched Match of the Day without knowing the scores? And not just the scores, but also the scorers and exact minute of the goals. Hell, we’ve even already read about the moment where Rooney/Balotelli swore/spat/smiled. The fact is – and TMR thinks it deserves some worry – that it is nigh on impossible to avoid knowledge of what happens on a Saturday afternoon in the Premier League (or any other league that might interest you), because if we’re not watching Kammy, Merse and Thommo try their best to act like well-informed, unbiased pundits on Gilette Soccer Saturday, we’re being told via Twitter, Facebook status (‘Get in there Rooney you beauty, I’ve always loved you!’ coming three weeks after ‘F*** off Rooney you greedy, cheating w*****, you never fitted in anyway’) or the Sky Sports Live Score app on my phone.

Now TMR wouldn’t possibly complain about the age that we live in, and especially not about the internet itself. We’re very aware that 50 years ago, if we had wanted to write about football, it would have been unachievable to get anyone to read it! And yet here we are with 100+ readers of our first ever article and a myriad of kind feedback. But I have to admit that I remember the days where there was not much more exciting than watching Match of the Day ‘fresh’ – by which I mean without knowing what the scores are, and TMR has incredibly fond and nostalgic feelings towards ‘those days’.

So, what do you think? Is TheMakéléléRole getting all soppy? Or would it be a much more exciting show if we watched Match of the Day without knowing the scores? Has our ‘modern world’ with all these gadgets, apps and tweets taken away some of the old-fashioned excitement of ‘Football Day’ and, if so, is the modern-age excitement an improvement? By improvement TMR means on an enjoyment scale rather than an information scale?

Comments are welcomed and encouraged.

Message to Chelsea fans: Why Patience is a Virtue

Who can tell me what happened on the 16th of May, 2010, almost exactly a year ago? TheMakéléléRole can, because it was there. If some of you need your memories jogged, Lampard chanted ‘Didier Drogba, lalalala’, Ancelotti sang ‘Volare, wooaaahh! Cantare, wooaaahh’ John Terry croaked out a rendition of ‘We’re makin’ ‘istory’, and thousands of Chelsea fans roared along with them, throwing celery and decibels in equal measure at the open-topped bus which was carrying the Premier League and FA Cup trophies. TheMakéléléRole had spent the day before at Wembley watching Chelsea win the FA Cup and the weekend before watching them demolish Wigan at Stamford Bridge to win the Premier League. The man in charge was hailed as a genius, having guided Chelsea to a famous and unprecedented Double.

Ancelotti singing 'Volare' - 16th May 2010

That man was, of course, Carlo Ancelotti. Yet, one year on, many Chelsea fans are now harrumphing and murmuring their way towards an ‘unacceptable’ second place in the League Formerly Known as the Best League in the World™. How can they be so inclined to forget something that happened less than a year ago? Have they forgotten the first 4 seasons in the Premier League when Chelsea were in the dreaded bottom half? What about the seasons in the 80s when Chelsea weren’t even dining at English football’s top table? What TheMakéléléRole is trying to get at is that if there is one thing out of the innumerable  ‘gear-grinders’ that currently plague top-flight football, there is one that grinds not only TMR’s gears but also its brakes, pistons and axels. That is fickle, spoilt fans.

The main point of the article (which will not have been obvious from TMR’s indecipherable ranting so far) is that patience is a commodity that must be thought of on the same level as money in terms of importance. The easy examples of patience paying off are those of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, who took 6 seasons to win his first league title and can now count 12 (presuming United don’t go all Devon Loch on our ass), as well as FA Cups, League Cups, and Champions League trophies. Arsene Wenger, despite recent form, has been successful as Arsenal manager (and if you don’t agree with TMR, kindly leave the premises before you are escorted off by our bodyguard, Geremi). Even if we take out the money, have a look at David Moyes and what he has done at Everton when backed by his chairman and fans.

However, more importantly, let’s go back to Carlo Ancelotti. TMR really enjoys the saying ‘Be careful what you wish for’, and it is rarely as apt as it is now for Chelsea fans. If Ancelotti is sacked, Chelsea will be back at Square One, just like 2 years ago when he took over. TheMakéléléRole wonders whether, realistically, Chelsea could hire a manager this summer who would win the Double straight away, in their first season at the club? Villas-Boas , the Porto manager, seems an attractive choice.

Hey guys, remember that time when we hired that young Portuguese manager who came in, wowed us all, and won Chelsea their first League title for 50 years, the FA Cup and the League Cup twice? Well 4 months after winning the FA Cup trophy, with captain John Terry and Frank Lampard draped all over him like the cheap hookers, he walked away from the club (albeit with one of ‘Oh sorry, did I just barge into you by mistake?’ shoves from Roman) after three games where Chelsea failed to win. Laughable.

Finally, TheMakéléléRole wants to mention another issue – Fernando Torres. Oh, Fernando. How to solve a problem like Fernando? Frankly, our first thought is to give him one of our speacial and famous bear-hugs. But we’re glad you asked, because TMR has ideas. Call us crazed, but we’d like to give him a little more time until we call him a flop, a failure, a waste of money. And here is why: bear in mind, if you will, the general theory that players who play long seasons for their clubs, pick up knocks, and then proceed to play in major international tournaments, tend to be exhausted at the start of the season. Then bear in mind, if you can stand the thought of cutting the man some slack, the fact that in 2008, Fernando Torres (after scoring 24 league goals in his debut season at Liverpool) went to Euro 2008 and came back victorious. In 2008/2009 he tore his hamstring, Sellotaped it back together, then the Sellotape ripped a little bit and then he picked up an ankle injury for good measure. Torres then proceeded to go to South Africa for the Confederations Cup. Back at Liverpool, injuries plagued him further, not helped by The Waiter depending on him so badly that he was often rushed back from injury, a sure-fire way of exacerbating the problem.  Of course, that summer he was back in South Africa becoming a World Champion, before getting straight back into the thick of it this season with more injuries and the occasional goal. We could also go on to mention that Fernando has been playing under the most immense pressure since the age of 17, when he was thrown in at the deep end at Athletico Madrid.

Fernando Torres scores his first goal for Chelsea vs West Ham

Now TMR is patiently disposed.  It always has been and that’s why people like it. But even if we weren’t, we reckon it would be within reason to suggest that this man has been under more physical and mental pressure in his career so far than we would experience if we lived to 200 years old. What we suggest is that we give Fernando the summer off for the first time in 4 years, let him blow the top off a couple of San Miguels and get the hair back to its former glory (incidentally, is this the first time that hair has been the subject of footballing pathetic fallacy? So beautiful when scoring for fun, so dark, dank and lifeless these days) and then let’s see if he doesn’t repay us by scoring 40 goals next season, firing Chelsea to League, FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League glory. And hell, TheMakéléléRole is feeling generous, so we’re going to let Carlo Ancelotti stay a little longer as well, because he’s such a nice man. And if not, well, let’s just sack them both. And get Ray Wilkins and Zola back. They’ll win it all for us.

TMR doesn’t know what Chelsea’s fickle and impatient fans like to do to calm themselves, but we suspect it involves the coming together of darts and pictures of Ancelotti/Torres/Kalou/Mikel/Bosingwa and everyone else who is a massive waste of space, isn’t fit to wear the shirt/tight-fitting hand-made Italian suit etc. TheMakéléléRole’s message to these fans: go and do some dart-throwing, get all that anger out of your system, and then let’s give this ‘patience’ thing a try. Oh, and be careful what you wish for…

Introduction of Categories + Ideas for Future Articles

I said in my introduction post that TheMakéléléRole did not have a theme. However, what it does have is an abundance of ideas for ‘series’. This is a short post introducing these ‘series’ (or categories) and explaining what they will contain, so that you can have a look at what is to come and decide whether this might be the blog for you!

Opinion: These will be articles written by me, reflecting my thoughts and views. TheMakéléléRole will try to keep moaning to a minimum, and to make its point as un-biasedly as possible. No promises though!

Reviews: This section will contain articles looking back matches that I’ve watched from the stands or on Sky Sports 1 (or even HD1!). Not just that, there will be season summaries of as many leagues as I can manage this summer.

Exciting Matches – From Perth Glory to Peterhead, every team has had a match which will never be forgotten by the fans, for historical reasons, for triumphant reasons, or just for sheer entertainment value. For example, TheMakéléléRole is contemplating writing one such article on the Grêmio v Náutico Serie B play-off match in 2005, nicknamed Batalha dos Aflitos (Battle of the Afflicted), which ended with 17 players on the pitch and one (very important) goal scored by a young player who now plies his trade in a certain Theatre of Dreams.

Player Profiles – It could be a player you haven’t heard of, or perhaps a world-renowned, award-wining superstar. But if TheMakéléléRole think they deserve to be written about, then it shall be so. Current plans are to explore the careers of some of the Ballon d’Or winners from the mid-2oth Century, and of course to do some ‘One to Watch’ profiles – where would football blogs be without them?!

Team Guides – Similar to Player Profiles, but these Team Guides will be looking back on a single club’s history, fans, heros, villains, rivalries and glories. Off the top of TheMakéléléRole’s perfectly round, bald head? Dukla Prague. European Cup and Cup Winners Cup semi-finalists in the 60s, and owners of a Ballon D’Or winner. Where are they now? TheMakéléléRole will be happy to tell you if you stop fidgeting and keep reading.

Misc – Misc was created out of panic when I realised my introduction post had nowhere to live. Always one to help the homeless, TheMakéléléRole took pity, and out of this beautiful, selfless act was born ‘Misc’. ‘Misc’ will, from now on, become the refuge for both the homeless posts and those maverick posts whose genius can and will never be categorised. Now wipe awaythat tear, becausenext up is the category that TheMakéléléRole is most excited about!

Championship and Football Manager Legends – Where are they now? – If you have no interest in, or have never heard of the Championship Manager and Football Manager series, then frankly, you and TheMakéléléRole won’t get on. Let’s not cause a scene – it’s been a lovely evening and thank you for the wine, but no, I don’t want coffee, I just want to go home and guide my Ajax team (with an average age of 22) to another Eredivise and Champions League title.
Yes, this section will be attempting to track down all those great CM/FM players, that perhaps never went on to fulfill their -10 potential, perhaps never made a stadium gasp in awe or applaud in admiration. But by God did we love them, sitting in our suits, notebook in hand in front of our Windows 97 computer that has long since been recycled into lego. TheMakéléléRole is getting a tear of nostalgia just thinking about Tonton Zola Mokoukou, To Madeira, Tom Youngs. But what happened to them in ‘real life’? Were they even real? TheMakéléléRole puts on it’s detective hat and finds out…

Welcome to TheMakéléléRole

Hello and welcome to TheMakéléléRole, my first foray into blogging.

This is an exciting new football blog, without a particular theme à la Les Rosbifs and The Seventy Two. Those blogs are an example of blogs that, while being brilliantly written (that goes without saying), also follow a very specific theme (Englishmen abroad and The Football League respectively. Having a theme requires a regular and specific work ethic and passion. TheMakéléléRole, for the moment at least, will be more general. The main reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, it is not clear to me at this time of my ‘blogging career’ that there is one particular, specific path for me to follow. I am still learning about the beautiful game on a global scale, and as such am still discovering new footballing cultures, rivalries and styles of play. Secondly, working 9-5, Monday through to Friday is not a facilitatory way of living when trying to keep a consistent blog running. Luckily, come October I shall be a student studying French, and as such should have some time on my hands.

On a long term scale, I have a utopian vision of how this blog ends up and, true to its name, it mirrors the career of the only man to have a position named after him: Claude Makélélé. Let me run you through this dreamlike hallucination:

Currently, I am grafting through my youthful days at Brest (or the blogging equivalent). Then Nantes will provide a step up, where I’ll discover the real pleasure of blogging. Nantes will develop me and encourage me, maturing me until I’m ready to play at a high level. A year in Marseille and I’m ready to go abroad, though big European clubs still don’t rate me as highly as I rate myself. I reluctantly go to Celta Vigo, but enjoy a wonderful 2 seasons alongside Mostovoi, Karpin and Salgado.

Then, like all hallucinations, we reach the part that seems so believable yet ridiculous – a few years at Real Madrid and Chelsea, filled with wonderful performances, adoration from the fans and, finally, recognition from critics and colleagues. I’ve made it, and I can afford to retire to my hometown club, with numerous cars, houses and superinjuctions. Maybe, one day, I’ll even be unique enough to have something named after me. The Maxwell Tricolon sounds like it could work…

But let’s cross that myriad, that phalanx of bridges when we get to them. For the moment, I should probably start writing.

This was the ‘End of Level Boss’, so if you’ve got this far, congratulations. I think I’m going to like you. Go to level 2.