Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Harmless Strikers
Darius Vassell and Italian Stallion Bernardo Cribbins are still very fondly remembered in Manchester for their sterling efforts upfront in the sky blue shirt. Having the scoring power of Roy Hattersley in a bath towel on Celebrity Love Island does not mark them out as anything special in City's long and disaster-pocked history, however. Here are some more strikers who failed to get on the goal trail.
1.      THE PLUM PUDDING- When Trevor Christie scored on his debut in August 1986, many thought, "he'll do us, the lad". Some also thought, "what a strange knock-kneed character that is". Those in the silent minority that sunny afternoon v. Wimbledon, who were thinking "that fella runs like an old man pushing a sofa up a cobbled street" were soon to have those delicious thoughts completely vindicated. Jimmy Frizzell, for it was he, had bought a big bad dud.
2.  THE HERMAPHRODITE- Now, let's get this straight from the start. I have absolutely nothing against small pointy breasts. In fact, given the right attention and the correct and appropriate management, they are perfectly presentable body parts. The problem arises when said appendages come attached to the front of your new 750,000 pounds striker. If he had used them to force his way through on goal and swot a few cracking winners, Michael Robinson might have got away with them. But he didn't, so he didn't.  
Maine Road catches its first glimpse of Michael Robinson
3.  THE HEAVYWEIGHT BOXER- Tony Cunningham looked and moved like Joe Bugner's slow sparring partner, Hayzey Daze. How he managed to be an ever-present in the 84-85 side right from the big kick-off in August through to November 24th, when Billy McNeill finally sat him down and uttered the immortal words, "Tone, Joe Bugner's been on the phone. They want you back..." is anyone's guess. The records say 4 goals in 20 (very) odd  appearances. Reality, silently, said so much more. 
4.  BLOODALZIEL- Watching this craftsman at work limping across the forward line, reminded me of how it must have felt treading the grapes in Burgundy. I'd never done it, but I could well imagine the delicious immobility of being up to your plums in grapes. Our Gordon, a bank busting free transfer from Glasgow Rangers' third team, certainly played with the speed of a man trapped in a barrel, but managed to add to that the speed of thought of a man who had drunk his way out of the vineyard in the first place.
5.  BATTERY-OPERATED DEREK AND JIM- Nobody told the Kippax in early 1984 that they should not get too overexcited about Jim Tolmie and Derek Parlane. For this reason, we went ahead and got very excited. They looked distinctly second division, which was fine, because that's where we found ourselves that particular year, but, my, they could put the goals away. That was until their batteries ran out. This happened, as with all objects of the same ilk, very suddenly, very unexpectedly and absolutely at the most inappropriate moment. The result being City's shaky but until then semi-believable promotion push turned overnight into egg nog and our terrible twosome were taken back to the shop to a backdrop of tutting and complaining.
Bob: slow
6.  BINMAN BOB- Robert Taylor, as he was affectionately known in our house, was not so much a slow footballer, as a medium speed refuse collector. He moved with a grace and unpredictability built up over centuries of stumbling over loose tomato tins and slippery bacon wrappers. He had the manoeuvrability and agility of a large man carrying a very heavy wheely bin full of washing machine parts and the knack of arriving just a few minutes late for a cross of a man well versed in carrying furniture quite long distances. Plus, he couldn't score for toffee.  
7.  THE MOBILE HAIR-DO - Whilst Bobby Shinton had a beard, which could have taken part in a Bucks Fizz audition, Panorama or the Boat Race, Steve Kinsey concentrated on his hair. Never was such a luscious bush cultivated in the hurly burly of top flight football. That Steve could quite literally come through a full steaming 90 minutes without a hair of that great fluffy, feather-combed bonce out of place was great testimony to his almost child-like ability to hide behind the sofa as soon as a defender appeared or indeed a heavy, mud-spattered ball dropped from out of the firmament. One thing you could never accuse Steve of doing, was looking unkempt, that's for sure.
Bradbury moves up for a corner
8.   IFFY SMELLS- My Great Aunt Stephen once told me that you can "smell" a good footballer. I tried this out at Maine Road one sunny afternoon in 1997, when I got slightly too close to Lee Bradbury as he got out of his car, which he had stalled in front of the Blue Moon Chippy. As he staggered past, looking for all the world like a man delivering haddock, I caught the aroma of what can only be described as shite. I mentioned this curious happening to Aunty Steve, after she had come out of rehab, and she told me "Shite's a sticking to where it feels most at home, my lovely". I never once had reason to question her thinking again.
9.  IFFY SMELLS PART TWO - By the time Barry Conlon got a go upfront for City, you couldn't really tell if he smelled of excrement, candy floss or buffalo hide, because the aroma of decay spreading around our palatial establishment was, by this time, so strong, you would not have been able to smell a badly decomposing sausage that had been inserted in your nose. Despite this, I had the distinct impression that, if it had been possible to smell Barry, all would not have been ok in this department. For me, he came to embody a period that was highlighted by home defeats by Bury and away thrashings at Stockport. In short, if someone had removed our sense of sight, taste and foreboding as well, they might have done us a favour.
10. LAUREL AND HARDY- It didn't happen very often but seeing Nigel Clough and Gerry Creaney on the park at the same time sometimes made me go to the toilet in my trousers. On the one hand we had a lithe, ex professional footballer, who didn't seem to mind that Gandalph the Great had waved his magic wand and turned him into one of the Sugar Plum Fairies. On the other you had a fat thing, which should never have come within spitting distance of a football ground, even if it were to fork the divots at half time. Come to think of it he resembled a half time divot himself; ragged, flabby and in need of replacing.

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