I now have a new hero. Andrew Cassidy is his name.
Since he was filmed doing keepy-uppies on an estate in Wales, he has become a YouTube celebrity.
If you haven’t seen him in action yet, here’s the video. Stop reading this now and watch him on the ball, he really is fantastic.
Exhibiting the best ball control west of the Severn Bridge, he has the lads filming him in stitches as he flicks and feints and volleys.
Why? Well, because he is not exactly the shape, scale or age of most footballing freestylers.
Fat, fifty and fantastic: what’s not to like about him? He is a role model (or should that be roll model?) for roly-poly players everywhere.
Move over Frank Lampard, here is someone who really has consumed all the pies. The Tubby Bale is the new Welsh wizard.
The way in which he controls a football is reminiscent of Maradona in his prime. While watching the footage of Cassidy in action, I found myself clicking on the video of the Argentine master warming up before a Napoli game.
Jiggling his shoulders to the Eurobeat dirge Life is Life, the greatest footballer ever to draw breath proceeds to do things with a football which the standard laws of physics would suggest are impossible.
The ball appears to stick to various parts of his anatomy as he goes about his tricks, rolling round his shoulders or attaching itself to his forehead.
And he does it all with such insouciance, he hasn’t yet tied his boots. If I tried to do that, I would have fallen over those trailing laces at the first attempt at a keepy-uppy. He really was the master.
Yet, mesmerising as they are, the thing about Cassidy’s video thriller is this: those skills he demonstrates, magnificent they are, can be found replicated in any league training ground by any number of professional footballers.
Even the most apparently knocked-kneed of League Two forward can do that. They can roll the ball along their shoulders, flick it up with the back of their heel, caress it with their forehead.
The trouble is, the moment they go out on the pitch they seem to forget such niceties in the pursuit of head down kick and rush. Head off to a game this weekend and, never mind that they can all do it, the chances of seeing any moments of Cassidy-like skill are about as high as the chances of Rio Ferdinand being applauded on to the Stamford Bridge pitch on Monday lunchtime.
You might think it would be great if James Constable, in the middle of Oxford United’s home game against Morecambe, suddenly started freestyling on the edge of the area. Instead of trying to get a flick on to a big hoof out from his goalkeeper, how brilliant would it be to see him rolling the ball along his thigh before flicking it up in the air and catching it on the back of his neck?
Except imagine if he did. Not only would he give his manager a coronary, he would have the home fans howling in indignation, furious at his self-indulgence. All they want him to do is get it in the mixer.
At this time of the season all they want is a win. After all, as the great poet laureate of football John Toshack once put it: “Easter time is very vital, that’s when we decide the title.”
That is the thing about our attitudes to football: such skill is all very well on a YouTube video, but on the park, results are all that matter.
Frankly, for most of us at this time of year, if a victory can be achieved by our team without a single decent pass being made or without a single moment of elevated skill, we will go home happy.
Sure, when Wayne Rooney went airborne to plant the ball in the back of the Manchester City net a couple of seasons ago, it was a moment of majesty that lifted the soul (unless you are a City fan), a moment even the splendid Cassidy would be pushed to replicate.
But in reality, most of those in attendance at Old Trafford that afternoon would have been just as happy if he had scuffed the ball in from three inches. For us, the hypocritical football fan apparently craving skill, it is the result not the execution that counts.
And such an attitude permeates our game. It means, sadly, though they are all capable of it, what we will see on Saturday is not 22 men doing an Andrew Cassidy. Instead we will see sweat, toil and head-down application. After all, even Maradona confined such indulgence to the warm-up.
- Sports & Recreation