Skipper. Term used in football to denote captain and leader. Doubt you would need Susie Dent (resident lexicographer in Dictionary corner on Countdown) to tell you the origin of the word skipper as captain of a sea vessel: probably some legendary bearded fella called Kyle Skipper that was known to choke-slam sharks and drink from his boot. Captains are a symbol of the teams style, a reflection of the manager, the one whose spittle laces the inside of refereeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ears all over the world. The characteristic that all good captains share is that they have an infectious winning mentality that can galvanise a team of individuals.
This can take different forms, take the likeable Jedinak for instance Ã¢â‚¬â€œ not the loudest in the Palace dressing room but as Dean Moxey describes
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think Mile knows how to raise his voice! He is the player that brings everyone together and always there to helpÃ¢â‚¬Â
The reason, however, behind a manager choosing his captain has harder patterns to spot. Is it wise to trust the wise and give the armband to one of the older or more experienced members of the squad, or does it belong on a player that can most influence a game? Does the latter lead to position-specific captains normally found in the Ã¢â‚¬Å“spineÃ¢â‚¬Â of a team? (see this Bleacher Report article for evidence)
The reality is that the reasons for club and country captain choices are rarely straight forward, and here are some of the more striking examples:
- Politically Motivated New managers are , of course, entitled to make their own decisions but they are not always for “footballing reasons.” Immediate change of captaincy in the wake of a new manager would lend credence to some critics, who suggest that it is merely the gaffer “laying down a marker” for his new tenure. So external factors can influence selection, and you don’t get more high profile than the removal of John Terry as captain of the England national side. Capello wasn’t even consulted according to FA chairman David Bernstein, following the racial abuse allegations after an incident with QPR’s Anton Ferdinand. Terry announced his international retirement just before he was cleared of all charges, saying that his position in the international squad had become “untenable”. Removing a captain therefore carries far greater consequences than appointing one and ultimately, it is of detriment to England who will miss the total commitment of an iconic player.
- Managers Mouthpiece This season, A.S. Roma became the first team in Serie A history to win its opening 10 games. Rudi Garcia publicly stated in October that his talisman Francesco Totti is central to the emergence of Roma because “he is our tactics on the pitch.” His ability to act as a conduit of instructions barked from the Stadio Olimpico touchline was visible in his fury at Adem Ljajic for not tracking back despite his side leading Bologna 5-0. Totti could also be seen directing his troops to adopt a defensive 5-4-1 system when frustrating FC Inter with a three goal advantage. Rudi Garcia values him so highly for this aspect that this week he proclaimed that if Totti could not shake off injury, “There’ll be a new line-up without Totti“
- Popularity When Thierry Henry left Arsenal in 2007, a lot of fans weren’t sure how the club would manage without a leader like him. Gallas was seen as the tonic and he was confirmed as Arsenal captain on 9 August 2007, with Wenger deciding to overlook Gilberto Silva for the more jovial, ex-Chelsea defender. As soon as the Arsenal team lost some form and momentum in their title charge, Gallas launched a surprising attack criticising his teammates for Ã¢â‚¬Å“lacking braveryÃ¢â‚¬Â in a media interview that threw his captaincy in the spotlight. Oh well, off to Tottenham you go Willy. The charmed life of the Arsenal captains armband continued, when Manuel Almunia got the knod as stand-in captain. Wilshere would tell us that Ã¢â‚¬Å“heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of the ladsÃ¢â‚¬Â, but is that enough to be a leader in a club that attracts so much positive and negative press? It was remarkable that a man as perceptive and experienced as Wenger would choose him given his lack of form (would be replaced between the sticks by SzczÃ„â„¢sny within 4 months as number 1). There is a silver lining to this tale, when Wenger was to put his trust in the young Cesc Fabregas that saw the Spanish playmaker flourish.
In the future, there will be no shortage of Ã¢â‚¬Å“suitableÃ¢â‚¬Â captain choices made for the wrong reasons. Where would this article be without a Jose Mourinho quote! Ã¢â‚¬Å“Nature hates empty spaces: if somebody is missing, someone else takes over.Ã¢â‚¬Â Poor Kyle Skipper.
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