There are undoubtedly many good, bad and ugly consequences of globalisation that are evident in the modern game. One of the most potent by-products of the globalisation of football is how professionalised the game has become. For better or worse, players are probably now referred to as ‘athlete’s’ more than they are called footballers.
Yet in my opinion the professionalisation of the British game is bitter sweet because the price we pay for increased professionalism is a loss of personality in football. For the flawed genius is now a thing of the past, and flair players are an almost forgotten relic of an ancient time, replaced by functional robots that run around tirelessly for 90 minutes.
The one player who has perhaps been most marginalised by the mechanical nature of the modern game is Paddy McCourt, who was recently released by Barnsley. Thankfully McCourt’s precocious talent has found a new home since Sami Hhypia signed him for Championship club Brighton and Hove Albion. Unbelievably, some of you reading this article may never even have heard of the man affectionately known as ‘The Derry Pele’. McCourt is a folk hero in his native Northern Ireland, and Scotland from his time playing with Glasgow Celtic. Although McCourt looks like he belongs in a leather jacket and a Libertines video, under that ungovernable mane of hair is a majestic talent. He is one of a select few of players capable of producing off the cuff moments of pure magic that all those who witnessed them will remember for the rest of their lives.
With the body of a Mexican boxer in between fights, McCourt often looked unfit and out of shape whenever he made an appearance at Parkhead. Yet in his 20 minute cameos he could conjure more moments of quality than many players can produce in their whole careers. Although McCourt was not blessed with any pace, watching him weave his magic through whole defences was a sight to behold. Fans had to rub their eyes in disbelief as the scruffy, disheveled looking McCourt entered the field of play to lead opponents on a merry waltz, forcing defences to dance to the sound of his tune such was the virtuosity of his talent.
Despite playing the game with the sort of bravura normally associated with a world class symphony orchestra, McCourt was never really trusted at Celtic. His rebellious streak and stubborn refusal to defend led to him being labeled as a luxury that could only be indulged in relatively meaningless league fixtures. He was deemed far too unreliable for the rigid approach employed by the Parkhead club in Champions League contests. The cruel irony was that he was the one player who had the natural talent to make a difference against Celtic’s more distinguished opponents. It is a crying shame he never really got the chance to showcase his quality in the Champions League.
The fact that such a fabulously gifted football player is virtually a forgotten man is a reflection of how professional and unforgiving an environment modern football is. Such a carefree maverick as McCourt was always destined to be a ‘wasted talent’ in this militaristic world of modern football. McCourt is the last of the football romantics and his talent will always remain unfulfilled because he is the antithesis of the modern footballer. He obviously loves a beer, and his former Celtic manager Neil Lennon once ruefully stated that McCourt would simply never have the stamina required to be a true force in modern day football.
Put simply, Paddy McCourt is the right player in the wrong time. I am convinced that if he was born a few decades earlier he would be mentioned in the same breath as some of the best British players.
Yet at only 30 years old, Paddy McCourt should have a few more moments of magic left in the tank. One thing is for sure; any lovers of the beautiful game will be watching more Brighton and Hove Albion games this season hoping to witness Paddy McCourt at his brilliant best.
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