THE SECRET FOOTBALLER: Envy of those more fortunate bad for the soul

Our man inside the game is baffled by rumours of Crouch or Carroll to Chelsea. But he’s no longer bitter

My sibling works in insurance. To be more precise my sibling works in a department within a monstrous insurance company that specialises in life insurance. Sometimes we talk to each other about our depression.

You see, there is a particular day when life insurance claims spike. It coincides with the first credit card bills appearing on the doormat after the relative happiness of Christmas. It also ties in with a run of limited daylight that stretches from the shortest day on December 21st through to the first week of January.

They even have a name for the day within the walls of the monstrous insurance company. They call it Blue Monday.

I’ve had a touch of the Blue Mondays recently. I’m prone to depression obviously and so I can see it coming and I have safety nets in place that catch me before I hit the rocks at the bottom. I’m lucky. I tell myself that everyday. Lot’s of people aren’t that lucky.

What I’ve learned is that salvation comes in many forms. The respite from the monotony of everyday life can be found in the most innocuous of places. I found mine this year in football because that is where I find most of my answers. Missing the game? At least I’m not playing in that snow. Feeling like I never reached my potential? At least I’m not Andy Carroll.

Blue Monday. It could be a weekly headline dedicated to Chelsea’s frustrating pursuit of yet another striker. Since Antonio Conte became Chelsea manager in 2016, he has been thwarted in his attempts to sign a number of forwards. The list is long and in places rather uninspiring. The Blues have missed out on Lukaku, Benteke (luckily as it turns out), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexis Sanchez and Andy Carroll who did Conte a favour by injuring an ankle that will require surgery that means we won’t see him on a football pitch again until next season.

Envy of those more fortunate bad for the soul

Most managers would have given up. Or should have given up. But not Conte. Thank God I say. Instead, he provided further escape for me from the mental torment I endure at this time of year by moving for Stoke City benchwarmer, Peter Crouch who will be 37 next week. There are few strikers around where you can actually say that Andy Carroll might have been a better option even with a dodgy ankle. I’m joking obviously, humour is part of my defence. But I’m also bitter too.

It hurts me, and other players I know, when a player gets a move you feel they have no right to. Think of somebody at your workplace getting a promotion when you know that you’re just as talented but perhaps not as well known to the management. I’ve seen plenty of players over the years secure moves that don’t seem to make any sense. I’m even part of a WhatsApp group of equally bitter players that is titled, ‘Lucky Players”.

The idea of the group is simple. If one of the members feels that a current Premier League player is punching above his weight then he posts a picture with the words: Lucky Player Number XX. The last picture I posted was of Lucky Player Number 57 Darren Fletcher when he moved to Stoke from West Brom. It was later followed by “Lucky player number 58: Alex Oxlaide Chamberlian.”

To be honest it isn’t healthy for the soul and may well have run its course now.

At Chelsea, Conte sights the need for a plan B, a different dimension to Chelsea, a variation that will see ‘the workload ease on Alvaro Morata’. Or another striker that will mean he can bench the misfiring Morata. But that isn’t going to be Peter Crouch.

In my view the striker problem at Chelsea doesn’t appear to warrant the panic that seems to be emanating from Stamford Bridge.

Envy of those more fortunate bad for the soul

If as a manager you cannot get a forward line that includes Willian, Hazard, Morata, Batshuayi and Pedro to play well then I’d argue that the problem may be in the coaching methods and set up of the team rather than in the necessity to sign Peter Crouch.

Chelsea demolished Brighton 4-0 on Saturday and there didn’t appear to be too much wrong with the current template from where I was sitting.

A team does need to be able to mix up its play of course, but let’s not kid ourselves, the involvement of Crouch will be for the last ten minutes of matches when Chelsea need to launch the ball forward to nick a goal. That’s not a plan that’s desperation.

And desperation is a nasty trait to have in January both for individuals suffering with the oppressive time of year and for football clubs too, who have a limited amount of time to do business in a transfer pool where quality is hard to come by.

At least in the case of Andy Carroll it could have been argued that there are certain players that have undoubted talent and serious potential if they can just stay fit, or just get their head right. And football managers will always take a chance on that player, especially a striker, because the rewards for their team are obvious and in future job interviews they will be able to point to the fact that it was their brilliance alone that finally unlocked that potential. Think if somebody had actually coaxed it out of Mario Balotelli.

One of the songs that I play the most when I feel myself slipping down the rabbit hole is the stinging Bob Dylan classic It’s alright Ma (I’m only bleeding). There is a verse in it that reminds me of that situation every time I hear it and forces me to be grateful for my lot:

Advertising signs that con you

Into thinking you’re the one

That can do what’s never been done

That can win what’s never been won

Meantime life outside goes on

All around you

And when I hear that, I think, ‘rather you than me’. I don’t want to be the guy putting untold amounts of pressure on himself in the hope of achieving the impossible.

For me, life goes on. There is no point in getting caught up in the hype.

No point in getting caught up in ill-will and envy when Andy Carroll and Peter Crouch are linked with moves to Chelsea. No point in getting uptight about any player who benefits from the madness and unpredictability of Premier League football.

There’s no point in waiting for Blue Monday to find you. That’s the point.

Our man inside the game is baffled by rumours of Crouch or Carroll to Chelsea. But he’s no longer bitter


Lifestyle

I know parents are supposed to look forward to Christmas, but let’s face it, the most wonderful time of the year is that fortnight in the sun when you can have a bottle of wine with lunch because your offspring are in the Kids Club.Learner Dad: I do this advance holiday planning every year as part of my annual campaign against seasonal affective disorder

CHUTNEY is not just for Christmas. A spoonful can put sparkle in a dish at any time of year.Leftovers lifesaver: Eight jars of chutney put to the taste test

Avoid products high in sugar and caffeine, says Helen O’CallaghanEnergy drinks not fit for kids

The staff of Cork Film Festival tell Richard Fitzpatrick about some of their personal recommendations on what to seeInsider tips: Those in the know pick their highlights of the Cork Film Festival

More From The Irish Examiner