Thomas Gravesen at Real Madrid
Obviously all we amateur pundits instantly agreed that Gravesen was just the kind of player that Real needed, someone to work and win ball and stop the other team in the middle of the park, someone to do the kind of job that Claude Makelele used to do so superbly (I was astonished they let him go so easily). But I watched his debut on Sunday, and I was still surprised by the fans’ reaction. Obviously the three goals they scored (Raul, Ronaldo, Owen) got the biggest cheers of the night, but the next several most popular moments all seemed to be about the new ‘ogre’ (according to one paper) in the middle. He got a wonderful reception when brought on to replace Luis Figo; every tackle he put in, especially the more aggressive ones, was cheered enormously; and when he won a ball and then put in a good forward pass, the crowd went wild.
Clearly the Real fans haven’t been too dazzled by the Galacticos to realise that a player like this is vital to any team; that you can’t win games without the ball; that you have to stop the other team scoring as well. I’m not naturally wholly in sympathy with the Tim H position on fannydangle, but here was as strong a case for his very sound arguments as has been seen in a while, and it was very pleasing to see the fans so clearly grasp what the club’s management seemed to have forgotten, that even if fannydangle can be immensely appealing, on it’s own it simply isn’t enough.