Friday, 23 March 2012

Searching For A Hero?

David Clayton isn't just one of the big cheeses on the clubs website, (if you happen to be reading this, any chance of a job?!?) as well as the sterling work he does there, he has written a few books about football and some more specifically about City.  One of these, which I can't recommend highly enough, is called "Manchester City's Cult Heroes".  The players selected are not always the most skilful or talented, but the players that have been taken to heart by the supporters, for every Mike Summerbee there is an Andy Morrison and for every Dennis Tueart there is a Paul Dickov; as fans we have always appreciated effort when perhaps technical ability may be lacking.

I read this book last year and it made me think about the current squad, in the present day we have a team crammed with superstars, we have a wealth of talent that we haven't had for a long time or arguably ever had, therefore picking a cult hero should be easy...but in some ways it isn't.  If I was to add a name to the list from the current squad it wouldn't be Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, David Silva or even Mario (OK, so I probably would pick him as well) but first and foremost it would be our biggest warrior Pablo Zabaleta.

Anyone who have I have ever talked football with is aware of how much I rate Zabs, he is, in every way, a cult hero.  I was never sure if it was just me that felt this, but after the superb victory against Chelsea on Wednesday, message boards, Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with talk of Nasri, Yaya and how immense Zabaleta was once again.  There are some players at City that clearly 'understand' what the club is all about, and they know what it means to pull on that shirt, the Argentine defender is one of those people.

The fullback was signed by Mark Hughes, (who should be praised for also bringing Kompany and De Jong to the club) and is now into his 4th season.  In that time he has filled in at a multitude of positions, his versatility has been admirable, right back, left back, right wing, central midfield, I genuinely believe that wherever he is asked to play he would show the same amount of commitment and determination.  This season appearances have been a bit more limited, only starting 18 games so far in all competitions, but refreshingly he has never once moaned about being left out of the team.

I don't think anyone would debate who our first choice right back is, we all know that Micah Richards is a better footballer and probably another cult hero in his own right, but Zabaleta has proven time and time again that he can be relied upon when needed.  His never say die attitude can not be underestimated either, the number of times he has put his body on the line and taken a knock for the cause are innumerable.

I suppose I should actually make a point in this piece as opposed to just droning on about Zaba, my point is that as we move forward and challenge for endless trophies, these are the sorts of players that we need.  People that understand what is required and expected of them, there is always the attraction of the glitz and the glamour and the Robinho's of this world, but I think we are better learning a few lessons from our neighbours and look at players with drive, determination and passion.  

His contract extension recently was fantastic news, he will be around for a few more years and that can only be a good thing.  The guy is a model professional and that is something that can't be underestimated, and if you still aren't totally sold his reaction to winning the FA Cup was fantastic.  The guy for me is a legend and if I was to ever get a name on the back of my shirt, that name would be Zabaleta, so should another edition of 'Cult Heroes' be written, he surely would be one of the new entries! 

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