Who are the saints and sinners in the world of football?

For football fans, discussions about those players that we love, or indeed hate, often become heated and go around in circles, becoming debates that can last for hours.

For football fans, discussions about those players that we love, or indeed hate, often become heated and go around in circles, becoming debates that can last for hours. This is because of the sheer passion surrounding the beautiful game, and the fact that football, in its very nature, is subjective; I, for one, am incredibly biased when it comes to my club, Lincoln City, a team in the Blue Square Bet Premier Division (the Conference, for the purists out there). As a result of my love for such a lowly club, many of the footballers that I love, or most vehemently dislike – for hate is a strong term, would be unfamiliar names to fans of clubs higher up in the football pyramid. 

Take, for example, Morecambe’s Kevin Ellison, a player who was once on loan at Lincoln, and did very well, prompting chants of ‘sign him up’ from the fans. Alas, this never happened, and such is the fickle nature of the average football fan, that on his return to Sincil Bank (Lincoln’s home ground) with Chester City, he was given a less-than-warm reception. Ellison’s response to this, as so often happens when a player returns to his former club, was to score a goal, to earn his new side a point. From that moment Ellison became disliked, not only for his over-the-top celebration, but also his constant diving, moaning, and attempts to wind up opposition players, with the intention of getting them sent off. Of course, if he had have signed for Lincoln, and was winning us free-kicks and such, he would have been a hero; as I said, football fans are fickle. 

Another player who highlights the subjective nature of football support is one of my all-time heroes, and best-loved players, Gary Taylor-Fletcher. He’s a footballer who is perhaps better-known than Ellison, having scored goals for Blackpool in the Premier League recently, however, before joining Lincoln he had been voted Leyton Orient’s worst every player; quite an accolade, I’m sure you would agree. Taylor-Fletcher scored some very important, and very good, goals for us, earning a place in the heart of fans of the Imps that was in stark contrast to the views given by Orient fans. The two players cited are an attempt to illustrate the point that whoever I proclaim to be loved, or hated, may well divide opinion, depending on each individual’s experiences of that particular player. I will look at five footballers, and give them a ‘hate rating’ between 1-10, where 1 is a hero, and 10 a villain of Dick Dastardly proportions:

Joey Barton: 6/10 – Barton is a strange character, in truth. He used to be worthy of a 10/10, however, he has seemingly undergone a complete change in his personality, having reverted from stubbing out cigars in team-mates eyes, to quoting philosophers on Twitter, becoming a voice-of-the-people figure who impresses many with his intelligence. Cynics would suggest that the reason for Barton’s change could be a few sessions of media-training; a desperate attempt to improve the public’s perception of him. At least he’s tried, though. Barton’s behaviour on the pitch is still less-than-perfect, and his Twitter rants have landed him in hot water with the powers-that-be on numerous occasions, however, he no longer seems to be the malicious, thuggish character that he was viewed as previously. He has become an almost-lovable rogue, or pantomime villain.

Mario Balotelli: 3/10 – The Balotelli debate has been done to death, so I will not address it in full, however, it is fair to say that ‘super-Mario’, as he is affectionately known by fans of Manchester City, is an enigma. He polarises opinion, with views on him ranging from ‘LAD’ and ‘legend’, to an immature fool who is at risk of wasting his undoubted potential with his petulance and ill-discipline. My view is that he is closer to the former; he is a young man with a lot to learn, but a lot of time to do so. His connection with Roberto Mancini should stand him in good stead to mature, and begin to become the world-class player that he has all of the tools to be. I also can’t stay angry with a man who struggles to put a bib on.

Ashley Cole: 7/10 – A player who embodies much of what is wrong with modern-day football; leaving Arsenal after theyoffered him ‘only’ £55,000 a week, whinging constantly on the football pitch, and cheating on his (now  ex) wife, Cheryl Cole, on numerous occasions. It is a shame that the best left-back of his generation is such a loathsome individual, as he is, in my opinion, England’s only truly world-class player.


John Terry: 10/10 – What can be said about John Terry that hasn’t been said before? His misdemeanours have been well documented, and has seen him form divides at both club level; for instance his involvement in the removal of former Chelsea manager André Villas-Boas, and for his country; having an affair with his international team-mate’s wife. The on-going case regarding his alleged racist abuse of Anton Ferdinand has seen him stripped of the England captaincy for a second time. His constant moaning at referees, and undermining of his managers, are two reasons why I wouldn’t even want him playing for Lincoln, despite our current, sorry state.

Paul Scholes 2/10 – An example to all aspiring footballers; he went about his business quietly, winning trophies and admirers such as Zinedine Zidane. Granted, he’s not a very good tackler, and has been criticized for making poor challenges a huge number of times in the past, however, I don’t believe that he is a malicious character, or has ever intended to hurt anyone. Scholes’ passion for the game shone through, as he made the decision to come out of retirement to help Manchester United out, due to sheer passion for the game that he missed so much during his short spell away from it. If more players were like Paul Scholes, footballers would have a far better reputation.