You know Roberto Carlos and his free kicks, right? How he could bend a ball round the floodlights and rocket it into the top right hand corner. You’ll remember, of course, Le Tournoi. You’ll probably not, however, remember him ever doing it before or indeed, after.
That’s because most of the time, rather than defying the laws of physics he limply succumbed to its compelling charms by ballooning the ball into orbit. Like a playground bully, whenever Real Madrid were awarded a free-kick within 40 yards of goal, Carlos would grab the ball. David Beckham, a far more prolific dead ball exponent looked on probably thinking about how much he could have added to his paltry Real palmarès if Carlos hadn’t been so determined to prove that Le Tournoi goal wasn’t a fluke.
Players often have their careers re-edited around a single moment, John Barnes’ international career will forever be defined around his weaving dribble against a moderate Brazil side in the Maracana. A goal, incidentally, that was missed by ITV because they were showing Surprise Surprise instead of the first half. In fact, half-time Cilla Black interviewed (probably) Gary Newbon via satellite link about the goal.
Matt Murphy is another whose career has been re-edited. He is either a hapless buffoon and perennial scapegoat, or the best goalscoring midfielder we’ve had in a generation… perhaps two generations.
Members of the promotion winning team will forever be defined by the victory at Wembley. And rightly so. Their legend was stamped into our history and collective memories on May 16th and their contribution will be defined fully by that day alone, re-edited around the magic 90 minutes. But, harsh though it is, we also need to remember a) Murray and Constable (and then latterly Chapman) were the difference between a promotion winning team and one that struggled to maintain even play-off form, and b) everyone recognises the need for change in the current run.
Now I don’t personally understand what Bulman, Creighton and Midson have done wrong, and there’s a reasonable argument to say that things are changing too quickly (this is not a team that can remind themselves of their abilities by recalling the epic Wembley win because most of them weren’t there). But this run, and our latest gutsy defeat to Rotherham, reveals the reality is that changes are needed somewhere. For once we’re in the uncomfortable position of losing players we admire. I’m a football romantic, but it’s just not practical to continually accumulate players until we find the right mix. What’s more, we have to face facts that, when you need to offload some players, the likes of Creighton, Midson and Bulman are much more bankable than the under-used Baker or Cole.
So the offloading of players who we will forever be remembered as legends of the Conference era is not a reflection of their achievements, but a practicality of the current state we’re in. Perhaps it is to their credit that teams want to take them on. There are plenty of players who have had their careers destroyed after a spell at Oxford.