The Recycla-ballers

In Culture, Opinion, Satire, Sport on June 20, 2011 at 1:27 PM
[Although used to fan mail, this letter bemused Patrick more than most.]


This week gave us the new ‘Premier League Free Transfer List’ – a list of all the out-of contract Premiership players . Indeed, the name is actually slightly misleading and may be more accurately termed ‘released players list’. It includes several players who are on the list as ‘free transfers’ as a mere bureaucratic necessity following their decision to retire. This season, examples of such include the revered Edwin Van Der Sar and Paul Scholes, as well as the slightly less revered Gary Neville. The majority of the 125 players on the list, however, are merely those whose contracts have run out and whose services are no longer deemed necessary by the club, or at least not worth the player’s asking price (for wages). Some of these are youngsters who haven’t quite lived up to the expectations of them in their younger years and many are older players who the club feel, essentially, can’t hack it anymore.

In light of the ridiculous sums being spent on players such as Torres and Carroll, the presence of ‘good’, and even some ‘great’(or, at least, once great) players in this list illustrates the strange, even dichotomous, nature of the transfer market. Having been brought up by a mother who often said the classic ‘what about the millions starving in the world’ line, not only to make me and my brother eat our greens, but also as a sincere declaration, the profligacy of the transfer market that the list demonstrates disappoints me a little. It is somewhat analogous to buying a load of shopping and forgetting about a lot of it, leaving it to go past its use by date (admittedly, the analogy falls down as players can be ‘re-used’).

Now, I understand the inherent difficulty of predicting necessary squad numbers and player form, not least in football where teams are so prone to injuries, and that it is unrealistic to ask clubs for too much good will in contracts and playing time for out-of-favour players, especially in these hard economic times. Nonetheless, this wastefulness seems a shame. So, with my dreams of top-flight football and my dear mother’s love of recycling in mind, I resolved to try to make the most of this situation by creating a team of such players, based around the great Patrick Vieira, as suggested by a friend. Thus, the idea for ‘The Recycla-ballers’ was born….

Joel Durston
Recycla-ballers Headquarters
34 Recycle Lane

Dear Patrick Vieira,
Let me start by me saying that, as a fan of Arsenal and indeed football, I am a great admirer of yours. Your constant talismanic presence and sometime leadership has been a joy and inspiration to watch, especially during your time in the ‘Invincibles’-era Arsenal team. Yes, there have been a few mistimed challenges which have resulted in early baths, but I’m sure these have all been honest attempts for the ball as I get the distinct impression you are a good sportsman and a positive role model. Indeed, it is because of your honourable humanitarian work and position as FAO Goodwill Ambassador that I believe you will find my new venture, ‘The Recycla-ballers’, of interest.

‘The Recycla-ballers’ is an idea that sprang from a conversation with a friend, and now business partner, Jamie Walker, about the new Premiership Free Transfer List, which I was shocked to see that you were on. However, I feel this idea may provide solace. After seeing great names on this list, we came up with the idea of creating a football team out of all these players, whose services have been deemed tragically no longer necessary by their erstwhile owners.

The reasons for this are threefold. Of course, I would be lying if I made out this venture was entirely selfless, as, like 95% of males, it has always been my dream to play top-flight football which this opportunity affords. The second reason is to revitalise the careers of great players such as yourself, which have been cut short in their twilight, seemingly just because their former owners are too short-sighted to see the simple truth that ‘form is temporary; class is permanent’. Perhaps most important though is the pioneering role (in football at least) the team will play in promoting sustainability. By its very nature, this team, if successful, will prove that clubs need not obtain new players through extortionate sums which have pushed top-flight football to breaking point and priced many honest fans out of the game. Furthermore, on a more general level, I envisage the team will promote the need for sustainability and recycling, which are of course both extremely important in our world, where global warming is unfortunately such an issue.

As such, the team will be non-profit. I envisage it will be financed by different companies and organisations who want to partner us in delivering our powerful message. We would probably have to start off in a low division in the Brighton, Hove & District Football League (where I am currently resident), but I am confident with the quality we would have we would rise up the leagues quickly. Indeed, my cousin’s team were only founded a few years ago and recently promoted several divisions due to the ease with which they were beating their rivals. As we do this, the awareness and support of ‘The Recycla-ballers’ would no doubt grow exponentially. Due to the project’s organic roots, I would be a liar if I said you would not have to take a bit of a pay cut from what you were on at Manchester City. I was hoping, however, you would want to do this for the unique, powerful message it could send the world of football and indeed the world in general. Besides, Brighton’s nearer to France and nicer than Manchester…

Well, now you’re probably thinking ‘that’s great ‘n’ all, but sacré bleu… who in Zidane’s name is gonna play?!’ Ah well dear Patrick, you will not be disappointed there. I am currently in the process of writing to other prospective players for what I am confident will be a great team. In goal we could have Richard Kingson – vice-captain and most capped player for Ghana. One can only assume he was released due to the usually spot-on Ian Holloway misattributing the blame for Blackpool’s recently leaky defence. In fact, Richard did very well to emerge from the season with his stellar reputation largely intact, considering.

At full-back we should have both Jlloyd Samuel and Ricardo Gardner; both very solid defenders short-sightedly overlooked in their twilight by Owen Coyle. As for centre back, I am in correspondence with Matthew Upson and Jonathan Woodgate; both superb centre-halves with strong domestic records and 29 England caps between them – a figure which would no doubt be much higher were it not for injuries which have unfortunately plagued both their careers, particularly Woodgate’s. Both are fighting fit now, however, and would provide a super-solid foundation to the team.

In midfield, we could have Zolta Gera and your good friend Robert Pires rolling back the years on the wings and myself and you in the middle of the park. Coming from an extremely competitive football hotbed as a kid, I was, alas, overlooked by professional scouts, but have since forged a successful domestic track record with great teams such as Inter Mias, The Business F.C and Gape Athletic. Being a team player, I have played in many different positions, even a season as keeper, but see myself best fitting in to ‘The Recyclables’ as a player-manager in the middle. I may not be the quickest, or even the strongest, but I have the vision, intelligence and also a bit of trickery á la one Juan Román Riquelme. With your fine self, in the words of the Ian Holloway, carrying the piano and myself playing it, we could forge a great partnership similar to the one you did with Freddie Ljunberg in the ‘Invincibles’ team.

As for the strikers, I was hoping to get Johan Elmander, but he went to Galatarasay. I am, though, hoping to get John Carew to partner the aforementioned Jamie Walker. I feel these two could form a great partnership, with John Carew’s strength and aerial presence a perfect foil for the self-proclaimed ‘short powerhouse of a goalscoring prodigy’ that Walker undoubtedly is. Hopefully, the remaining squad positions will be filled by Dean Kiely, Marcus Hahnemann, Jody Craddock, Danny Gabbidon, Jonathan Spector, Jason Koumas, James McFadden, Lee Bowyer, Nigel Reo-Coker, Sebastian Larsson, Kevin Phillips and Mwaruwari Benjani.

As I say, I am currently in correspondence with the players mentioned above and prospective media partners (which I cannot name at present for legal reasons), but I am writing to you Patrick in this project’s infancy because I feel you could act as a catalyst for this pioneering project. Your involvement in the team would of course be fantastic, but any help, contacts or advice you could offer would be invaluable too.

Yours sincerely,

Joel Durston.

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