Another football drawing, this one is Michael Laudrup, the Danish manager of Welsh team Swansea City. I love Laudrup. He is forever-young, good-looking-but-man’s-man, right attitude, and in his first year at Swansea he has led them to their first major trophy ever. Swansea City as a club are great too, and it’s great to see a Welsh side gaining so much respect in the Premier League. Laudrup was a great player in his day too, as was younger brother Brian, but Michael was The Man. Total man-crush of course (he’s competing with AVB and Mancini), so he had to get drawn on a Chinese envelope in brown pen. I’m enjoying this series. And I have a lot of these envelopes this year…
Monsieur Arsene Wenger. Long-time manager of Arsenal, my club’s arch-rivals. Since he arrived at Arsenal in 1996 from Japan, that club (who, for those unfamiliar with English football club geography, are a South London team from Woolwich residing in North London temporarily for the past century or so, a few miles south of native North London team Tottenham Hotspur, my team) went into terminal incline, winning big trophy after big trophy as if some day winning trophies would go out of fashion. Meanwhile, Spurs remained fashionably trophy-free, except for a couple of league cups, the ‘thinking man’s trophy’, and beat Arsenal hands down in the ‘number of managers’ league table. Now Tottenham are flying high as the top London club (check the league table, Chelsea, it does not lie), third in the table, while Arsenal are languishing in a lowly fifth, with only the prospect of a second-leg Champions League tie against Bayern Munich to keep them entertained. “Champions League”, haha - you don’t even have to be a Champion to be in it. It’s like a game at a kid’s party where you tell the kid who came last that “they’re a winner too”. With a fashionably hip seven years without a trophy, and an attitude at the club that 4th place is the same as getting a trophy for the cabinet, Arsene is riding high, being talked about more than ever, and his players are so good that other competing clubs are lining up to buy them.
I actually feel sorry for Arsene Wenger. Despite about fifteen years of living in an undeniably massive Arsenal-shaped shadow, until just a few years ago, I cant deny that he is one of the game’s true legends. He changed Arsenal from being boring-boring 1-0 merchants to one of the most exciting teams in the world. When they did that invincible season, nearly a decade ago, and Thierry Henry was in my mind the best player in the world, it was pretty hard to argue with that. With no trophies for the past seven years, even many Arsenal fans are calling for Monsieur Wenger to call it ‘un jour’. His methods were a revolution in their time, but their time has passed. Ferguson, on the other hand, continues to win, win, win. Arsenal are not competing in the age of the Billionaires, the Chelsea-City nouveaux-riches, but despite banking their money on every turn they are increasingly being seen as the Weakest Link (but then, compare them with how Liverpool have fallen). and as Spurs rise and rise, I should be laughing at them as I go, but I’m finding myself feeling sorry for them. They are not the lottery-winners of your Chelseas and your Citys (and your, um, QPRs), and I do believe that in the long run acting sensibly with football money will pay off, but well, selling your best players to your rivals, that’s just silly. When games go badly on the pitch for Arsenal it is amplified; Wenger was accused of not taking the FA Cup seriously when they were knocked out by lowly opposition, and he angrily retorted that he has won that competition four times, arguing “name me one manager who has won it more” (the answer is Alex Ferguson, by the way, if not counting dead managers in which case there are three others). Last Sunday, Spurs beat Arsenal 2-1 in a big derby game, but if it had gone the other way, we’d have only been a point apart. At a similar time last year they beat us 5-2, and we were something like ten points ahead – and Arsenal ended up catching us, beating us to third place. That is the measure of Wenger, he can still pull it off. I’m sure he would prefer to leave on a high, finish his Arsenal career with one last big trophy, but if he doesn’t (and as devoutly Tottenham and anti-Arsenal as I am, the romantic in me kind of hopes that he does), I hope he isn’t forced out by the impatient salmon-sandwich bunch at the Emirates. If he should go, they’ll soon realize that their club will have lost their greatest figure since Herbert Chapman.
Drawn on a Chinese envelope in uni-ball sign um-151 (brown and red) with white gel pen.
He’s been brilliant lately, hasn’t he? This is Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur’s great young Welsh star, drawn on another Chinese envelope. I have him up between the drawings of Messi and Ronaldo next to my desk, and he is probably in that company. His free kicks lately have been spectacular, Spurs have barely needed a striker with Bale moving about up front. He needs to do something about his barnet though. Young people, eh.
Paul Gascoigne, as I will always think of him. For those who read my blog and don’t know the names of every footballer I mention (and I mention a few), Paul Gascoigne – aka “Gazza” – was a player from the late 1980s to early 2000s, who had perhaps his greatest playing period while a young cheeky lad in the white shirts of Tottenham, scoring a bullet of a free-kick against Arsenal in the FA Cup Semi-Final in 1991. As an England player he was perhaps the most ‘gifted’ player of his generation, playing with unrivaled passion yet a tinge of tragedy, famously crying on the pitch after receiving a yellow card (undeservedly) in the 1990 World Cup semi-final against West Germany, meaning he would have missed the final, if England had been any good at penalties. He became a national hero and an international icon. His golden spell at Tottenham ended with an FA Cup medal in 1991, though he never finished that match, having been so hyped up that he attempted to kick a hole in the chest of one player (laughed off by the Gazza-loving ref) before seriously injuring himself trying to remove the legs of Nottingham Forest’s Cary Charles. That injury put him out for a year, after which he was transferred to Lazio, and so on and so on. You can look up his history in Wikipedia or something. While he had a few moments of wonder, such as his amazing goal against Scotland at Euro 96, Gazza never quite reached the heights we knew he was capable of. Injury, personal issues, drinking, (cf Chris Evans and Jimmy Five-Bellies), famously being left out of the 98 World Cup squad, he never could live up to the hype of being Gazza. For me and so many other Tottenham fans, that free kick against Arsenal was the defining moment (and for me, all the more fun as I watched the match with my Arsenal-supporting dad). At his best there was nobody in the country even close.
Gazza has had a lot of trouble in his life since his glory days, alcoholism, domestic troubles, mental health issues. And now last week he was admitted into a treatment centre in the US, having suffered another setback in his health. It’s unlikely he will ever be free of his demons, but I’ll always think of him like this, young, cheeky and brilliant.
As you know I don’t like getting wrapped up in unnecessary hyperbole, but we are living in a time of absolute legends, of whom our grandchildren’s grandchildren will tell tales of unfettered genius and unrivaled skill. Yes, I’m talking about the Tale of Two Footballers, the great sporting rivalry of our time, the main reason TV companies around the world are trying to convince you to spend some of your lunch hour watching the first leg of a Spanish Cup semi-final. Yes, I’m talking about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and unfortunately for our Portuguese friend, we really are all obliged to say their names in that order for all eternity. They are Mozart and Salieri, McEnroe and Borg, Pepsi and Coke, the USA and the USSR, Tesco and Sainsburys, er, Professor X and Magneto…
It’s easy to get carried away. For sure, they are the talismanic figures of their teams, Spain’s ridiculously massive Barcelona and Real Madrid (the Celtic and Rangers of La Liga, the Target and WalMart, etc). And fair enough, they both scored so many goals over the past couple of years that no other player in their league comes close, but that’s not to say…oh, let’s accept it, they are unbelievably great footballers. The 2012 Ballon d’Or ceremony recently was another clash between the two titans (oh, and Andres Iniesta, who many smart folk said really should have won it, though he of course doesn’t have the huge bags of goals but did win a European Championship with Spain, not that international football means anything any more). Ronaldo had an outstanding year, finishing 2011-2012 with a whopping 60 goals – sixty, and he’s not actually a striker – and a Spanish league title. But oh no, even though Barcelona didn’t win anything, Lionel Messi had to go and get 73. That is SEVENTY-THREE, in one season, a European record, and that is just for his club. Yeah, he’s not a traditional striker either. Then when he broke Gerd Mueller’s world record for number of goals scored in a single calendar year, well, Messi just had to get that fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or.
I like Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s easy to paint him as the villain, self-obsessed and sulky, and even more so when compared to the cuddly selfless mercurial goody two-amazing-shoes Messi. (I imagine Ronaldo standing there, fist clenched, “Messi!”) When he first broke out as a young lad at United, with his funny step-over and his waving of invisible yellow cards he was pretty easy to deride, but what a player he became. Ronaldo just gets better and better and better. And as he does so, Messi gets better and better and better and better. I often wonder if they spur each other on to reach new levels of greatness; I get the impression Messi would be doing this anyway. Their habit of collecting goals each week really is like an arms race. Ronaldo got a hat-trick at the weekend; so Messi scored four. (“Messi!”). In any other age, our Cristiano would be the legend. What can he do? I would drown my sorrows in hair gel too.
AVB – or Andre Villas-Boas as he prefers to be called – is the manager of Tottenham Hotspur. He is also Manager of the Month for December, following Spurs’ fantastic run lately. He is young too, and the first Spurs manager ever who is younger than me. He doesn’t like shaving (I can relate, though I can’t do stubble for very long without getting grumpy about it). I drew him yesterday lunchtime, when I was too tired to leave the office for lunch, and stayed in to draw on one of many envelopes I get at this time of year (this one is from Shandong University in China). It has been a very busy week, with an even busier one to come. In fact I was so tired yesterday that when I got home I fell asleep almost straight away, and when I woke up at half past five this morning this man was on the TV, leading Spurs in a 0-0 draw against his predecessor, Harry Redknapp, now boss of bottom-placed QPR. I like AVB. “A valuable boss.”
Still more to scan and post from Portland, still more NaNoDrawMo pieces to post…but here is a sketch from this morning while watching the football. IT was the North London Derby, Spurs v Arsenal, a game we (Spurs) had to win, a game we lost last year 5-2. Never again. Er, except today, when we lost 5-2. Not a great way to start the weekend!
Drawn in Uniball Signo um-151 (brown) in Moleskine #11. Outside, a big storm rolls over Davis, inside I have a cold.
Do you know the difference between Basil Fawlty and Victor Meldrew? There is a broad range of character defects between the two but I’ve narrowed it down to this – things tend to happen to Victor, without them necessarily being his fault, whereas Basil’s woes are almost always entirely his fault and pretty preventable. As the episode of Fawlty Towers goes on you see him diggin further and further into a hole which it is almost impossible to get out of, and you can just tell is going to get worse. So what about Harry Redknapp?
I won’t go into the story, footy fans know it, non-footy fans have turned off already. Harry has been great for Spurs and may continue to be but this England job thing hangs over the whole club. Sure the FA are waiting on their decision – but I think it might make things a lot easier if Harry actually came out and said if he will or will not take it if offered. Spurs’s season since this whole thing came up has resembled an episode of Fawlty Towers (at least, I can’t get the image of Basil/Harry falling off the ladder trying to ‘look at girl in room’, that being the champions league), and wondering whether this business-end-of-season-collapse is Harry’s fault for not committing or the FA’s fault for not asking. That is, is Harry a Basil or a Victor?
Hmm. If someone had said to me in mid February when we were nine points clear of Arsenal that two months later we’d be six points behind them and sinking, I’d have said “I don’t believe it!” Now I keep imaging Harry picking up a puppy instead of a phone.
This is Kenny Dalglish, current manager of Liverpool FC and unquestionably an Anfield legend. He returned last year as manager almost two decades after leaving the post, two decades in which Liverpool had not won the league title, 1990 being their last one (and that one being under Mr.Dalglish). His tenure at the second half of the 1980s saw perhaps their best ever team, which if English clubs had been allowed to play in Europe surely would have had more big trophies to sit on. First (and only) Liverpool manager to win the fabled ‘Double’ back when it was a rare and coveted acheivement (these days we barely bat an eyelid at a double, Chelsea won it two years ago, remember?), and that was as player-manager. He was also arguably Liverpool’s greatest ever player. Even as a Spurs fan, I’ve always liked King Kenny. These days he presides over a team unable to break back into the top party, despite new US owners, and, because success must be instant these days, is therefore under pressure to be, well, Liverpool famously do not sack their managers. They always ‘leave by mutual consent’.
This weekend sees the FA Cup semi-finals in England, and while my main focus will be Sunday’s all-London tie (Spurs -Chelsea! Come on Tottenham!), Saturday will see a Merseyside derby, Liverpool vs Everton, on the eve of the 21st anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. It’s even more poignant that Kenny, manager on that tragic day, is leading this current team into that match. Anyway, this is King Kenny, a true football hero.
I drew this in my Stillman and Birn gamma book with micron pen and watercolour. To the non-footy followers of this blog, who may not have read this far anyway, coming soon will be sketches from my new house (been a bit lazy on the scanning front…)
Roberto Mancini (which is Italian for Robert of Man City), or at least a close approximation, drawn in the Stillman and Birn gamma book, mostly in copic multiliner until it decided to give up on me. I have been practising drawing Mr Mancini, but still I haven’t quite captured his eyes; they’re too dark, too intense, as though Tevez is giving him evils. Still, this is progress, not perfection, and I’ll keep practising (until they sack him). I have a soft spot for Mancini. I was a big fan of his as a player at Sampdoria (my Italian team preferisco back in the giorno). And he’s a good looking fellow too. After all the untold riches City have had heaped upon them lately, I suddenly felt sorry for them when United went top recently; City fans are long suffering, and to be pipped now would be gut-wrenching. They look destined, despite winning every single home game, to ‘do a Newcastle’. (Notice how I’m not talking about Spurs nbeing pipped into 3rd by Arsenal. Lots of pipping going on.)