In a few moments you will read the words of a great Tottenham footballer. Properly, fully, righteously great is what I’m saying here, as opposed to ‘great’ in the modern sense of the word, which in the otherwise vacant mind of many a media hack has come to be defined as ‘slightly better than average.’
Great as in supremely talented, to the extent that his gift enabled him to rise to the very pinnacle of his sport. Yet his virtues would be decried in this day and age. Skilful admittedly, but he could work harder, cover more ground defensively, not take a breather every now and again. With the insight born of the conclusive 57th replay in ultra slow motion, Andy Gray would pick holes in his stamina and positioning. Tut tut.
We mere mortals who delighted in his dexterity, we knew. Our hearts beat faster when he came onto the ball, skipping over the ground, bursts of short staccato steps, hunched shoulders, arms outstretched to offer balance and a measure of protection for his diminutive frame from muscular defenders anxious to disrupt his flow.
Sure he was not a 90 minute man and the fags didn’t help, but it’s what he accomplished in those 20 minute spells when he did play that counts. Then the whole game danced to his tune. He set the pace, a skip, a touch, pass and move, into space, teammates guided towards the pass that would follow not in a moment but in two or three passes time.
A World Cup winner, he held the ultimate prize but remains humble and content with a life in the game, even though that game has hurt him a time or two since then. A lesson here for the preening precious narcissists we call professionals. Celebrated in his own country but in the drab surroundings of north London he was loved, truly loved, never to be forgotten.
And now, years later, we discover Ossie Ardilles’ real dream. To play once more this wonderful, beautiful game, just for the sake of it. If only.
“ Osvaldo Ardiles concludes his autobiography, Ossie’s Dream, published next week: “And if you asked me, ‘What is your dream, your real dream?’, well, apart from managing a national side in a World Cup, it’s simple: I would give anything to be able to play one more match. I don’t mean a kickabout with some mates. I mean a real, proper football match. Just to walk into the dressing room, all the kit laid out, the new socks, the boots … everything ready.
“Just to do a little run on the spot, a bit of jumping to warm up, then to walk out of the tunnel on to the turf of a real stadium. Just to hear the roar of the crowd and to let my mind compute all the emotions and thoughts and strategies simultaneously: my loved ones, my loyalties, my fitness and, above all, who is going to be marking me? Just to hear the whistle blow, and for the game to start.”
Extract taken from Richard Williams’ column in the Guardian today.