I once tackled a man so gently that I actually gave myself a nosebleed. It was if my brain, so disgusted at my inadequate physicality, decided to empty my face of all blood in some kind of ghoulish protest. Temperamental characters, brains.
So given my own desperately poor performance in this particular aspect of the game, its little wonder that as a spectator I thoroughly delight in a solid challenge. The kind that smacks the ball to safety and leaves the recipient hurtling through the air like a shattered conker.
One chap particularly proficient in this field is Everton’s James McCarthy. He also happens to be rather nifty in a number of other respects, not least the kind of precise passing that saw him end last week’s Europa League match against Wolfsburg with a staggering 98% pass completion rate, not to mention this injury-time tackle (when Everton were 4-0 up).
One of the grubbiest things to be known as is an underrated player. This generally means one of two things. One: you try your very best in spite of your own inescapable crapness. Two: you don’t particularly do much wrong and yet you’re about as enthralling as watching Anton Ferdinand try to draw a unicorn.
McCarthy (23) has been, in some ways an underrated player, but certainly deserves a far less underwhelming billing – something he is now, thankfully, starting to enjoy.
Aggressive, dynamic and astonishingly neat on the ball, at his best he is the driving force behind a (usually) very good Everton team.
Were a Manchester United or Arsenal central midfielder to impose themselves on the game the way McCarthy regularly does pundits throughout the land would be clambering to set fire to their own George at Asda slacks in a frenzy of overwrought praise.
McCarthy may enjoy the quieter admiration he’s received up until this point. By all accounts he is a decent young man, who is said to have even donated a portion of his signing on fee from Everton to the Wigan academy.
Naturally he hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed and rumours – of varying degrees of credulity – bubble around like an otter’s fart. Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs even (guffaw) Newcastle have all been said to have sniffed around, and so they should.
And if Martin O’Neill’s Ireland team can find its way to the European Championships in 2016, a task now no more difficult than smacking a mink whale in the face with a baguette, then McCarthy (above) will get his chance to show his worth on a top international stage too.
In amongst the gushing, gnashing hype of the Premier League, attention and admiration were always going to find McCarthy eventually. I imagine Roberto Martinez will miss the anonymity, but like the kind of tackle that instantly turns an opponent’s legs into a heap of crushed Ribena cartons and dusty mints – McCarthy was always going to come crashing into the spotlight.
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