The Fatman Cometh

Wherefore art the fat man on the pitch? Where is the proper chunker of yore? The honest ruddy yeoman of the football pitch? There aren’t many anymore are there? Paddy Kenny, Andy Reid and the recently retired Dean Windass come to mind. Gary Taylor-Fletcher (though that may be more to do with the terrible cut of Blackpool’s shirt). Mido. That’s about it.

Cardiff City have just signed Jon Parkin from relegation bound Preston North End and he is one of a select band of professional footballers who could honestly be described as fat. Having watched my team play against Preston this year I can confirm that when Parkin runs you can see his gut wobble. At full speed he is a ferocious sight akin to Vinnie Jones’ character in X-Men 3, not even walls will stop him. Combine that with a propensity for throwing his elbows about and the fact that he’s 6ft 4in and it makes him a handful to deal with, even if he’s not actually that good. Though I’ve been reliably informed he was decent at Macclesfield.

The truth is there aren’t many fat players around today. You don’t get the true chunkers on the pitch at the highest levels such as Tomas Brolin, Jan Molby or all-time great Ferenc Puskas. You can have muscle bound monsters who have a lack of mobility due to their gym habit, but that is something completely different. You don’t get many with a proper gut. And I’m not talking about a Frank Lampard and the slightly ridiculous ‘Fat Frank’ jibes. The guy has admitted that he may not be the greatest natural athlete in the world and that he has to work harder than those blessed with a ‘good engine’. But he’s in no way fat and only looks slightly bigger when placed next to other professional footballers who, we should remember, are super fit and generally built like whippets. I’d hesitate to call someone fat when they’d be regarded as super-buff in normal society. Besides, have you seen the state of most football fans. Not exactly paragons of healthy living.

Modern day players can’t afford to be out of shape. The demands of the game and training regimes mean that players are at peak fitness, improving  standards within the game which can now be played at a ferocious pace for longer periods. But it does widen the gap between the fan and the players. Fans like to identify with the players which is why they like having local lads turn out for them. Many fans are out of shape and may have a special admiration for the guy who seems to be a bit out of place but is putting his all in. If there’s a fat guy running about on the pitch now then it’s a pitch invader about to get ejected from the stadium and banned for life rather than a terrace favourite. Which is, to a certain extent, a shame. Especially as I frankly admire a person who can pack away enough food to still be fat when they are paid to basically run about all day.

So, like the bearded footballer, the fat footballer passes into legend.

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4 Comments on “The Fatman Cometh

  1. I think you might be a bit harsh on Parkin – I think he’ll prove to be a decent signing for Cardiff. He offers something completely different to the other strikers they’ve got, and I’m not just talking about his XXXXL shirt size.

    His success will be purely down to how Cardiff use him. Parkin was completely ineffective when I saw him away at QPR this year, but that was mainly due to him having to deal with hopeful punts to run onto. Running is clearly not something someone of his frame is capable of doing more than perhaps once per game (followed by immediate substitution).

    He’s obviously strong in the air, but his touch when the ball is played to him on the ground is actually much better than people give him credit for. The ball sticks to him, and once he has it he can use his physical strength to hold it. He also has a fairly lethal shot on him.

    He reminds me a lot of a slightly taller and fatter version of Neil Shipperley. If you speak to any Sheffield United fan, when you ask who the most important striker it was that helped them to promotion in 2006, they won’t say Danny Webber or Steve Kabba, but Shipperley. Used effectively, Parkin can be a similar success at Cardiff – with similar end results.

    • Ah, the classic good touch for a big man is it? (GTFABM) Parkin’s probably going to be playing a similar-ish role to Bothroyd, so he should get balls to feet/chest/head to bring down, but with less stuff to run onto due to less mobility. He’ll probably be the fixed point for attacks to play around and if he can hold up the ball and bring in runners from deep or wide (like Bellamy, Olofinjana, Whittingham or Burke) then he’ll work well. Just have to see really!

  2. I blame the foreign players. Their healthy way of life and professionalism has made chubby footballers in England a thing of the past……..

  3. Yeah its the likes of your Zola’s and Bergkamp’s and their “pasta.” You can still find you’re occasional overweight central defender in the non-leagues these days, can’t beat a renditon of “sumo.”

    Anyone seen the series “Times of our lives” featuring the George Graham Arsenal side 92-93 with Merson, Smith and Parlour.

    Some great tales, Parlour tells one tale of travelling to Anfield as a non-playing squad member. He and defender Andy Linighan decide to pop up to the bar for a few pints before kick-off only for assistant manager to Graham, Stewart Houston, to rush in and tell Parlour, on his fourth lager, he is now on the bench as another player has picked up an injury in the warm-up. “Let him finish his pint first,” says Linighan. Parlour sups up, joins the substitutes and plays the last 30 minutes, being run ragged by Liverpool’s Jamie Redknapp in the process.

    Likewise Merson revealed the Arsenal side would have pie-eating contests on the coach to away matches. Apparently Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle were rumoured to stop for a bulk order of fish and chips on the way home.

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