Player Profile: Chris Waddle

He looked at first glance as if he had all the agility of an antique Victorian wardrobe, or worse still, Kevin Kilbane.

His shirt was always untucked, he would loll around the pitch when not in possession of the ball and had none of the characteristics you would usually associate with a modern day winger and yet…

Wide players of today are a box of tricks. Players like Nani, Ronaldo and Joe Cole can perform wizardry with the ball at their feet and can leave you questioning what you have just seen and quite how they managed to evade the attentions of the full-back.

Chris Waddle didn’t have a box of tricks in his arsenal – he didn’t need one.

Like many masters of the arts, he made it all look effortless.

He had no need to try and confuse the defender with a whirlwind of stepovers. He didn’t rely on lightning pace, because he had none. In fact he looked like a three logged donkey scrambling over boulders when running without the ball at his feet.

When the ball was glued to his feet though, it was majestic.

It was like seeing a fair maiden ride naked on a wild horse through open shrub land or an eagle swooping down from a great height.

All Waddle possessed to beat the oncoming defender(s) was a drop of the shoulder and a wiggle of the knee to feign direction, before heading off the opposite way and no matter how may times he used it, defenders would more often than not be left in a state of confusion.

He would sidle up to his opponent and with a simple jink one way or another he’d leave them stranded far from play.

Not content with beating just one man, he would at times toy with defenders in the same way a cat would with a fatally injured mouse.

As a hopeful young talent earning my stripes in the Birmingham Youth League, I held a fondness for Sheffield Wednesday and he was the only reason why.

The opportunity to see this gangly and cumbersome man, that you could associate with your own unique approach to football, perform acts of such great skill was awe inspiring, particularly to a kid who had nailed the cumbersome style and held aspirations of awe inspiring skill.

Whether it was for Newcastle, Spurs, Marseille, Wednesday or even Burnley, Waddle would always excite and entertain, but unfortunately he will be remembered by many for launching one in the heavens in that semi-final shoot-out at Italia 90.

That miss would pretty much signal the end of his international career, as incoming manager Graham Taylor had no place in his side for him, despite Waddle winning the Football Writers Footballer Of The Year in 1993.

Perhaps though it was a blessing in disguise, as in the log run it has kept his awkward 80s hit with faith healing fan Glen Hoddle out of our minds, and his wonderfully coiffed mullet too for that matter.

If you can stand the oddly tense choice of Rob D as your musical accompaniment, here’s Waddle at his best (and occasionally worst) in black and white as it was so long ago.

Tags: Chris Waddle, World Cup

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