No matter how much football claims it has progressed with science, spreadsheets and ‘moneyball’ (whatever the hell that is), there is one thing that should never be eradicated from the game – the fat player.
We all love a fat player, and as I myself am no stranger to the lure of the baked goods. I can personally vouch for the fact that we can all root that bit harder for a footballer who is carrying some bonus timber.
But can today’s roly-poly players cut the mustard (and then scoop it out of the jar and eat it) with the greats of yesteryear? I’ve matched them up – but only on a five-a-side pitch because we don’t want any coronaries…
The current Premier League fat boy five-a side
The Southampton keeper is what’s commonly known as ‘a bit old unit’, but don’t tell me that he maintains his imposing stature by drinking protein shakes and eating smushed avocado on dry toast. Hard not to imagine Forster munching on an entire turkey leg like Henry VIII, roaring with laughter and washing it down with a flagon of hot custard.
There’s finely-hewn muscle and then there’s a juddering mass of wobbling flesh. I’m not saying that the Leicester defender falls into the latter category, but if you close your eyes tight and picture him drooling as he forces half a dozen steak bakes into an industrial-sized blender, it doesn’t seem like an impossible dream.
Now something of a Manchester City veteran, but while local rivals United always have a homegrown player in the side, City can boast a long line of lardarses, from Francis Lee, to Jamie Pollock, Nicky Weaver and now Touré. Tradition is important.
The Stoke sometimes-maestro has been the subject of some criticism owing to the snugness of his kit, but perhaps it just makes him more aerodynamic and quicker across the ground? Maybe in the future, all players will look like Shaqiri. Maybe he’s a pioneer. Mmmm… pie-oneer…
The Everton forward and England legend has just become a father for the fourth time and as all dad’s know, one of the joys of parenthood is minesweeping your kids’ leftovers once they’ve got bored with eating and gone back to their Minecraft empires. So, if Wayne occasionally oozes chicken dipper batter while he’s exerting himself on the pitch, who can blame him?
The old-school gorging greats
These days, Big Nev is mainly on Twitter dispensing politically great wisdom and trying to bring down the government single-handedly. But back in his pomp, the Everton legend was still able to propel himself across his goalmouth in spite of looking like he’d just won a burger eating contest.
It is said that Razor Ruddock gained his nickname thanks to his penchant for thinly cutting a slice off the end of a large piece of salami with a razor blade. He would then toss the thin slice over his shoulder for luck and scoff the rest of the sausage whole in under three seconds. In fact, it was me who said it. Just then.
Notorious for his iffy ‘refuelling habits’, Gazza was still head and shoulders above 99% of any player anywhere in the world today. Your correspondent once spied him on a night out in Sunderland during his fairly chunky Middlesbrough period, and can report that close up around normal civilians, he was one of the buffest looking blokes I’ve ever seen in my life. Genius, and possibly a shape-shifter.
Brolin? Broiled? Broiled chicken? Kentucky Fried Chicken? God, yes.
Arguably the greatest player of all-time, felled in his prime by his use of a five-drug cocktail at the 1994 World Cup. But what if it was a cocktail of slimming pills? Give the lad a break – maybe he was just trying to fit in with lesser, skinnier players.
Conclusion: The burly veterans would easily outplay today’s half-arsed equivalents. Perhaps coaches will read this and banish so-called dieticians and nutritionists from the payroll and bring back the fat footballing heroes that we all crave like we crave sausage rolls at 10.30am each day. It’s not just me, right?