With the imminent move of Chelsea captain John Terry at the end of the season, the Premier League is characterised by a lack of stand out captains.
Captains in the military sense that would lead their charges into battle or that would grab points from the jaws of defeat. Bryan Robson, Colin Hendry, Paul Ince, Roy Keane, Graeme Souness, Steven Gerrard, Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira types are few and far between.
At the top eight clubs we have Wes Morgan, Hugo Lloris, Per Mertesacker, Vincent Kompany, Wayne Rooney, Mark Noble, Jose Fonte and Jordan Henderson. None of the aforementioned captains stand out for their leadership or their ability to cajole a performance on a bad day. Roy Keane comes to mind pushing his United team in that 99 Champions League semi final versus Juventus, or Steven Gerrard in the 2006 FA Cup final or the Champions League final of 2005 coming from 3-0 down.
The only captain in the Premier League who is a throwback to captains of the past is Troy Deeney at Watford. Troy cajoles his players, he berates them when performances are dipping and is actively and vocally the leader on the pitch driving his team on.
The Premier League has been sanitised and these characters are no longer actively encouraged, we are in the age of the nondescript captain where most of the time you can’t hazard a guess of who the captain of a particular team is. The Keane/Vieira personal duels of the past as opposing captains are very rare and few and far between.
A captain that galvanises the spine of his team is a very rare sight these days.
There is a distinct dearth of captain material players, and many will argue that football has moved on and evolved. It’s difficult not to conclude that a captain in the old mould would make one of Leicester, Spurs, Arsenal or City favourites for the premier league? Kompany has in past seasons driven City on and may well injury-allowing manage it this year, but all the other 3 teams clearly lack a clear well defined on-field leader.
The changing nature of football now means the old pro’s don’t get the same respect of the past, the gravity or aura of a captain has been diminished. Brendan Rodgers and or FSG made a policy of getting rid of captain like players in Agger, Reina and Gerrard. Some managers feel they wield too much power or influence in the dressing room.
The succession of managers exiting Stamford Bridge is often cited or blamed on “player power.” Some rumours emanating from Stamford Bridge suggest Abramovich is moving Terry on to get rid of the player power clique. The dynamics of a changing room are pivotal and it seems latter day managers prefer less strident forceful captains who are more diplomatic or perhaps it is driven by the increasing image conscious owners? Roy Keane’s infamous “Prawn Sandwich brigade” comments are a classic example of why owners/managers prefer less combustible, characterful types as captains.
The game however has suffered from the almost sweepingly political correctness of football. The characters are no longer there, if the characters are there, they are not harnessed as in the past or encouraged in the same way. Fans identify with, people like Terry, Gerrard, Totti, Maldini, Keane, Vieira they were synonymous with their clubs and their clubs identity. On the pitch too, teams are less and less able to sway matches when the tide is flowing against them, very few players are able to grab a match or a team by the scruff of the neck and cajole a performance out of them.
With the title finely poised, a captain in the Bryan Robson, Paul Ince, Roy Keane, Graeme Souness, Steven Gerrard, Tony Adams, Patrick Viera or John Terry mould would have swung the pendulum in that teams favour but those captains are a dying breed, and John Terry marks the end of an era in the Premier League.