Magic McCourt A Rare Breed
by, 11/08/2011 at 3:25 PM (1518 Views)
In comic book parlance, managers are sheep-skin wearing, centre-halfs beefy, and wingers tricky customers who go on mazy runs. In modern professional football it can seem that garish, quaint cartoon stereotypes have little place; modern wingers are expected to defend as much as they attack and to play it safe rather than rampaging wildly down the flanks. Football is a much more considered, a much more serious, and a much more controlled environment that it’s brightly coloured stuff-of-myth counterpart.
Which is why it’s such a thrill to see a player who can cope with those demands while also exhalting in the sheer thrill of maurauding up and down (well, mainly just up) a touchline, making for terrified full-backs like a runaway train manned by a frighteningly serene driver, the ball all the while magnetically attached to his feet.
Paddy McCourt’s two goals for Northern Ireland last night were the stuff of footballing dreams. The first, itself a quality finish from a tight angle after some great running into a dangerous area, was overshadowed by the second, a master-class in intricate, close control, in balance, skill and perfect technique.
The Derry man has his flaws, of that there’s little doubt; from the tendency to drift in and out of games to his well-documented fitness troubles and his failure to (so far) nail down a starting place in the Celtic first team. His man-of-the-match display last night was against a team ranked 112th in the world. He has never seen a razor in his life.
For all that, he’s also an immensely forgiveable player. To witness such a tall, shy, unkempt player discover such poise, elegance and control with a football and create the kind of magic often sorely lacking in modern football is sheer joy. You get the feeling he’d be happy if he could spend all day simply getting the ball and running; that turning back is not an option; that those boots are tuned to some special frequency forcing him only to follow a kind of meandering but unstoppable route towards the opposition goal.
People talk about edge-of-the-seat moments but McCourt is one of the few players I’ve seen who manages that effect every time the ball glides towards his pacy feet. To hear the crowd stop chanting, fans craning their necks forward to see his next move, to feel the belief that the normal rules don’t apply, that anything can happen now, is to experience the raw, intoxicating excitement that makes people fall in love with football in the first place.
Sure, sometimes you would get frustrated when he lost the ball but as time went on you grew to recognise this as simply the occasional occupational hazard of a footballing wizard.
Of course, it’s important he builds on this performance, taking it into the Celtic squad. Despite all his talent and his ability, McCourt strikes one as a curiously doubtful player, almost slightly guilty or apologetic for the success he’s made of his career. You sense he first needs to acquire that cast-iron belief in himself in order to then convince others. He certainly deserves a proper chance at Celtic but does he have the ability to convince his manager of that?
It’s a question that will doubtlessly by answered over the next nine months, but for now, let’s ignore those restrictive, tiresome phrases: ‘form,’ ‘substitute appearances,’ ‘loan move,’ ‘fitness doubts,’ and just enjoy the spectacle of the man who has walked out of a Roy of the Rovers cartoon to pirouette through the middle of a muddy pitch, shirt untucked, socks rolled down, hair askew and, like him, enjoy the unadulterated bliss of controlling a piece of leather, rounding an opponent and kicking it into a net.
Taken from We Play On Fridays- the only online LOI fanzine
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