Hello and welcome to the 184th edition of The Saint; the first of this academic year and the first in my tenure as editor of this section. Before starting, I’d like to put on the record my excitement for the job and the hope that I can continue, and even improve upon, the good work of my predecessor and namesake.
Without wanting to sound ungrateful, formulating this column hasn’t been easy. Despite being told that there are no restrictions on what I can write, my lack of imagination meant that there seemed absolutely nothing to write about. We humans hate choice, so having infinite choice is a right headache. What do I do with this column?
Do I treat this as another spot for some news? Well there’s no originality in that. Use it as a personal diary that I can use to air some opinions? That assumes people are interested in what I think and frankly, I’d hate to be thought of as self-indulgent. Others have nudged me in the direction of humour. Granted a good idea, if only funny and witty were words frequently used to describe me. So what is there?
In the end I settled for something more abstract; in other words, something of nothing.
By matter of fact this summer’s World Cup was utterly scintillating. Goals, goals and more goals help. 171 goals help even more. Throw into the mix the sublime volleys of James (NB: pronounced Ha-mez) Rodriguez and Tim Cahill, add to them a dash of artistry that Van Persie’s head provides, and it is clear why we all fell in love with football.
Even those among you who initially resisted eventually saw the light. I could name and shame but where would be the class in that?
We digress; back to the point. The point is not at the top end of the pitch where goals are scored but actually at the other where they are conceded.
Goalkeepers complain about their lack of publicity; here such claims are not substantiated.
Manuel Neuer is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He may be the best but that is up for debate. Saying he is one of the best is far easier for the sake of diplomacy.
If not the next Henry Winter, the next Tony Blair I could be.
His shot-stopping is second to none and he commands his area stupendously. A kind of modern day, non-violent Omar Bradley, even if his presence does scare the best of men. Asamoah Gyan, for one, will testify.
That said it is not the normal and accepted arts of goalkeeping that got Neuer the privilege of being the subject of this first column. In a football team, or any sports team for that matter, each player is given a role that he is expected to fulfil. The majority of the time your position dictates your role.
Yet what is the role of a goalkeeper? He can shot-stop but that is a defensive mentality; surely he has a role in an offensive way as well? Or at least a role that helps his team retain the ball rather than just prevent it entering his net?
In Germany’s round-of-16 tie against Algeria something happened that was far more important than any subsequent result. Manuel Neuer proceeded to re-invent the art of goalkeeping.
The sight of him dashing ten yards out of his penalty area to suffocate Algerian attacks was as fascinating as it was exciting. He even managed to present himself as a better full-back than Glen Johnson after sliding to block a goal-bound shot that was heading towards his empty net early in the game. At first his actions were described as suicidal, though the implosion never came about as Germany’s sweeper-keeper managed to keep a 119-minute clean-sheet before a last minute consolation volley from the North African side.
In the future people will look back and speak of Neuer in the same breath as Joahn Cruyff. He will be classed as a footballing genius who completely changed our perception of what is possible and what is necessary on a football pitch. Neuer will be classed as fundamental to the evolution of football.
Evolution not revolution. Although a cliché, and I promise to limit the use of clichés in this section henceforth, it is a sentiment I will try to work by.
Mr McQuillan, my predecessor, started the process of following University sport diligently and over the coming year I hope to build upon his good work and be able to report on our sports teams in great detail. Each edition will include an interview with one of our sports teams, and in this edition we are treated to an insight into the Men’s Hockey Club. Last year’s Club of the Year are hoping to better previous successes and I hope you appreciate them taking the time to talk to us.
Andy Murray’s travails this season are examined and the question about whether the end is nigh for the golden-age of tennis is asked.
There is also a chat with the new AU president, Sarah Thompson, a look at women’s rugby, and comment on one of the big money moves that have defined Manchester United’s summer transfer policy.
Enjoy the section.