Shaggy hair, a beard (of sorts), and the stamina of a particularly lethargic sloth. Chances are if you’ve watched a Celtic game beyond the 80 minute mark you’re well acquainted with everyone’s favourite Northern Irish show pony, Paddy McCourt. His deft touch is complimented by an astute eye for goal and, as evidenced by his portfolio of remarkable individual goals, he can often be the best performer on the field. For about 20 minutes.
Paddy’s predicament is that, for all his talent, he is inhibited thoroughly by an inherent lack of durability. Even when introduced as a substitute he seems exhausted by the journey from the touchline to his habitat on the flank. However, imagine if matches were shortened to accommodate players of the Northern Irishman’s breed. In a world of 20 minute matches the Paddy McCourts would reign supreme.
It’s high time the UK produced a world-beater but why should he conform to the techniques and trajectory of Messi et al. Fitness and resilience may have served them well but who’s to say that McCourt’s ever fragile anatomy shouldn’t be permitted a moment in the sun? (Actually better keep him out the sun, just in case) The requisite adjustment would need to be made to match lengths and tackling would need to be curtailed thoroughly before subjecting McCourt to proceedings but we may yet be treated to a whole new specimen of player, a non-athletic, perpetually dishevelled sporting superstar. A role model to children if there ever were one.
So, let’s chuck out the dietary regimes and fitness programs and embrace 20 packs of Malboro Lights and a trip to the pub (one suspects the transition would be an altogether harmonious one for Derry’s Diego). Haven’t we all grown tired of these supremely fit and trim players invoking a certain self consciousness in each of us? Let’s have some more of the working man’s heroes gracing the green and losing their puff.
Of course there’s also the added bonus of convenience. With 20 minute matches everyone would be afforded the time to follow their favoured club, an allegiance not currently viable to those who can’t spare a couple of hours a week. Let’s face it, the other 70 minutes are principally infested with tedious tactical movements and non-step-overy passages of play anyway which is all surely expendable.
Yes, the change is drastic and yes, there are some logistical issues which may need to be ironed out but how can we allow a stellar talent like Paddy to go wanting simply because we are averse to change? If we step up, McCourt may just reach the sublime precipice once occupied by little Lionel. He’d probably still look like a homeless person but we can’t work miracles.