It’s no surprise that players that play there entire career for the same team are often called one club “wonders”. There is something wonderful about a player sticking with the same team year after year and the club continuing to employ him until he hangs up his boots. In the world of modern day football you’d expect this to be rare, but the more I think about it, the more players I can think of that fit this very specific mould.
Norwich today completed the signing of Jonny Howson. He revealed that it was the lure of premier league football which convinced him to leave Leeds, the club that he has been with his entire career and grew up supporting. He felt he had to leave in order to reach the next level of football, which is a rather damning indictment of Leeds prospects. Leeds haven’t really built on the squad that finished runners up to the Canaries in League One, with key players departing, the likes of Jermaine Beckford joining premier league Everton before Bradley Johnson preceded Howson by signing for Norwich. Beckford’s time in the premier league was disappointing and he now finds himself back in the championship with Leicester City with another former Leeds star Kasper Schmeichel. Will Howson go the way of Beckford or will he settle into his new side in similar style to Johnson? Time will tell, but his injury shouldn’t be a problem. Anthony Pilkington joined with a far more serious injury to overcome and has been a revelation for Norwich this season. Howson represents an excellent example of how difficult it can be for a club to keep a player for their entire career. The club must match the ambitions of the player, but the player must still be able to do a job for the team.
English football has a long history of one club men, some of whom still grace the premier league today. Ryan Giggs and the recently returned Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, John Terry and Ledley King all ply their trade for clubs in the top division and have done so their entire careers. Obviously showing this commitment to a club gives you great credibility with the fans. The players listed above are all worshipped by their respective club’s supporters as heroes. It can be a bitter blow when one of these players decides to move on, as Leeds are discovering with Howson. It can also be hard for a club to call time on a player who simply can’t cut it any more and needs to be replaced for the good of the team.
When looking for the epitome of a one club man in English football, you might suggest a name like Tony Adams, but in terms of appearances he’s a few hundred behind the champion when it comes to being king of the one club men. That honour goes to John Trollope who made a truly staggering 770 league appearances for Swindon Town spanning 20 years at the club. For showing such loyalty to his beloved Swindon and for his incredible career he was rewarded with an MBE.
In terms of trophy success it’s hard to rival Ryan Giggs who has so far won the Premier League title 12 times with Manchester United and has a chance of making it 13 this season. If you were looking for someone to rival Giggs however, then you have to look outside of England. Paolo Maldini can match Giggs for appearances, but lags behind somewhat in league winner’s medals with a pitiful 7. The tables are turned when you compare things on the European stage, Maldini has an astonishing 5 European Cup winners medals compared with Giggs measly 2. If you were to ask Maldini about his achievements he would probably point to Franco Baresi as someone who deserved a lot of credit as an inspiration to him. Baresi made over 700 appearances for Milan and enjoys legendary status with Milan’s supporters, both he and Maldini have had their shirt numbers 6 and 3 retired by the club as a mark of respect to their service.
It’s hard to spot the next one club wonder, I look at Jack Wilshere at Arsenal (not counting his loan spell with Bolton) but with the gunners seemingly struggling to secure a champions league berth for next season and their continued lack of silverware there is no guarantee of being able to hold on to such a talented player. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the character of a player, at one stage it would have been ludicrous to suggest David Beckham would ever leave Manchester United or Michael Owen would not be banging in goals for Liverpool, but playing careers aren’t usually straight forward and with the ever increasing lure of money it’s easy to understand how some players heads can be turned, especially if they fall foul of their beloved team’s manager.
A one club wonder is something every team wants. It gives a sense of pride to a club’s supporters when they can watch as their club bring through one of their own, applaud as he establishes himself in the first team and celebrate his career if he shows the quality and resolve required to remain at the club throughout his playing days. In the case of Howson, Leeds simply couldn’t match his ambitions. It could be a challenge for him, moving away from Leeds and his family, but hopefully he’ll settle into life in the east of England without too much difficulty. I think he’s just the kind of player Norwich needed to bring in. He offers something slightly different to our current midfielders and has shown at Leeds that he can contribute with crucial goals. As far as one club men go, Norwich might not be his one and only, but hopefully he’ll prove be to a wonderful signing.