Andy Munro compares and contrasts Blues defenders.
When Liam Ridgewell signed from the claret and blue side of town it was not a universally popular decision, not least because he appeared to be the inferior part of an available and youthful duo with Gary Cahill.
Initially, as a centre half, he was prone to the more than occasional Darren Purse moment. This didn’t particularly endear him to fans so the ‘Agent’ tag seemed to be fairly firmly stuck. Then gradually the Blues fans softened (familiarity breeds comfortableness?) and he seemed determined and committed, even culminating in a career threatening injury against Plymouth.
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On his recovery, he found himself in the left back position and seemed to take to it like a duck to water. His heading ability was more than useful to clear dangerous diagonal balls and despite a lack of genuine pace he did well in terms of overlapping. He also had a knack of scoring important goals.
Despite the occasional protestations that he was a better centre back – thankfully generally ignored even by the Ginger One – he seemed to have achieved full fan acceptance. Then the honeymoon period disappeared in a puff of smoke when, with the club in turmoil, he thoughtlessly asked for a move at the eleventh hour. Setting aside the loyalty showed by the club in nursing him through his horrific injury, he had decided he’d rather be a bit part player at the Magpies rather than helping the club, he – along with others- had been responsible for relegating from the promised land that he now belatedly sought.
Now contrast this to the Smurf, who was a modest signing by McLeish and who probably wouldn’t even have been signed if he hadn’t spoke the same language. Powerfully built, if slightly vertically challenged, he was a decent tackler but going forward seemed to favour a long ball punted up the line. The jury was out until a nightmare game against Liverpool when Pennant took him apart, exposing his lack of pace. This seemed to be the end but the Smurf hung in there and, in coming on for cameo performances, scored several vital goals. This season he’s particularly come good in Europa games and the defensive side of his game has improved radically. Likewise he now seems to have more confidence in carrying in the ball offensively.
So they both lack a bit of pace, they both can score vital goals and both are more than decent tacklers unless the opposition wingers get a run at them. Not much to choose between them except Murphy wants to stay at the club so he gets my vote against the inflated ego of his rival. Liam R…Newcastle reserves await you!