Thursday, 26 July 2012

Wanted: A new favourite player - even at my age

Sports fans my age should not have favourite players.

They are the mental equivalent of wearing a replica football shirt or waving a giant foam hand at a hockey game. Something for people under 16 or over 60 to do.

But, if you watch a team regularly you can’t help yourself. There will always be one player who you look forward to seeing the most.

For me, I have one for each sport I love. Or rather, I did have.

The summer of 2012 was about two contract wranglings at my favourite sports club. One ended with a player leaving, one with a player staying - leaving me with a 50 per cent approval rating of the close season comings and goings.

First to Brighton & Hove Albion. The Seagulls Spanish star Vicente looked like he was going. Back off to Spain with a Toblerone tucked under his arm from airport duty free and 18 matches worth of memories.

He started the summer in Spain, with his wife giving birth to their second son. Then his friend got a job as manager of a Spanish second flight outfit. Things looked bleak.

Brighton went back on an earlier promise not to activate a one year extension on his existing deal and Vicente’s agent said his client was, well, a little miffed.

Most Albion fans thought they had seen the last of the Spaniard in the stripes.

Then, as if by magic, he was back in pre season training, back in Gus Poyet’s plans and back in his rightful spot as my favourite EVER Brighton player.

So far so good.

But, while Vicente decided not to turn his back on Brighton, across The Pond in New York, my other favourite player was leaving for pastures new.

Brandon Prust. New York Rangers hardman. Hero of the fans. Generally top bloke. And soon to be appearing in a Montreal jersey near you.

At my first Rangers game I was won over by Prust’s fast-skating, hard-hitting style. I picked up a jersey with his name on the back. I ruddy loved it.

Then, on a trip to Montreal - of all places - I ran into him in the hotel it turned out we were both staying in, him with the team, me with my wife.

He signed my top and I promised to never wear it again. Well, not until I got it framed. With the Rangers obviously about to win the Stanley Cup it would be a treasured piece of memorabilia.

Well, we all know how that turned out. Still, there was always next year.

Only, for Prust, there wasn’t going to be.

With his contract up and the club’s general manager unwilling to meet his new agent’s valuation, the unthinkable happened. Prust and New York Rangers went their separate ways.

That means I need a new favourite. Ryan McDonagh has emerged as an early frontrunner and no doubt new signing Rick Nash will be in the running. Brad Richards also came across as possibly the nicest sporting star I had ever met during the two minutes I spoke to him in Montreal.

My next trip is pencilled in for December, so I have a while to decide.

Whoever gets the nod though will have to go some way to topping Prusty. Like your first love, you never forget your first favourite.

No comments:

Post a Comment