In the 90’s and 00’s, the majority of people can remember how vital and symbolic it was to be the captain of your club or even the captain of your country. It took on a whole new level of responsibility. The captain was the pivotal cog in the team that would lead them out onto the pitch, be the level headed man at times when its most needed, motivate and encourage the players, be the man to liaise with the manager but most importantly, be a leader. In the modern era of football, the sanctity of being captain has very much been diminished nowadays. It doesn’t really concern people that much to know who is the captain of the team and this may be purely down to the fact that the captain of a team is no longer the most important player or the most reliant player. We find that people have more interest in the star players or the ones in the limelight rather than the ones who will seemingly lift the trophy at the end of the season.
There is a lot of examples to go with this. In Tottenham’s side this season, the most pivotal and important player this season has without a doubt been Welsh Wonder, Gareth Bale who has put on some extraordinary performances. However, there is not many people who would be able to tell who the club captain is. It is actually Michael Dawson who was installed as captain this season after the early retirement of Ledley King. Dawson is also one of Spurs longest serving players at the club and has played for 8 years alongside Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Tom Huddlestone which is always a factor when deciding who will take over the captaincy. Dawson is an important figure in the side but players such as Gareth Bale play a much more important role in the side.
The same principle applies with Liverpool where Steven Gerrard has been captain for almost a decade now. No one can dispute that Gerrard is one of the biggest players in the team and he will go down as a club legend. But his role as captain is becoming less important due to other players being just as vital to the side. Especially Luis Suarez who has performed brilliantly throughout the season and being the figurehead of the attack, also Daniel Sturridge has come into the side and performed admirably. The limelight will fall down to these kind of players and the media will circle and analyse there performances the most. Gerrard was Liverpool’s most important player a few years ago but it seems the responsibility is falling to other players in the side. Last season saw Gerrard blighted by injury and the role would fall down to Jamie Carragher which leads onto the next point.
Over recent years, the captaincy in some teams chops and changes almost on a weekly basis. Take Manchester United for example. The club captain is Nemanja Vidic and the vice captain is Patrice Evra but due to Vidic’s long term injuries, Evra has been mainstay captain for the majority of the season. When it came to the end of the season at their last home match against Swansea, both players went to lift the trophy but as a special tribute to their ongoing manager, they handed the title to Sir Alex Ferguson to loft in front of the Old Trafford faithful. The role of captaincy is be the player in the side that will keep the head of young players and lift the team so it must be frustrating to have a different player in that role almost on a weekly basis. United always had captains such as Roy Keane and Steve Bruce to act as role models to the rest of the squad and be the player who was able to lift the rest of his team mates. In the modern era, the players will look towards the likes of Robin van Persie to produce.
It definitely seems the role of captaincy is becoming less important in teams, but does it necessarily mean its a downside for teams? Manchester United had arguably one of there best seasons in the Premier League and their captain was missing for the majority of the season. They certainly had worthy replacements as captain in Patrice Evra and to capable defenders to fill in at centre back. Van Persie was certainly the star player in the United side and other players in the side have been some of the best players in the Premier League such as Rio Ferdinand and David de Gea. The role of captain didn’t really have much of an impact on these players and it could be that it is a good thing for them. United were a strong side that gelled well when playing with one another. But there are cases to say that captains are still important in the team.
Take Manchester City for example. For a portion of the season, Vincent Kompany sustained a knee injury that kept him on the sidelines for a period of time. The absence of City’s captain and leader left a big hole in the defence and they looked lost and very shaky. They conceded very easy and sloppy goals against teams they would of easily brushed aside in their title-winning season. Especially in an away match at Southampton where it was arguably City’s worst performance of the season, a 3-1 defeat at St Mary’s where it seemingly ebbed away City’s chances of retaining the title. Kompany was well missed that day, it showed how important the captain was. There main man’s absence was key to their downfall this season in the Premier League and City just did not look the same without him.
It is very surprising to see the downfall of captain in only a matter of years. Perhaps it has become only apparent in the English game. The national team have toyed with captaincy’s over the years and some have led to disputes. John Terry has lost the captaincy twice for off field incidents and Rio Ferdinand lost it at Terry’s expense when he regained it forcing him to criticise the present manager at the time, Fabio Capello. Even through Gerrard’s injuries, he has handed down the captaincy to Lampard in his absence. Its an example of how the importance of captain is becoming less and less for teams and it could reach the stage when the captaincy will be handed down to the longest serving player of the team. But it is a shame to have seen this happen and it is just part and parcel of an ever changing game.