26 April 2012

England's ten most gifted footballers of the last 50 years: Number 7, Chris Waddle

A player as brilliant as Chris Waddle should never have been allowed to escape football's apprenticeship system, but that's exactly what happened. He was a non-league player with Tow Law Town and infamously working full-time in a sausage factory when Newcastle United finally took a chance - worth £1,000 precisely - on the languid 19 year old. It proved to be terrific business and simultaneously a blight on the scouting system of the north east and wider as Waddle set about becoming one of the most talked-about players in the country over the next decade. Like Beckham, he suffered through being a naturally wide player but, unlike Beckham, he could at least operate on either flank, despite being principally left-footed. His ability to not just beat a defender, but to make that defender look amateurish was enthralling; his capacity to fire immense balls on to chests or deliver killer crosses at full pace on to strikers' heads pretty much unmatchable by anyone else. His footballing brain and wizard left foot were also put to enforced extra use by a lack of sheer pace, unusual for a winger, and that gave him an edge on contemporaries like John Barnes who, when form wasn't at its height, could just beat a player via a sprint. Waddle was sometimes barracked by fans, especially when on England duty, but his confidence and his capacity for the unexpected was never dimmed, and he was a rare (for his time) success on the continent too.

Number 6 tomorrow...

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