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How and when does a legend become a legend?

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Jack Ross | 16:42 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

Every round of fixtures and each individual game will always provide us with heroes and villains - and such is the fickle nature of the game that a player can go very quickly from one to another.

Therefore, most players at some stage in their career will have experienced the adulation and criticism that comes from being the saviour or the fall guy.

Few players, however, make the transition from hero to legend and consequently have stories of their performances and achievements regaled by fans of the team with whom they earned such a status.

How then do players become legends in the eyes of supporters? Is it for long service to their side, for inspiring their club to titles and cups, or for one goal of huge significance?

The Bosman Ruling has resulted in players moving clubs far more regularly and easily. So, in the modern game, it may become more unusual for players to achieve the title of club legend based on them spending their whole career at the same club.

In making this point, however, I need only to look back at my previous club, St Mirren, for a player who has spent his whole career with the Paisley outfit and consequently secured his place as one of their legends.

The player in question is Hugh Murray, but it should be noted that he has achieved tremendous success in terms of winning silverware, thus meeting even more of the criteria required to be regarded as a legend.

gilzean595.jpg

The passing of time can also either dilute or enhance the reputation of those players deemed to have played significant roles in a club's history. In some cases, the retelling of a story of a legend will be prone to exaggeration and yet, in others, the diminishing number of fans who can recall a certain player wearing their team's colours will perhaps see a club legend's achievements being recognised less and less.

I am aware that there is a book soon to be released recounting the life and achievements of a legendary player at my first professional club, Dundee. Alan Gilzean (pictured above) could probably lay claim to being worthy of such lofty status at Spurs as well and yet, having played in the 1960s and 1970s, are we guilty of forgetting such legends all too easily?

I would guess that many fans of Dundee and Tottenham Hotspur would rebuke this and say they still fondly remember his playing achievements. Strangely enough, I watched Dundee for several seasons when I was younger and remember a fanzine by the name of "Eh Mind of Gilly"- a certain sign of how fans viewed his time at the club.

This last point probably suggests that every set of supporters will list several players who they regard as club legends but who in many cases will only enjoy such status from within that club. Therefore, if going from hero to legend is a giant step, how then do players then become legends of the game rather than just of a club?

Undoubtedly, success on the world stage is a significant step towards such a title. The 2010 World Cup was riddled with players who could be viewed as club legends but who fell short on the biggest stage of all.

My own favourite player as I grew up was Diego Maradona - did I see him as a legend of the game? Of course I did as I watched him inspire and mesmerise in the 1986 World Cup and, in my opinion, set a standard upon which players must be judged if they want to be remembered as world football legends.

The harsh reality for most players is that legendary status will elude them. However, most would be happy just to be a hero now and again!

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Alan Gilzean was a true legend at Spurs.

    He formed a lethal partnership as half of the "G-Men" with Jimmy Greaves in the 1960s and yet another successful pairing with Martin Chivers in the early 1970s.

    Gilzean's languid style of play disguised a player with immense skill and Spurs fans with long memories will remember with fondness his uncanny knack of flicking the ball on from a Chivers long throw with his stangely pyramid-shaped head for Martin Peters to ghost in at the far post.

    Gilzean's 13 goals in European Competitions helped Spurs to victory in the UEFA Cup in 1972.

    http://www.myfootballfacts.com/TottenhamHotspurinEurope1961-62to2008-09.html

  • Comment number 3.

    Think not losing 4-0 every week usually helps!

  • Comment number 4.

    I couldn't agree with you more, Jack. I write a newsletter in conjuction with a footie fantasy league and I have introduced a Legends page just to educate a few young 'uns and Americans who the great players were.
    Of course, medal winners such as Law, Shearer, Dalglish, Rush et al are there, but I have added club legends. Club legends such as Derek Fazackerly of Blackburn, Liam Brady of Arsenal, Jeff Astle, WBA and Charlie Cooke of Chelsea. The lsit is arbritary of course and so far hasn't caused any controversy, but I am sure it will!

  • Comment number 5.

    I think in the modern game most players who spend their entire careers at the one club are entitled to legend status, Tony Adams at Arsenal, Ryan Giggs at Man Utd, Paolo Maldini at Milan, although it also helps that they've won a truckload of medals between them

  • Comment number 6.

    First off good blog, as a Liverpool fan you can understand my bias here but you say that to be a legend on the world stage players have to shine, then how do the likes of Ian Rush (wales) Kenny Dalglish (Scotland) become world legends without actually shining at world cups?

  • Comment number 7.

    The definition of a legend is 'a source of exaggerated or romanticized tales or exploits' in other words a slightly rose-tinted perception of past history where deeds are often magnified or inflated to seem more exceptional than they actually were. Thus to become a footballing legend at a club you have to have done something quite out of the ordinary - so meaningful to those fans watching that it becomes a touch-stone moment that can be used as a reference point for ever more. The greater the significance of the event the bigger the story eg. Think Maradona, think 'Hand of God' and 'Wonder Goal'.

    You can ofcourse become a local legend by being a one club man as that is so unusual in itself especially in the modern game and definately secures a loyal 'local fan base' if nothing else; but the scale of your prestige is governed much more by propensity of incredible stand-out moments you create than simply being 'rated' for ability.

  • Comment number 8.

    First of all, name says it all. Billy Mehmet is a legend.

    Second, did my name give you the idea for this blog, Jack? If so, I'd like to take full credit.

    Third, why was there no response to any comments on your previous blog. You seem to have hidden away from comments from regular readers of your blog because not all were nicey nicey.

  • Comment number 9.

    Great blog Jack. As a Southampton fan, it's not clear who our biggest 'legend' is. Mick Channon is of course the clubs all time leading goal-scorer. Then there's Matt le Tissier, who would be most Saints fans' automatic choice as no.1 club legend. What he did on the ball could not be matched by any other player in Prem history, with the possible exception of Ronaldo. Not the fat one, obviously.

    For me, Le Tissier is my Southampton legend, as he was in the team when I was growing up. I never saw Channon play so apart from video footage and the words of older fans, I can't judge on how good he was for our club.

  • Comment number 10.

    I thought you were going to use this blog to give us an 'insight into the life and mind of an SPL player'? Why don't you tell us what it's like to get hooked at half-time as your team get hammered for the second game in a row? Not that I wish to gloat over your misfortune but isn't that why you got the gig on the website - to let us know what footy life's like at the lower level?

  • Comment number 11.

    The most interesting point for me, is what the passing of time means to players/managers and their 'legend' status. As a Rangers fan, there are certainly many who can lay claim to being club legends, but those from the past are often forgotten or remembered only in books. Each generation has it's own legends, mine would be Ally McCoist, Richard Gough, Walter Smith, Andy Goram amongst others, but only the truely great continue down each generation. There are players who I may consider club legends, but in 20/30 years time, will not be remembered so.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    The most interesting point for me, is what the passing of time means to players/managers and their 'legend' status. As a Rangers fan, there are certainly many who can lay claim to being club legends, but those from the past are often forgotten or remembered only in books. Each generation has it's own legends, mine would be Ally McCoist, Richard Gough, Walter Smith, Andy Goram amongst others, but only the truely great continue down each generation. There are players who I may consider club legends, but in 20/30 years time, will not be remembered so, as a new breed takes presidence in peoples minds.

  • Comment number 14.

    #9

    A club can have more than one legend!

    MLT was a very classy, skillful player and shame he never got greater recognition for it at international level.

  • Comment number 15.

    Look listen please someone in the SFA try out these 2 simple basic ideas, please someone respond to my idea.
    Put SPL reserve teams in the lower leagues or to play against third division sides in a new cup competition so our young players are guaranteed experience against real teams.
    Games such as Queens Park V Celtic reserves, Aberdeen Reserves V Elgin City would be perfect preperation for young players who fail to get in the first team. With decent crowds against real teams. IT IS WHAT THEY DO IN SPAIN AND GERMANY. Where every Spanish side has a reserve side playing real proper teams ion the Spanish pyramid system. Bareclona B even play in the second division. All I suggest is a cup trophy. SO it ensures players get real experience.

    Then the second idea start a trophy with another country such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, anywhere where all our top teams can play a group stage tournament against teams from their country so they get more regular experience against good teams from another country.
    We used to have the anglo Scottish cup Lets have a danish scottish cup or a dutch scottish cup. Anything to ensure we can get match practice against foreign teams. See all yearif our team are any good.
    Make the league 16 teams, 30 games a season ( as it was until the late 50s) have the top 4 or 6 sides play another country like teams from Denmark, or the Netherlands,) in some group stage tournament to get to play good teams from other countries.
    To make up for the lakc of games in the league for teams not in the multi nation trophy. Have a group stage of the league cup for teams that did not play in this trophy to make up the numbers for their games. Teams that qualified for europe go to the knockout stages of the league cup.


    Please SFA make scotland innovative and creative.

    I bet all that will happen is some awful 2 year report which ends up with the pointless request foirm the scottish government for millions of pounds to fund training facilities..

    If the scottish football do not do my ideas then I will no longer support scottish football I do not relate to a country where half the people support other countries (Ireland or England) and care more about hating both or one half of the old firm than doing well. I give in.
    I have given so much of my heart and faith to scottish football and all it gives me on national level is heart ache. I want to have a long life. .

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm gutted for you with what's happened at Hamilton. You were brilliant at St Mirren and I know you were definately a fans favourite! I had your name on the back of my shirt last season! :D Good luck in the future!

  • Comment number 17.

    Well said Jo! You were superb in your debut season, probably our best player. It's a shame things didn't work out for you at Hamilton - all the best with your future, whatever it may hold!

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    The critical minds of supporters means that it is difficult to gain the status of a legend. I think that a key part of gaining this title is when the player shows the same kind of drive and devotion that most supporters have for the club, and the "never say die" attitude in games where you feel that they always give 100%.

    I have to say Jack that I'm sorry to hear you've departed from the Accies already. As an Accies supporter I just wanted to wish you well for the future - whatever that may bring. I guess sometimes things just don't work out the way you think they will.

  • Comment number 20.

    #6, bigredfan100:
    I guess I'm too late to the party, but you need to get out more - out of the country, that is - if you think Rush and Dalgish are worldwide icons.

 

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