If you’ve had your eyes on the Latics Wide Web since the last issue of the mag then you might have spotted a bit of a kerfuffle over our current manager. I didn’t help, publishing an article that got lumped in with all the noblot bashing that’s been rumbling on since the Latics job went to the reigning Bolton and District ping pong champion this summer.
There’s nowt wrong with having a go at our near neighbours, but I wasn’t guilty this time and had simply put together an honest critique of Coyle’s approach to managing Latics, suggesting that he had us playing shit football, not so much that that we were playing badly, just that the style of play and tactics he was impressing on the team were horribly dull, limited and… well… shit was the right word all along.
Getting dragged into it meant I enjoyed plenty of knobheadery from both sides of the debate, but I tuned out when someone pulled “I don’t remember anyone having any problems when we signed David Lee and Scott Green” out of the bag. This proper got my back up because, not only do I remember a fair bit of cynicism from my corner of the Pop Side when they turned up, I bloody well hated the pair of them.
And it’s not only them either, I don’t describe to the theory that you have to like a man because he runs about in a blue and white shirt and there’ve been a few Laticsmen I’ve taken a real dislike to over the years. Anyway, here’s the top six of them, and why you should have hated them too.
6) Andy Saville.
Saville is categorically the worse centre forward that I’ve ever seen in a Latics shirt and that’s saying a lot for someone who came of age watching the likes of Pat Gavin and Gary Powell “leading” the line. But a player has to be more than rubbish to be hated and the real crux of the matter wasn’t that Saville was shit for us, it was that he’d been absolutely brilliant for Nob End the season before grabbing 29 goals on the way to their winning the Third Division, an unstoppable goal machine one season and all leaden boots and ten bob heads the next.
It was almost as if it was planned. Well sod you and Agent Saville, we did the job despite your best efforts
5) Neil Redfern
I remember being fairly happy about signing a player with Redfern’s experience and being happy to put his Bolton connections behind him as he got off to a good start. But it all went wrong at some point and I was cockahoop to see the back of him come the end of that season.
The reason all stems down to one moment, I forget the game but it must have been before Bruce took over for the first time. The perennially ‘recovering from injury’ Kevin Nichols was warming up on the touchline in front of us and… Sorry, he wasn’t warming up, he should have been, but he was actually dicking about, obviously showing off to someone who was sat behind us. That someone turned out to be Neil Redfern.
The next season, Nichols was one of the first out of the door as Jewell cut out the deadwood from the squad he’d inherited. Yes his knees played a part in that decision, but Neil Redfern had played his part too as the senior pro doing anything other than keeping the talented but impressionable young lad on the straight and narrow during their time in the treatment room.
When I think back to the disease that spread through the Latics squad between us leaving Springfield Park and Whelan’s changing room bollocking of the squad, it’s Redfern that springs to mind rather than the more usual suspects like Jeff Peron and Alan McLaughlin.
4) Andy Pilling
These days, you can probably find out which primary school team your youth team goalkeeper played for just by playing Championship Manager, but back in the late eighties you either knew stuff like that, because you’d devoured the Rothman’s yearbook, knew some who had, found it by accident or never knew it at all. The point being that I’d already taken a strong dislike to Pilling before I found out that he’d come through the youth ranks at Nob End.
In those pre-Premier League, pre-adult cynicism days, I was naïve enough to believe that footballers, particularly those at your club, were just ordinary people. Pilling, despite his limited ability didn’t appear to agree. He wondered around the pitch like he thought he was better than us, a distinct air of undeserved arrogance more memorable than any aspect of his play.
That’s not enough to deserve entry on this list though and my memories of Pilling the player are affected by my (admittedly drunken) memories of Pilling the person. He, and a few of our team at that time, were only a couple of years older than me and my mates and not having apartments in the Northern Quarter or mansions in Cheshire to retreat to, we often found ourselves in the same place of a Saturday or Sunday evening.
Whereas other players would quite happily join in conversations about Latics, football or the sort of nonsense that twenty-year olds spout off about, Pilling kept himself out of it. Always to one side. I particularly remember regular chats with Darren Patterson (who seemed to be a pal of his) whilst Andy stood scowling as if talking to plebs in bars was so below him. In contrast Patterson would come and say hello, even if you hadn’t spotted him, his mate would be in tow, but wouldn’t even acknowledge you.
The upshot is that my experiences of him went some way to breaking my teenage naivety about who, and what, footballers were and I suppose that’s really what I hate as opposed to really hating Andy Pilling. In retrospect, it’s a big thing to shoulder and I hope he didn’t behave like that just because he was shy.
3) David Lee
Lee signed on in 1997, the summer after Latics had won the Third Division championship and basically gazzumped Isidro Diaz for his place in the starting line-up. After the little Spaniard had ripped up the bottom division, I wasn’t alone in looking forward to seeing how he’d take to the step up. After his illustrious history on the other side of the A6 the fact we never did was a second black mark in the little winger’s book.
The thing that pushed this from being a little irritation was that he seemed to carry this disregard for our romance with the three amigos on to the pitch.
Like one of those fans who’d only ever give the most reluctant of praise to Bobby when he was in the manager’s chair, Latics’ Friar Tuck would only ever pass to what I was adamant was our best and most creative player as a last resort. Square ball or aimless cross? Yep, it’s in the away coach park again. Bobby free in the box? Oops it’s on the Supporters’ Club roof. Of course I’m exaggerating, but I’
m adamant that Lee would do anything rather than pass to Bob.
Whether that was deliberately, or because he just couldn’t get on the same wave-length as Martinez I’ll never know. But it he rankles me, that might have started off as a Bolton thing but anyone who’s paid attention over the last few years won’t be surprised that like all my arguments it ended up as a Roberto thing.
2) Paul ‘f**king’ Scharner
Nope, he’s not in to break the Preston/Bolton stranglehold (oh, how I wish) on this list, from moment he turned up with blue (well I’d say they were Purple – his previous club’s colours) and white bullets shaved into his head onwards, I never ever took to the Austrian. His contrived style, kookiness and publicly out spoken-ness screamed “YOU WILL LOVE ME INGLISH PEASANTS” and whilst most fell for it, I couldn’t.
The breaking point for me was a midweek game (against Liverpool?) where he he ripped into baby faced James McCarthy as they left the pitch at half time. Other players rightly jumped to young James’ defence and that was the beginning of the end for Scharner’s first spell at the club. An arrogant tosspot, who was only a couple of steps above Andy Pilling in the football intelligence stakes, but strutted like he was the modern day Franz Beckenbauer.
I had him marked as a disruptive influence and it galled me that people seemed to fall for his schtick, the final straw was that THANX moment at the end of the season, but at least it gave me chance to say “good riddance” and see the back of him.
But then he came back and… Well that went well didn’t it? Point proven?
1) Scott Green
Imagine being woken at 3am with a stinking hangover, a baby crying to you in one ear and a fire alarm going off in the other whilst Keane do a medley of their biggest hit in the bathroom.
That’s how I felt every time the West Stand unified in the chant of “GREENY, GREENY, GREENY!” usually after made a stupid tackle, gave away a silly free-kick and got a yellow card or bust a gut to get into a fight that wasn’t there or run massively out of position, ended up in front of goal and blasted it over.
Green is quite easily the most hated ever Latics player in the Perm household and he’s pretty much an amalgam of the first five people on this list. As far as I was concerned, he was shit, thought he was miles better than he was, an arrogant bastard who’d rather dick around on the touchline than get on with things and a man who kept (in my opinion) a much better player out of the team.
And worst of all, everyone seemed to fucking love him for it!
As irrational as it sounds, I still have nightmare about his gap toothed grin and just thinking about him as I type this is making me want a drink, and it’s nothing to do with him playing for Bolton.
And that’s your lot, I’m off to crawl off into a darkened room with a bottle of Tamova to try and forget that Maurice Lindsay and Marlon King ever had anything to do with our club.
This interview first appeared in Issue 44 of The Mudhutter fanzine. It’s sold out now, but you might be able to find copies in reputable retailers around town. If not, you can get back issues in print and digital form from The Mudhutter website.
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