Johnny Cantor / from Eric Cantona to Jack Grealish...let’s celebrate football’s individual characters

With the proliferation of TV channels nowadays and the various platforms available, if you are looking for a touch of nostalgia or keen to rekindle some memories of yesteryear there are countless places to go.

Friday, 27th September 2019, 10:42 am
Jack Grealish has his own distinctive style (getty)

Your age may well determine whether you hark back to an era of flat caps and muddy goalmouths or more recently a time of mullets and very ‘short’ shorts.

There was a time when players ran around the pitch with their socks around their ankles. Ok I know shin pads weren’t compulsory then...Now of course the trend is to have them above your knees! You may have still been able to wear jewellery if you were so inclined.

In fact how you looked often said something about the way you played. Even the strutting peacock himself Eric Cantona turned up those collars to reinforce the sense of superiority. It probably worked.

Then there are the boots. As the late great rugby commentator Bill McLaren once said ‘they are veritable carpet slippers to what I used to wear’.

The brands and colours change but now the endorsements are worth a few bob. I certainly feel now the rules and regulations have promoted uniformity and starved freedom of expression in football. Team spirit is essential for success but we all need to be able to show our individuality.

This season Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish has his chance to shine in the Premier League. His distinctive style is exciting and you can pick him out quickly not just by his touch and skill but also by his socks wrapped only to the top of his pads, and his boy band haircut.

Brighton defender Shane Duffy last week revealed a head shaven at the side but still with a solid band of black hair in the middle. Once again I think Peaky Blinders.

Last weekend Geordie boy Andy Carroll sported his familiar bun of hair on the back of his head. Let it fall and he would conjure pictures of Samson, the Israelite warrior whose strength disappeared if his hair was cut. So what’s my point?

Well as a commentator these small details are also very helpful when you are trying to identify a player on the pitch. The boots, the hair, the number. However, I have always felt it gives me a small window into the character that exists inside the shirt.

It may show me what makes them tick, what motivates them and how they might deal with certain situations. Whether it’s Stanley Matthews, Bobby Moore, Vinny Jones or Sergio Aguero we all have our memorable players. They are all distinctive characters. They are special, unique. Just like us all. Let’s celebrate that.

Johnny Cantor is a commentator for BBC Sussex @johnnycburger | @BBCSussexSport |