Congratulations to Gareth Bale. PFA Player and Young Player of the Year.
I wrote this about him back in March 2012. Not sure too many are slating him these days. I probably went a little over the top with my defending of his defeatist approach towards gravity (I know I went over the top), but aside from that, with any player that promises so much, we all have to remain patient and supportive. We should all look towards the long term and appreciate the hard graft, the mistakes, the learning curves that go into the short term to make that long term a powerful eventuality.
It's scary to think how good he could be in a years time with further progression and development. Add to it playing in a side that also improves and adds further silk and steel to the squad. The higher intensity football, the higher quality produced. Hopefully that side is the Lilywhite of N17 and not the stormy white of Madrid.
Some credit to Harry Redknapp for the accidental emergence of Bale and then the move to the middle. Further credit to Andre Villas-Boas and the more astute tactical development of the player. And credit to Bale. For growing up. For believing in his ability. He's only twenty-three. POWERFUL.
The importance of being Bale
There are a variety of inherent traits that make up the stereotypical DNA of a football supporter. On occasions we can be fickle and impatient. We can also very carefully manoeuvre away from one opinion in order to present a differing perspective to suit a new argument. Ignoring or contradicting is also another characteristic that shines through depending on whatever climate we stand in (good form or bad form).
Gareth Bale joined Spurs as a promising youngster. He made an impact before picking up an injury and then we did what we were so good at during that particular period of time; mismanagement of youth. He returned and was almost ruined as we drained every last drop of confidence from the lad who struggled to settle (and finish on the winning side) in a spell of twenty four appearances thanks mostly due to the incompetency of his team mates (although he suffered also thanks to some personal howlers). No end in sight, at one point he was being lined up with a loan away from Spurs. Benny got injured and Bale got another chance. Yet we almost missed out on seeing it transpire this way because we had given up hope of him succeeding. From left back to left wing.
Bale's development was finally progressing and his confidence rejuvenated. The Champions League season cemented him as one of the leagues brightest stars, strong in body and technically gifted with power and drive along with pace. Seems its easy to forget the time he struggled for us, equally so, it appears quite easy for some to also ignore that he's still young and developing and is having to deal with hype and expectation. He's playing in a side that has also progressed through a learning curve (and continues to do so) with a far more stable set-up than his early days with us. He's surrounded by some genuine talent making his growth as a player and young man one of assurance.
He's wanted by a variety of clubs or at the very least, the interest is there. We know at some point within a year or two he might leave. That's not to say he has a free pass and therefore should be exempt from criticism but there is so much short-term nonsensical reaction to the player that I sometimes wonder if some of our support is drowning in fickleness and attempting to drag Bale down with them to their despairing depths.
Firstly, ego. How does a player believe his own hype exactly? Is this a way to describe someone that is confident in their own ability but when isn't playing well is subject to being tagged as negligent or complacent?
If he's instructed to play in certain positions or if he wishes to add new dimensions to his play then freedom should be given so that the player can continue to adapt and improve. From left back to left wing to a potential free-roamer. He has both the physicality and technical skills to play on the flank or behind the forward(s) although there's no doubt that in our current set-up (with all players available) he's better suited on the left to provide us with width and to drag players across to open up space in the middle for others to exploit.
Bale has spent his career adapting. Several years ago nobody was quite sure of his best position. It's because he has so much about him as an athlete, a winger with rampant pace and an eye for goal, that he can potentially cut inside and attack centrally. It's how, where and when this is applied that is pivotal to the teams shape throughout the season when breaking opposing sides down. Equally pivotal for him in retaining consistency.
All the rhetoric about him getting giddy with the Ronaldo comparisons and forgetting his responsibilities to the team is (IMO) an easy way to scapegoat a player that is high profile (young) and therefore susceptible as a target to blame for the teams deficiencies. The manager should be controlling the players with far more astuteness, picking when and where the 'inside forward' experiment should play out. Wasn't too long ago we all jumped on Redknapp for the right wing selection only for it to morph into a tactically in-game swap with Lennon that can be effective against some teams. The handling since has not been cohesive enough and that is down to management. Do we want Bale on the right attempting to cross with his left? Of course not. He's wasted there unless he' swapping wings to confuse the opposition or cutting inside.
When free-roaming into the centre he needs to understand when this will work and when it's detrimental.
The criticism aimed at him (Bale) is usually voiced when its not going well (that's the fickle trait kicking in partnered impatience). Even after the Inter hat-trick and his devastating performance in the return game at the Lane, it was gradually highlighted that he wasn't effective in domestic games with many preferring to completely bypass the fact he was being singled out/doubled up on. Equally so it was easy to box up his age and pretend he was meant to be able to cope with cracking the mainstream and playing like he did at the San Siro week in week out.
Bale had to adapt to be able to cope with the extra pressure on and off the pitch, especially on it where he would be accompanied with a variety of defenders and hatchet men. As fans, our expectation levels rise and our standards of what quantify a good solid performance is hiked up meaning we are far more critical when a quiet game is had.
This season he's had his most consistent one yet. Like any player there have been peaks and troughs. Hype and ego are continually thrown into the discussion that Bale has somehow come to the conclusion that he only needs to stick on the shirt to perform rather than work hard out on the pitch. That he can wander around with complete freedom, purely for his own selfish agenda. The caveat here being, if we win/he scores it works and its all good and if it doesn't then the 'who the hell does he think he is?' brigade start screaming with hair pulling and clenched fists waving. Once again, there is a responsibility with the coaches and the manager to make sure there is shape within the team and that the players (Gareth included) are aware of their instructions as part of a working unit.
As for the diving. He does go down easily. He's admitted to this. At times it does look bad, a touch embarrassing even. Mainly because we rarely have players in our ranks that do this. Remember Zokora? I can think of two occasions when he blatantly fell to the ground and everyone around me in the Park Lane (including yours truly) cringed. We don't accept this as part and parcel of our game.
Perhaps he is far too conscious of the fact that if he is knocked or about to be and doesn't go down he might do himself an injury. Not too long ago, he would stay down clutching his knee/thigh/leg when fouled. Precautionary. I don't blame him protecting himself as long as he doesn't start rolling around La Liga style. If he's clipped and the ref will award a foul regardless (due to it being obvious to all that witnessed it) he still goes down for good measure to make certain of it. That's not to be confused with play acting and falling over shadows. He's been guilty of perhaps doing this once or twice but I don't see any maliciousness or premeditated tactic to cheat. IMO, he's still over cautious and sometimes takes it a touch too far reacting too soon to what he expects might happen. Some players are far too aware and worry too much about the what ifs and try to avoid any potentiality that might end with long term injury. Bale only appears to be conflicted with this lingering thought rather than seeking to fall at every available opportunity.
Now, you might find yourself questioning my ethics and reasoning here suggesting that I am being overly bias and attempting to excuse his actions based on my opinion that I don't believe him to possess the mentality of a cheat. I know he's not a cheat because when compared to certain other players that have 'graced' the Prem who have dived/cheated time and time again, in comparison there is no comparison. And on that basis, as a Tottenham supporter, I'm going to side and support the player as opposed to some who appear to be very comfortable and very quick to jump on him and ram their accusations of complacency down his throat. Can we attempt to protect our own especially when the crimes they've alleged to have committed do not warrant the negativity aimed towards him? He's one of us. There are enough rival fans hating on him so why would I consider standing in-amongst their group to point and shake my head at Bale?
Not every player is humble to the bone or posses the low centre of gravity to graceful navigate their way around sliding tackles and bruising shoulder charges. Most players have egos and are in some shape or form arrogant, perhaps not arrogant in an ugly way but simply in terms of self belief, allowing them to excel on the pitch. Gareth Bale isn't stupid. He knows he hasn't conquered the world. He knows he has the potential to do that and he shouldn't be fearful and shy away from it. While we have him in Lilywhite shirt I'll continue to enjoy his football and hope his progression and impact is of a high standard, a responsibility he shares with everyone at Spurs. All in it together, right?
It's my perspective. You might disagree with it. It might conflict with your own opinions which you are also free to share.
Gareth Bale is a brilliant footballer. He's twenty-two years of age and by all accounts is very mature and level-headed for someone so young and famous, carrying the expectations of so many on his shoulders. Please feel free to remember that next time you slate him.