The cult of the confused
At what point does a players inability to be above average consistently elevate him from being a bit rubbish to a cult hero? What is a cult hero exactly? I've always associated the term with someone that wasn't great and bullish enough to tap into the mainstream as a recognised top drawer player. Although you could tag a highly skilled luxury player or someone who played out of their skin and above their grade (even if they were blatantly out of their depth in doing so) for the shirt with the same backhanded compliment.
In modern times you might look no further than Steffen Freund as the perfect example. Plenty of posturing and screaming to make up for his distinct lack of anything. But legend they call him because he played with his heart on his sleeve. And sometimes his inane battle cries worked. But you can't help but love the blokes love for THFC and thus it doesn't matter how average a player he was, even though the fundamental crux of the matter is the football and how well you can play it.
Zokora is another player that had very little footballing astuteness. Loved his rampaging runs forward, single direction, forward in a straight line, no stopping, just forward until he either fell over or blasted the ball to the moon. He too had tenacity. Fantastic athlete just no grey matter.
Maybe cult isn't the right terminology here, but when exactly does a player become much maligned/hated/abused and when does he find categorisation as said 'cult' and thus excused for his failings because, well, he just wont make the grade so may as well accept him for what he is and love him unconditionally for at least giving something back, be it, in spurts of joy rather prolonged sessions of love.
Jenas is hardly cult. But much maligned he is. Why? Is it because we expect so much more from him? Or because he doesn't do a zany dance when we win games? Is cult simply a tolerable level of acceptance? A standard that can sometimes exist outside other standards because there's a necessity for this middle ground of footballers?
When we sat just above mid-table we sort of tolerated the likes of Zoko until we worked out he was not the answer to our defensive midfield frailties. But now we sit Top 4, contenders (we aspire to be) there is no room for this ilk of footballing 'star'. We need finished articles. Not random pages stripped out of comic books.
I find it humorous that one or two Spurs fans have suddenly labelled Wilson Palacios as a cult player because of the over excitable commitment he has shown in recent games, when not too long ago he was a 'destroyer', commanding as the stop-gap in midfield before personal issues consumed his confidence. Some of us are stretching the boundaries a little it seems.
Or say a player like Alfie Conn (if we choose to go back to the past) who was hardly rubbish but had a short yet memorable stay at the Lane and endeared himself to many whether it was ball at feet or sitting on top of it. A good type of cult? Talented but not a world beater.
The other end of the spectrum, you'll find Gary Doherty who was not good enough for the top flight, yet he tried bless him, boy did he try. His awarkdness, his lack of elegance, his ginger hair. A cult followers wet dream. But when you strip away the t-shirts what are you left with? Just a lad who was over-rated by those who signed him and over-used because of the lack of depth at the club at the time.
Would cult befit someone like John White? I don't think so. White is tinged with legend, a life cut short by a freak accident, a storming presence in our greatest ever side.
I've seen the phrase tagged onto the likes of van der Vaart, who is hardly someone benefiting from the vocal support of a minority. Hardly. Bit like calling Dimitar cult for the Berbarotic he subjected to us that had so many blinded for a season. But say vdV left us this summer, would that warrant cult status because his Lilywhite days would be nothing more than a pocket of appearances?
Is BAE cult? What with the two distinctive groups of support, one that rates him the other that is perpetually unsure?
Okay, so let's return to the first sentence of this article. At what point does a players inability to be above average consistently elevate him from being a bit rubbish to a cult hero? Do they simply require an occasional fire in the belly or marauding run and skill or perhaps something side splitting funny (row z again) to gain notoriety? One game or a glut of goals? Or inconsistency tinged with genius?
Is it in the eye of the beholder or is it a polite way of saying, you weren't that good, not great enough to be a legend but you did something that will not be forgotten. A gentle, respectful nod. Nothing more nothing less.