Monday, March 14, 2011

Where are the Thunderboots?

Owing to my superior body frame and physic amongst my peers, I fancied myself as a striker of note because I could bulldoze my way through and steamroll to the goals. Not only that. The final delivery in parting with the ball would be a ferocious thunderbolts that resulted in goalkeepers leaving posts unguarded upon my approach. Hence, I was nicknamed Thunderboots.

Two things that came out of this, was the apparent lack of interest in others to play against such an imposer, while fellow team-mates lost their playing position or even the opposition. The compromise was diplomatic, that I played in goals to keep everyone happy. I had no doubt about my talents there, but I could not help feeling I am there as a appeasement, making me resentful of the position.

Anyway, my point is to express my wonder at how we no longer the Thunderboots of yesteryear. I am not talking of decades here. It has been a long while since we have seen daily drives we used see from Ghanaian Tony Yeboah. Tony was basically legs of thunder and it was his custom to treat us to those thunderbolts. He played for Leeds United, hitting the roof of the nets from distance.

We see spectacular shows here and there once in a while. Jimmy Flloyd Hasslebank was also good at that. It is rare to remember his tap in goal. The balls were always driven from between the centre circle and the D-zone. Whether it was a grounder or a roof netter, it was always a high class canon.

Both these players had fast muscle twitch fibre, taking off at lightning pace and accelerating at great pace. They did not need much room or time on the ball. They shot in full flight and under pressure. The sporadic scenes of nowadays are usually obvious cases that come far in between. Even so, they are very rare.

The last traditional thunderbooter of our time was Pedro Mendes. Chronic injuries robbed us of a top striker of the ball in Mendes. He differed in his style as a midfielder from those strikers, being slower and making it look all too easy. Then, Nigel Winterburn and Ray Palour chipped in with those wonder strikes.

What is the missing part nowadays? Is it the stocky huge calved built with thunder thighs or just poor training methods that neglect key factors in technique training? Maybe both. With an approach from straight behind the ball, the non-kicking foot planted square in line with the ball; contact is made in the vertical centre of the ball with excessive force, as if to slice the ball open into 2 equal parts. The head is kept steady over the ball. As a rule of thumb, eyes must always be on the ball, as if you didn't know.