Who was the most important (and also most cool) player of the 05-06 premiership season?
The 2005-2006 season of the premiership was a great one. Mostly because I was young and enthralled by every kick of the ball, but also because Portsmouth avoided relegation and I’m a Portsmouth fan. Avoiding relegation for us was like winning the league which is a very important point to this article; the varying understanding of what’s important to different teams.
The season wasn’t inherently surprising, the reigning champions won and expected teams got relegated. But that’s not what we’re here for, we’re here to discuss the most important (and also cool) player in the 05-06 season. Why? Because debates that find alternative answers, chat engaging nonsense, and also maybe make Portsmouth players the most important in the league are fun.
There are three things of note to cover before we begin
Importance in this passage does not mean importance to the league. If that were the case a very strong argument could be made for Thierry Henry, who within my confines comes nowhere near the top. Importance is more-so understood as the importance of the player to their team and their team’s successes. For example, if you took away Henry from Arsenal they’d most likely still finished fourth. Whereas if you took an [insert almost equal striker] from a [insert lesser team] they’d most likely be relegated. [insert lesser team’s town] would be [insert word cooler than devastated].
I hate Yakubu Aiyegbeni.
And also why coolness as well? Coolness is a fun thing to debate. If you were to discuss Star Wars and who’s the most important within that universe, you’d have to ramble on about the Skywalkers. Boring stuff. You open the debate to coolness, you get to talk about Han Solo and Lando. Fun stuff. I feel needn’t explain more.
Thierry was very cool during this time. It was either this season, the last, or the next when he did his Va Va Voom advert. Which either means he was a) really cool in the advert itself b) he was cool enough to be headhunted for such a campaign c) or he had been cool enough to get some marketing person a promotion. Which, if you were a pubescent Portsmouth fan or any fan for that matter, was very cool. He also did that (maybe it was the season after) Nike House Football advert. He was fucking cool. He was fucking Thierry Henry.
Little sidebar: In 2003, I was in year 6 at the time, we had this dork in our year called Henry. One day we all played football, even Henry the geek joined in (I was also a bit of a geek but I had blonde highlights). The game resulted in penalties and Henry (the nerd) was last to go. One person said to him before he took it ‘Are you going to be Henry or oonnree’. Obviously pronounced like our subject Thierry. No other player had that clout.
Importance wise, however, Thierry doesn’t take the cake. Yeah he scored 27 and maybe secured fourth for Arsenal. Which, when discussing the Champions League is very important, especially considering they got to the final that season and were thought to be contenders for the next season. But we’re not discussing the Champions League, we’re discussing importance within the realms of the Premiership. And Arsenal did nothing in the Champions League next season. He also missed a sitter in the final Arsenal were in that year.
Darren Bent, the kid on your street who had Pokemon Gold on his computer before it had been released in the UK. Darren Bent, the head boy at your school who ate lunch with his favourite teachers. Darren Bent, the fella who orders half a pint because a pint’s worth of carbonation upsets his stomach. Darren Bent, the lamest person you know, went and scored 18 goals, didn’t he.
Charlton finished 13th that year, which would make you think they were very safe from relegation, however they were less than 10 points clear and only scored 41 goals. 18 of those came from head boy, half-pint Darren Bent. He scored almost half his team’s goals. Without those goals they would’ve been relegated, no doubt whatsoever. To say he was important is an understatement; he was pivotal -- salient -- paramount -- whatever synonym you want to choose, he was fucking it.
Importance? a strong maybe. Coolness? never.
Yakubu scored 13 goals which helped Middlesbrough avoid relegation, but he left all his arguments in his Fratton Park locker along with my broken heart.
Frank Lampard was a total beast this season. It was most probably his best. It also may not have been. It could’ve been the season Thierry Henry did his Va Va Voom advert. My memory is as good as yours, which probably doesn’t remember the entirety of the 05-06 season. I regularly ask people questions about the past to which people regularly reply ‘[insert memory I chased]? I don’t even remember last week!’. If you’re one of those people, please stop saying that.
He had sixteen goals and ten assists. Which, although equates to less than Henry’s 27 goals, is an insane feat. He was doing it all, all over the pitch. The season cemented Frank Lampard as a generational talent, but was was his importance to Chelsea? Well, they were an absolute force that year. Although their play style wasn’t exactly memorable - the only thing that ever really remember is the fact they won, ruthlessly - they dominated. No one could contest them. They had Cech in goal, Terry as the commanding CB, Makelele and Lampard in midfield, and Drogba up top. The wings? Oh, only Arjen Robben and Joe I Was Great Once. Do You Remember My Goal Against Sweden? Cole. Their ridiculous team is one of the reasons it’s hard to make an argument for Lamps being the most important - you could even make an argument for Cech or Terry being equal or perhaps more important to Chelsea than him.
I also always found Frank to be remarkably uncool. You’ve got the hair, the cockney accent, the money, and with those tools yeah he’s maybe footballer cool, but he’s not walking down the street cool, is he? You just know he’d get something like a Sex on the Beach if you went for cocktails with the bloke.
Honourable Mention: Steven Gerrard
It’s here we should also mention Lampard’s at-the-time arch nemesis, Steven Gerrard.
Bare with me, another sidebar: Now, I’m not sure if they were anathemas to one another. I think they may have been ambivalent, really, but me and the rest of england were so desperate for them to be something we made them enemies. I really think if they came out as a homosexual couple the inherently homophobic footballing community would rejoice, simply because they were something. The golden generation would have produced a thing, even if it was just floral pairings that mesh very well in a traditional system with each flower playing their rightful positions rather than arranging a [insert ginger flower] on the left despite that being a placement that plays to their weaknesses rather than their strengths.
Gerrard deserves a place in all noughties footballing conversations because he was really fucking good during that time. This season, however, he only produced 16 goals, scoring 10 and assisting 6. Liverpool did nothing of notice despite winning the Champions League in the season prior.
He, however, gets a mention because he once beat up a DJ who refused to play Phil Collins. Which is very odd, you’d usually assume someone would beat up a DJ for playing Phil Collins, not for not playing him. He also, when he started notching Liverpool appearances into his bed posts, bought a van and plastered Steven Gerrard. Liverpool FC. CM. on the side to try and entice woman. Atrocities that deserve a mention at every opportunity. My estimations of Rio Ferdinand, a man who I thought loved banter, go down each time he passes the mention of such abhorrent beauty during BT Sport punditry.
Not the most important; probably not the coolest, either; maybe the funniest?
Portsmouth avoided relegation by 4 points. 4, as in the number that’s only 4 away from 0 and really far away from, say, 27, or 32, numbers I would’ve much preferred. Considering just how finite 4 is, you can assume every single goal meant a lot and Matty Taylor scored 6 and assisted 5. Oh, the way he did it, too.
Not only did these goals steer us to safety, each one had everyone on that very steered boat dancing. They were magic; to truly describe them would take only the most beautiful symphony, something I can’t do - my band never played to more than four people, three of which were my family. So, rather, let me take you through my in-time reactions for his goal against Sunderland, one of the bests from that season
[Ball falls into the middle of the park after an unimpressive goal kick. Pedro Mendes takes it down and passes it out to the wing]
Here we go, keep it composed in the middle and get it to my beloved Yaku... Silva.
[Griffin receives pass from Pedro the beautiful and flicks a bouncing pass into Matty Taylor’s path]
We’ve got momentum; this could be a good attack.
[There’s a stillness in the air. A second feels a minute. Silence becomes poetry. Not a word]
[Matty Taylor ignores the football paradigm of what is acceptable and smacks the ball like a it’s a cold Terry’s Chocolate Orange from 45 yards out, the length of two and half tapeworms that may be in your dog]
[The ball breaks the sound barrier and flies at speed where 45 yards can be covered in less than two seconds. It hits the back of the net.]
This was life as a Portsmouth fan during this time: each weekend witnessing Matty Taylor ignore the fact he was playing against other professionals. Although they were players who scored and assisted more than him, he made a what should be miserable time incredible. I still think about those human right violations he scored daily.
Portsmouth’s saviour, Matthew Simon Taylor.
Honourable Mention: Jay-Jay Okocha
They were ketchup, he was sriracha; they were mayo, he was aioli; they were smooth peanut butter, he was crunchy; they were distinctly unfunny condiment references, he was intellectual pop references people could engage with. Truly a zebra amongst horses.
Statistically, he has has no right to be in this discussion, he scored one and assisted two. He sticks out like a sore thumb. But whenever I discuss this epoch of football, my brain wanders to Jay-Jay So Good They Named Him Twice Okocha. He was my footballing muse. All I wanted to do was create his magistical style of play. I, too, wanted to imbue wonder into the thousands. Awake, I failed. Asleep, I succeeded. He was our Ronaldinho. Soccer AM loved him. Yer da loved him. Your girlfriend loved him. He was really fucking cool and as such deserves a mention, even if it is simply an honourable one.
Pascal was no Henry. Pascal didn’t beat DJs up. Pascal wasn’t a spritz of Sriracha. He was a LB and nothing more and that was enough.
It’s hard to explain the importance of a defender; stats aren’t on your side. But look: in 2006, I watched a lot of Friends. Why did I watch Friends? Well, first of all I shouldn’t need a reason, Friends rules. And second of all, here’s a reason: there was someone at my school who wanted to beat me up. Huge (kinda small) guy. He thought I fancied his girlfriend. I (did)n’t. And well shit it was kinda scary. I hadn’t been in a fight before and this kid wanted to kill me. During, I perniciously changed my Bebo video to I’m a Flirt by T-Pain. Which, if you can’t remember, went a bit like this
Don't be walking up and asking me to meet you girl because I'm well enough a flirt when I speak to girl.
It probably wasn’t the best choice, all things considered. From there, madness ensued; each day was pretty hectic because every day he wanted to beat me up. It was a tough time and I turned to the consistency of Friends for comfort. You know: New York, hijinks, and friendship.
Positioning, heading, and flair. There’s a reason Pascal won LB of the year. Like friends, he was a warm blanket of comfort for Wigan. In times of difficulty they turned to him and he was always there. They needed a goal, he was there. They couldn’t afford to concede, he was there.
The subsidiary is much more difficult than the central question of this pointless debate. Coolness is a difficult thing to measure, but with some it just oozes. Thierry Henry was and is undeniably one of those people. He still oozes all over Sky Sports today with his sometimes-amazing-sometimes-vanilla commentary delivered in always-great suits. But then again, so is Jay-Jay Okocha. Although much lesser of a footballer, he’s remembered as one of Premiership’s greats. Why? Because his style of football was so memorable. It was cool. It was refreshing. Jay-Jay, however, doesn’t have a Nigerian catchphrase akin to Henry’s Va Va Voom. Nor does Matty Taylor. Lampard drinks Sex on the Beach, for christ’s sake. Bent isn’t even worth of a mention. And yeah Pascal, we know you have cornrows, but honestly mate, you don’t even suit them that much. Got to be the French gent, hasn’t it? A totally unbiased conclusion.
You know, it’s tough this one. My heart says Matty Taylor, but it’s not him, is it? Can’t be. We all know who it unfortunately is: Darren Bent. Has to be. He saved his team. If you think it’s anyone else you’re stupid. Darren takes the cake. The cake that Henry thinks he deserves. Lampard wants a bite, too, perhaps at his and Gerrard’s wedding. Unfortunately, lads, Darren Bent’s had it all. Devoured it. Much like he devoured all those goal scoring opportunities in the 05-06 season. Like Gerrard devoured any sense of cool he had when in his van. It’s gone. The season and the award. No competition. Darren. Bloody. Bent. I know. A sad ending. Darren hates Hollywood.