Blind Hammer looks at the future for Antonio
Antonio’s latest hamstring setback is a disappointment. In a memorable season, his brilliance has flickered only briefly. Unfortunately, he cannot provide the main attacking focal point in the next 2 seasons.
Michael Owen, who also relied on explosive pace, was never the same after his recurrent hamstrings. Sadly if players like Owen or Antonio ease up 5% you only get 50% impact.
Yet Antonio can still become a legend for us. he could still have a full-throttle, match-winning impact from the bench.
Football has a history of deadly super subs.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær had a renowned sub career. He scored 28 goals from the bench, most famously in the 1999 Champions League Final.
However, if Antonio wants a role model it is not Solskjær he should look to but David Fairclough.
When I was young, attending Liverpool University, I watched in wonder at what seemed countless games in which the original super-sub exploded into the game late on, devastating defenders in his wake.
As soon as Fairclough started warming up the Kop reacted and built up a frenzy of excitement.
Fairclough destroyed defences from the bench, scoring 1 goal in 3 Despite only limited minutes. I remember, I could see in those days, that even when not scoring he ran tiring defences ragged.
This is precisely the role I could see for Antonio. Fairclough was used as a weapon. His role was not just to rescue games, though famously he did that. Instead, Liverpool used him to mercilessly ram home their advantage.
In 1976 I saw him burst off the bench to beat six tiring Everton defenders before firing past goalkeeper Dai Davies. Fairclough’s most famous strike though came in 1977 when, he, again, from the bench, scored the winner in the closing minutes in a memorable European Cup Quarter Final comeback against a despairing St Etienne.
If West Ham do make it into Europe Antonio can take heart from Fairclough’s example. He too, could have an even more famous future. He can still become a Hammers European legend.
David Griffith aka Blind Hammer
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