That sort of player?
Another day, another dickheads piece and another Magic Spongers debutant. Here's James Tyler of the fantastic Unprofessional Foul who can also be found on Twitter, where you should follow him, now.
Ever been at the seaside and watched a bully crush a child's sandcastle? Feels awful, doesn't it? It's cruel and crude, but the real disaster is when the ocean comes and washes the crime scene away. In this tepid analogy, we've all built plenty of castles and seen them rudely destroyed, and it never gets easier.
Taking it one step further, the defensive midfielder can be cast as the bully, the ocean wave, the beach, and the dastardly god that defined the entire scene. Forever wrecking anything and everything on the pitch, they're the pox that makes simpering aesthetes whimper and whinny. Clamp down on an ankle, snap a tendon, pop the ball with a well-aimed, vicious studs-up lunge. Keep the physios busy and the magic spray constantly deployed. Karl Henry. Lee Cattermole. Javier Mascherano. These are the men that I hate for the pain they inflict on the average game.
Now, I'm not a complete sucker for something pretty and cute and passy-passy, dainty and delicate, amazing as it can be, but I do rankle at the sustained savagery that the Cattermoles of the world inflict over 90 minutes. It's effective, but tremendously negative, the cold antithesis of what used to be the game's innate attraction.
As a kid, swooping through alleys and aiming volleys between parked cars, we tried vainly to emulate the majesty of bicycle kicks, Le Tissier's long-range blasts, and anything John Barnes ever did on the dribble. That's the entry point to this glorious game, right? We pick up on the fun, and not the tendon-destroying madness. We want to be the classic No. 10 weaving upfield, gliding past defenders, and receiving all the praise. Did we ever try to mimic the sins of Andoni Goikoetxea, like the one that shattered Bernd Schuster's knee or cracked Diego Maradona's ankle?
Of course not, because those are distinctly grown-up pursuits, a bit like when our socially conservative parents would laugh at our left-wing rants at the breakfast table, all the while warning us that some day, we'd be just like them. We'd understand. We'd get it.
Frankly, I don't ever wish to "get it" in that sense, because I much prefer the version of the game that favours creation over decimation, joy over cynicism, and pleasure over the frigidity that overwhelms whenever watching Stoke City rumble and wrangle an opponent.
But that's just me. Defensive midfielders can be nifty when they choose, but the run-of-the-mill clogger hell-bent on poison and pain? I'd rather have my tibia cracked by Karl Henry than be forced to watch them on the pitch.