Nazareth FC Christmas Party, 36AD
Goalkeeper – Peter. A safe pair of hands, Peter was the first name on the teamsheet both literally and figuratively, though he would vehemently and sometimes repeatedly deny his importance to the team in interviews. Nicknamed ‘The Rock’ by the Nazarene faithful, this was not thought to stem from any physical likeness to former WWF wrestlers/cum actors, of which there weren't any, but instead referred to the keeper’s reliability. He was rewarded for his non-flashy yet consistently high level of performance with the vice captaincy. Famously, Jesus said of his keeper: "On this rock, I will build my team, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it." The ‘Hell’ reference was a nod to a particularly spiky match away at Stoke, where Peter had thrice been bundled into his own net following long throw-ins.
Full backs – Matthew & Philip. A master picker of pockets, Matthew was universally loathed by fans of Nazareth’s arch-rivals Golgotha, infamously stoking up tensions during a game at the Garden of Gethsemane by running the entire length of the field to celebrate in front of visiting Golgotha supporters. Nazareth born and bred, Matthew was a loyal servant and went on to forge a very successful career as a pundit.
Meanwhile, unassuming was perhaps the best way to describe full back Philip. A quiet man who kept his own council, he was actually a terrific player; two footed and unnervingly accurate from set pieces. Philip was lauded by Jesus on numerous occasions, describing him as one of the “unsung heroes” of the Invincibles team of 28AD.
Centre backs – Andrew & James. Absolutely from the ‘no nonsense’ school of defending, James provided the perfect foil for the more rangy sweeper Andrew. James was one of the first players brought in by Jesus to join his revolution and, beloved by fans, it was he who prompted the famous ‘J. Captain. Leader. Legend’ banner. Bizarrely though, James was never captain. Jesus was.
Midfield – “Woah, woah, woah. We’ve got the best midfield in the world…” Everyone knows the midfield this chant was coined for. Step forward, Bartholomew, John, Thomas and Simon. This was a foursome very much more than the sum of its parts. With Thomas overcoming initial misgivings about the team’s philosophy and tactical approach, in particular the commitment to the club of its talisman, Jesus, he and Bartholomew carried the water to allow John and Simon to swarm forward at will.
This midfield quartet was tailor made for the 4-4-2 formation so favoured by player-manager Jesus. John, very much the star of the show thanks to his outstanding dribbling ability, would later go on to forge a hugely successful writing career along with Matthew, Mark and Luke, the latter two having never played for Nazareth; a common misconception.
Strikers – Paul. The oft-quoted ‘Road to Damascus’ moment when Paul decided to forgo his winger role to move more central was perhaps the key to the phenomenal success of Nazareth between 25 and 35AD. Originally known as Saul, Paul changed his name, in his own words, in order to put his “bad boy image behind me” after frequent indiscretions in his youth. Forming a deadly partnership with Jesus, Paul would end his Nazareth career a folk hero, with 174 goals in 254 games. He would also regularly praise Jesus for his catalyst role in transforming him into one of the world’s greatest strikers: “I’ll never forget the club or him… I don’t see Nazareth without Jesus.”
Jesus – What is there to be said that hasn’t already been uttered a million times before about the big man? His touch: flawless. His ability to see events unfold, three or four passes in advance: unparalleled. His conception of tactical innovation: immaculate. Earlier in his career there were question marks centring on his temperament of course, culminating in an unsavoury incident in a temple.
With the hot-headed moments behind him, Jesus became the most well-known footballer in the world and even now, regularly tops ‘Greatest Player In The World’ polls. Worshipped by the fans, it will likely always be wondered what he would have gone on to achieve were it not for the career-ending injury he sustained attempting to get on the end of a cross from Judas Iscariot.
He would later go on to head up an erectile dysfunction awareness ad campaign.
Judas Iscariot. Dogged by falling outs with other players, a poor disciplinary record and allegations of corruption, Judas was a divisive figure at Nazareth. On his day, he was unplayable, but too many times the red mist would descend. The infamous dressing room bust up where a naked Jesus head-butted Judas after a feisty post-match ‘discussion’ over the player’s laziness perhaps best illustrates his incorrigible influence. Despite many fans’ misgivings, Judas stayed at the club throughout Jesus’ highly successful spell and constantly proved a thorn in his manager’s side, later, many pundits observed, with his head turned by promises of a big money move to Italy, proving instrumental in Jesus’ downfall.
Jude – utility player. Good at following team orders.