Thursday, November 1, 2007

Premier League Captains

I'm a big fan of the NHL and hockey in general, specifically of the Broadway Blueshirts (New York Rangers, for those of you don't know much about the NHL). I was watching some games last night on my Center Ice package and got to thinking. Captaincy probably means the most in hockey than in any other sport (again, those of you who don't really know much about hockey, I'm here to tell you that it does, flat out). Each team has one captain, who wears the C on his jersey, and typically two alternate or assistant captains, each of whom wear an A. Tradition has made the captaincy, as I said before, incredibly prestigious and is a symbolic thing more than anything else, although if you follow the letter of the law, captains and alternates are the only ones permitted to talk to the officials about calls they've made and penalties and most of the time, that holds true in actual game situations as well.

In hockey, captains and alternates are typically the elder statesmen of their teams, often the players that have played for that team the longest or have been in the league the longest. There are, of course, exceptions to this; many teams over the years have had young players step up in a leadership role and earn a letter, in fact, Sidney Crosby is the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain at the tender age of 20, and players who are in their first or second year with a team also have been captains due to the leadership and experience they bring with them from another team or teams.

I've noticed that in the Premiership, however, captains aren't really the older players on their teams at all, and I'll show you my list of data below. It begs the question for me, what does a captain really mean, is whoever the captain deserving of that honor, or is he the captain because the player who logically should be it doesn't play every game, is a sub, etc.? I'm going to list the Premier League captains below, followed by their age, followed by who I believe would be captain if the NHL's general model of seniority combined with leadership ability was used, as well as who speaks English well, who is a good representative for the club in the community, and who best serves as a link between the manager and squad. Consider this, the average NHL captain is 31.7 years old, which is slightly skewed by the fact that Crosby is only 20. There are 30 NHL teams but three of those are currently playing without a captain for one reason or another, they are permitted to have three alternates on a game roster.

Premiership captains, (age)...who would be captain:

Arsenal: William Gallas (30)...Jens Lehmann
Aston Villa: Gareth Barry (26)...Barry
Birmingham City: Damien Johnson (28)...Johnson or Maik Taylor
Blackburn: Ryan Nelsen (30)...Tugay
Bolton: Kevin Nolan (25)...Gary Speed
Chelsea: John Terry (26)...Terry
Derby County: Matthew Oakley (30)...Oakley by default, no other real options
Everton: Phil Neville (30)...Neville
Fulham: Brian McBride (35)...McBride when healthy, Aaron Hughes now
Liverpool: Steven Gerrard (27)...Gerrard
Manchester City: Richard Dunne (28)...Micah Richards, the Premiership's Sid the Kid
Manchester United: Gary Neville (32)...Ryan Giggs
Middlesbrough: George Boateng (32)...Mark Schwarzer
Newcastle: Geremi (28)...Nicky Butt
Portsmouth: Sol Campbell (33)...Campbell or David James
Reading: Graeme Murty (32)...Murty
Sunderland: Dean Whitehead (25)...Dwight Yorke
Tottenham: Ledley King (27)...Robbie Keane no matter if King is healthy or not
West Ham: Lucas Neill (29)...Freddie Ljungberg
Wigan: Mario Melchiot (30)...Antoine Sibierski

I was interested to note that the average age for Premiership captains was 29.15, about three years younger than the average NHL captain. I know that soccer players don't play to the same ages as hockey players but still, some of these captains really surprised me (Geremi, Kevin Nolan, Dean Whitehead, Lucas Neill, and Ryan Nelsen). Obviously I'm not around these guys every day but from what I've seen and read about each of these players and looking at some of the other candidates on their teams, I don't understand the choice. All in all, I'd say most teams got it right with either their captain and vice-captain, but then again, who am I to say. Just one man's opinion here, folks.


Betfair Kid said...

I'm actually quite surprised by some of your choices. Jens Lehmann!?

I'm not sure about Micah Richards either. He does seem to have a good understanding of the game, but he's still only young. Experienced players make better captains, hence the average age of 29.

Some, like Giggs and Keane, are actually the vice-captains, though I too maybe think Keane would be better than King. Again, just for experience though. On the other hand, it's easier for King to organise things from the pitch if he is playing at centre half or central midfield.

Finally, I'm unsure about the decision for my team, West Ham! Freddie hasn't been at the club long and hasn't got many games under his belt yet. Neill is captain because he gets the team going and isn't scared to point out mistakes.

The comparison between the Prem captains and those from the NHl is interesting though. I don't know much about the sport, so it was a good read. Cheers.

MJ said...

You're right about Ljungberg, I know he hasn't been there for that long at all but consider: Lucas Neill only joined the Hammers last January, I believe, so it's not as if he's played a bunch of games for them either. Ljungberg has all the experience you could want in a player. He's played in countless big games for Arsenal in both the Premiership and Champions League and was a part of their unbeaten Premiership champion side. He also is the captain of the Swedish national team so not only does he know what it takes to win (something that West Ham need to figure out), he's proved himself capable of handling a leadership role.

Betfair Kid said...

That's true, but though he's captained Sweden, you have to realise that all of the players in the West Ham squad are completely new to him. Also, I don't see him as the type of player to motivate sides to win. He may have been part of the Arsenal side that won the Premiership, but this is a completely new team and manager.

Lucas Neill was also captain of Blackburn - okay not on the same level as Arsenal - and Australia. Freddie also joined the money, I believe, for money. Lucas on the other hand didn't, (though newspaper reports speculated otherwise) therefore I prefer him much more as a captain.

MJ said...

Very true, very true..To be honest, I guess I've just never been too impressed with Lucas Neill either on the field or off. As you said though, he has the credentials and in the end, it's West Ham's decision and there certainly seem to be less deserving captains in the Premiership than Lucas Neill..good stuff, I appreciate the feedback.

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