RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Monday, July 1

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: ASTON VILLA FC

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology utilizing dork methodology of minutes played over the past 100 club competitive club matches to determine which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic force on a club’s current trajectory. Then intuitive analysis is conducted utilizing football metaphysics, performed from an un-American soccer fan’s perspective. We do this every 1st and 15th of the month, cycling through the 20 clubs currently in the English Premier League, because it is the top domestic league based in an English-speaking country, which as un-American miscreants, we were all born to be saddled with this limited, segmented tongue of the global colonizer, oppressor, and capitalizer. Also, it is what comes on TV here in the USA most prominently, where we live. And yet, it is really important we clarify we hate English, and also America. Maybe we hate ourselves. Our panel consists of chairman Raven Mack, director tecnico Paul Robertson, and director rudo Neil Bulson. Our individual contributions to this 5000 words of gibberish will be noted by our name at the end of the blurb. If you enjoy this absolutely free internet content from an un-American soccer perspective, venmo me tips @ravenmack23. You may also enjoy the Sportsball 69 podcast.]

Let us discuss the football metaphysics of this Aston Villa football club, which earned their way back unto the Premier League of Englishmens after winning the Championship playoffs. First, let's acknowledge Aston Villa was a Premier League original, and until they got relegated after the 2015-16 season, had never not been in the Premier League. Let's also acknowledge for any American or worldwide newbs that the Premier League was a corporate creation in the early '90s meant to maximize the profits of the top clubs and further distance themselves from the rest of Englishmens football and the traditional egalitarian sense of ANYBODY PLAYS and EVERY TOWN HAS THEIR BOIZ. So here's a fun fact - Aston Villa has more Premier League seasons than Manchester City. But current status depends more on ownership than anything else, and whereas Man City is owned by Russian oligarch money, Aston Villa was purchased by an actual American (Randy Lerner) back in 2006, which led to a horrible period of diminishing returns and eventual decline, as is the tradition of American owners in the Englishmens football. (RIP my beloved Swansea City, destroyed perhaps by my own American allegiance, which caused them to be noticed by American businessmen who took over the club and steered it back into the lower depths of football.) But once Aston Villa got relegated, the stupid fucking American sold the club, to Chinese business ventures, who though just as outside of England as American businessmen, don't necessarily have the same horrible record. After Aston Villa didn't get back the season before last to Premier League, the main Chinese dude got additional investment, including from Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris, who now is the club chairman.

Thus Aston Villa is back. However, in the past half decade, only one club who won promotion playoffs has survived that first season (and they were relegated their second season). In fact, you have to go back to Crystal Palace six years ago before you find a club who won promotional playoffs who was able to thrive in the Premier League. So for Aston Villa, who does not necessarily have the base club roster to thrive, it's going to come down to how do they supplement that roster, and whether the alpha dudes from last season who get relegated to beta players adjust to such a demotion of personal spirit warrior status upon the club. My personal prediction is one of doom, to be honest, because for any club making the jump up this season, it's more about who is left you can be better than. In fact, we had just such a discussion with a Sheffield United supporter after our last 25-Man Metaphysical Roster write-up, and I think the conclusion most folks are coming to is likely two of these three promoted clubs are not going to survive more than one season. So then it comes down to where does Aston Villa fit into the hierarchy of those three clubs alone, and the fact they finished 5th and had to win a playoff promotion should tell you where they sit. [Raven]

#1: CONOR HOURIHANE (his first METAPHYSICAL STAR, which is the made up shit we say for the guy that finished first for a club) – Aston Villa’s midfielder is their leading assist man which given his position in the central midfield suggests he is something of the team’s engine. This is a good thing for an Irish lad who fought his way up through the system, not being good enough to stick with Sunderland where he did his youth career, and found himself in League 2 football with Plymouth Argyle before moving on to Barnsley and now to Aston Villa. That is a good thing for him, but maybe not for Aston Villa. I mean, it’s a good story, heartwarming and all that, but do you really want the heart of your club to be a dude who’s probably going to find himself a bit over his head in the Premier League? But fuck it, there is something pure in it too, and maybe Conor Hourihane will have the luck of the Irish after all, which actually doesn’t even seem like a good thing because in what way have the Irish ever been lucky? Anyway, I’m rambling, but there is something worth rooting for at least, I think, in the idea that a dude fights his way up and succeeds despite his humble roots, and maybe that can serve as a metaphor for Aston Villa as a whole, but probably not. Reality is a drunk sighing in an Irish pub and wondering why he had to be born “lucky” as life fucks him from one end to the next. Sláinte, Conor. [Neil]

#2: AHMED ELMOHAMADY (previously ranked #5 for Hull City on 01-Mar-2017) – Elmohamady has a solid position at Aston Villa, with an Egyptian club chairman. The World knows Mo Salah, and saw him and Egypt at the World Cup in 2018, but probably is not as aware of Egypt's amazing run in African Cup of Nations in 2017. AFCON is happening again right now, in Egypt, who inherited hosting the event when Cameroon's hosting abilities were negated by conflict in that nation. Elmohamady has been top defender for the Egyptian national team for a while, and is in fact their captain. That national team's identity and run post-revolution at the beginning of this decade has been huge for Egypt. That's part of why Mo Salah is such a spirit warrior, above the madness of normal Premier League metaphysics, because his metaphysics is attuned to a higher level due to all this, and the AFCON run of 2017. Elmohamady has been key figure in all of this, and in fact has been impressive as fuck in the AFCON group stage, which Egypt has barreled through (as expected). And despite over 160 caps in Premier League play previously (for both Hull City and Sunderland, whom he transferred to directly from the Egyptian Premier League in 2006), there are those claiming Elmohamady is not Premier League caliber player at this point in his career. To that I say, there are spirit warriors who play beyond their own capacity and up to the tasks around them, and Elmohamady is such a guy. Regardless of what Villa does with the rest of their roster, this guy needs to be out there for them still, simply for the psychic space he claims, which allows others the metaphysical room to breathe and adjust to playing at a higher level than they had to last season. True spirit warrior shit. There is no stat for that, no matter how complicated your new-fangled metric analytics gets. [Raven]

#3: JACK GREALISH – Grealish made the feelgood news during promotion playoffs by wearing some gnarly ass nasty "lucky" cleats, which allegedly helped aid Villa in success. And to be fair, he's a kooky motherfucker, who also has been with the club since his days in their youth academy from the age of 6. That's 17 years of club relationship, at the age of 23, and there's no way you've been there that long and are such a weird goofy fucker as he is, that he won't remain part of their club. Tottenham were linked to a transfer move for the Villa captain, but allegedly Grealish rebuffed the offers, intent to remain with his boyhood club. And of course that's the type of shit that just solidifies a dude as a shitty club's supporters absolute all-time favorite. [Raven]

#4: JOHN MCGINN – I fear John McGinn is going to loom large in the regret-consciousness of Celtic FC supporters like myself. The dude has the club in his bloodline, as the grandson of a former Celtic chairman. He came through the ranks at St. Mirren FC, which is like a Glaswegian suburb club that struggles in the lower reaches of the SPL/upper reaches of the Scottish championship, but he always shone bright in the midfield, even as a teenager (or maybe I was led to believe that, as every match I ever watched that he played in the damn commentators would single him out and mention his family connection and minimum of three times in 90 minutes). He left for Hibernian under a pall, as the St. Mirren club captain at the time (a notorious aged and washed up Rangers man) straight-up speared him with a corner flag in training as a supposed practical joke. At Hibs he continued to develop as a midfield engine room powerhouse—that type of player that just relentlessly hounds the opposition, obsessed with claiming/maintaining possession of the ball and also chipping in with a few surge-from-central-midfield goals. After three solid seasons at Hibs, everyone wants him at Celtic: “La Rata” Brendan Rodgers, the fans, the player himself. But it don’t happen. I honestly don’t know what the “truth” of the matter is, but the story (and it works for me) is that the Celtic money-men tried to nickle-and-dime Hibs—like a matter of a couple hundred thousand pounds, which for a club like Celtic is pennies (and for EPL clubs is like lint next to the pennies under your couch cushion). Hibs told Celtic to fuck themselves on principle, and off yung McGinn goes to Villa, where he continues to develop as a midfield ravager and proves instrumental to their promotion. The taste rankles supporters of my ilk—dude had it all: the Celtic pedigree (even preferring the squad number 7, the most sacred number in Celtic FC numerology), the recognized ability, and pretty much seen as long-time captain Scott Brown’s replacement for both playing and leadership positions. And true to form, penny-pinching-ass board wrecks it. And now I’m hearing that Manchester United are about to drop mad, mad, mad SPL transfer money to bring him in at pretty much his peak potential—so we hemmed and hawed over 500,000 pounds (give or take) and could’ve made 50 million pounds. And yet it could all be bullshit and any number of permutations could’ve sent him to Villa—McGinn sussed Rodgers was made of bullshit, resentment at not being picked up by the Celtic youth system despite his club connections (to be honest, this is the one I’d bet on), banking on a quicker route to that EPL salary packet. But it’s all irrelevant, because an Iron Law of football is that supporters must despise the board (and rightly so, because they taint the beautiful game with calculations of profit and loss for investors over and against the club itself). So any excuse, however tenuous, needs to be used to nail those fuckers. Anyway, I suspect that McGinn will end up challenging our boy Robertson at Liverpool for the best Scottish player in the EPL (and therefore the best Scottish player in world football). I haven’t looked in detail, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Man United see him as the second coming of Roy Keane. [Paul]

#5: NEIL TAYLOR (previously ranked #21 for Swansea City on 15-Jan-2018) – The first sign of a couple dudes on this squad with Swansea City connections, Taylor was commonplace on Swans defensive line next to Ashley Williams back in the day. Taylor also was native Welsh, who only played for Wrexham professionally before Swans, so dragon flag-waving Welsh fucks were all about my man. Taylor eventually was out-rostered with Swans, and dealt in an actual trade which brought Jordan Ayew to Swansea (who slowly grew into one of my all-time faves because lolol he's so ridiculous). Taylor has held down consistent place with Villa ever since, but his role at PL-level was precarious at best. Villa has already signed Matt Targett on transfer from Southampton to "compete" with Taylor for that left back slot, which is club parlance for "we got a guy who we think will actually play at this level, but we're trying to be chill about it, ya know?" [Raven]

#6: TAMMY ABRAHAM (previously ranked #15 for Swansea City on 15-Jan-2018) – Ahh Tammy Abraham, who brought such high hopes during his season-long loan to Swansea City a few years back, yet it was a season that saw us relegated. Tammy performed well, but inconsistently, or just got shuffled into a sub role which he did not thrive in. Me and Paul got to see Tammy play for them when they did a U.S. tour and took on local Richmond Kickers (lol, for you international boys, our local lower level football clubs here in America take on amazingly creative nicknames like KICKERS or STRIKERS all the time) and Abraham's style of play is that classic African heritage striker psychology of constant prodding with explosiveness while also tinkering with seemingly slothful habits, which all seem to just be a precursor to strategically timed explosions which end in goals. It's that age old conflict of philosophy - is it better to work hard constantly and wear yourself out or save your energy and work in super efficient ways suddenly then be done with the shit? Thus Abraham is not a guy who thrives in substitute time, as he needs some room on the space-time continuum to achieve his most. Of course ultimately Abraham is a Chelsea-owned dude, who is running short on seasons they'll keep loaning him out, but also Chelsea has a two-window transfer ban verdict against them, so Abraham will try to finally break onto Chelsea's A-team this season. Of course, he'll have to do so as a sub, and that just refers back to all of the above I just laid out, which means you will likely finally see Tammy Abraham get transferred not just loaned to another club next season, and we might actually finally get to see the young man thrive. Of course, he's still only 21, so Chelsea might keep him under contractual wraps for another six years. [Raven]

#7: JAMES CHESTER (previously ranked #21 for West Brom Albion on 15-Jul-2017) – Another Welsh boy, with time on the national team, which isn't even a recognized nation. Also was a Man United youth, thus full of promise, but after half a decade of loans was finally sold off to Hull City, and he's been a permanent fixture in that tween player/tween club status ever since, with three years at Championship, then three in Premier League, which included a transfer to West Brom, before going back to Championship with Aston Villa the past three seasons. Knee injury last year fucked up his larger ambitions, and ultimately might fuck up all his future ambitions too. But he outchea. [Raven]

#8: ALAN HUTTON – I’m tempted to just type “Hun-ass Motherfucker” and leave it at that. But y’all need a little more. Another one of those born-and-bred Old Firm dudes, with (as is often the case with the Blue Lives Matter side of the equation) a cop-sounding name. I don’t know what it is about Rangers, but I wonder if they don’t have a thing with overhyped right backs like Alan the Hutt here. I remember watching him in matches and thinking he was ok, nothing at all spectacular. And now they’re going nuts over how much EPL cash they’re going to get for current right back James Tavernier, who to be as objectively honest as I can, outright sucks. But yet, the EPL will pay for these dudes, with Hutton rolling up in Tottenham for 9 million pounds. Predictably, it don’t work out for him there—regularly at least, such that Villa snap him up and he becomes (eventually, after a couple of loan moves) a club mainstay in both their former EPL run and the recent Championship seasons. But, after returning to EPL promised land, Hutton gets the boot. Looks like several mid-table Championship clubs are battling for his signature, and to be honest I’m surprised he’s not being touted as Rangers-return dude. [Paul]

#9: ALBERT ADOMAH (previously ranked #15 for Middlesbrough on 01-Apr-2017) – Some dudes are just born to second-tier, and Adomah appears to be one such dude. As a young human winger, he accelerated a rise unto the Championship with Bristol City, where he remained, although switching clubs. His one promotion, with Middlesbrough, saw him go from 40+ caps a season to only two, and they were relegated as well. He transferred to Aston Villa and was back to around 40-something caps the past three seasons, but with promotion back to Premier League, what should he expect? To be released, which is what happened, and he's likely to be signed by either Nottingham Forest or maybe a return to Bristol City, but either way, he's firmly entrenched in the Championship, where if he starts regularly, he'll likely go over 400 career caps in the Championship. [Raven]

#10: GLENN WHELAN (previously ranked E19 for Stoke City on 01-May-2018) – Irish defensive midfielder who spent the past two years at Villa after a long life at both Stoke City and Sheffield Wednesday before that. In fact, almost the entirety of his decade (!!!) at Stoke was spent at Premier League level, with him remaining a constant presence in the line-up. But two years of relegation to Championship level, plus already 35, means he was expendable, and released this past month as Aston Villa makes room for new signings. No word on where he'll end up. [Raven]

#11: ANWAR EL GHAZI – The Dutchman of Moroccan heritage is an important player for Aston Villa. He’s a dude who’s been in the “big leagues” starting with Ajax before moving onto Lille in France, and has played in the Champions League, even scoring a goal against Barcelona at Camp Nou, so this is a dude who has been around and who has seen things, and that is always important for a team trying to break their way back into the bright lights. The only thing that worries me is that Anwar here could have chosen to rep Morocco but chose the Netherlands because Cristiano Ronaldo told him that it would be an easier place to make it, which suggests something of a bitch, not only choosing the easy way but also seeking out advice from Ronaldo, but that is easy for me to say. I mean, roots are roots, but lots of money and girls with titties and blow are another thing and that is probably what he gets as a dude hanging around the Dutch national team, so I can’t blame him. Allahu Akbar, Anwar. [Neil]

#12: AXEL TUANZEBE – The young centreback here is tabbed for big things seeing as how he actually belongs to Manchester United. That’s great for him, but who knows what it means for Aston Villa now that they’re movin’ on up. They may be the new gentry in town, but the bourgeois don’t like to share their toys even with their fellow rent seekers, maybe especially with their fellow rent seekers, and especially especially with ones just moving into the lower floors of the building. But that is all rich people shit, and what does that mean for Axel Tuanzebe? Nothing, except he’s just a pawn in their game, just like the rest of us. Of course, he’ll get his rewards as a useful tool, maybe get to serve at the boss’s table and finger his daughter who wants a chance to rebel and thinks a young dude like this is dangerous, but in the end, they’ll just smile and give him a patronizing pat on the back and maybe some scraps from last night’s feast and then shut the doors on him while he spends the rest of his life on the outside remembering when he was “on” the inside and the boss’s daughter will marry another boss’s son, and this is just the way life is, Axel. This is just the way life is. Cheers, Axel. [Neil]

#13: JONATHAN KODJIA – I have been for the most part unable to spell Kodjia's surname correctly for the entirety of me working on the dork side of figuring these lists out. But I've been watching the African Cup of Nations on my computer regularly, because really I had hoped to be famous enough to have somebody pay me to go there and cover football metaphysics live by this 2019 event, but of course the financial structure of the world does not respect metaphysics. Nonetheless, in watching Cote d'Ivoire, Kodjia's performed exceptionally well, harkening back to his younger days playing in France (where he was born and raised). Makes one wonder how much language plays, and how a French speaking goal threat may not perform as well in English speaking nation. Of course this is bullshit because other than losing most of the season-before-last to an ankle injury, Kodjia has done well for Villa. Will that translate to PL? He never played above Ligue 2 in France, so this is his first stint with top flight club, but his strong showing in Egypt right now gives hope. [Raven]

#14: JED STEER – Jed John Steer. A goalkeeper with a name fit for the by-line of early 1990s copy-shop printed gay leather-bear erotica magazines. Back in the day (the early-mid 1990s), I hung (lol) with a crowd of southwest Virginia yung gay-bear-leather dudes. Probably my closest friends, to be honest. And it was, on occasion, a strange-dynamic. I’m nominally straight (-ish), but back then I was all pale and scrawny and had that hillbilly-androgyny thing you see going on sometimes. Basically the rough-trade extra in a John Waters film. And I did incline/decline towards some of the more deviant manifestations of sexuality, in a straight(-ish) context. So I would hang with my gay-leather-redneck-bear dudes and smoke metric shit-tons of weed (because you know those dudes had the best weed, fucking always—and mushrooms, and acid, and opium, and, later, meth). And as so happens when you’re stoned as fuck at your friends’ house (or at least, this is what I always ended up doing), you start rifling through whatever reading material is laying around on coffee and end tables—which if you’re a good druggie-den host you made sure to curate that stuff well. These dudes almost always, and quite understandably, had a bunch of gay leather-bear porn laying around—in the form of magazines, being pre-Internet days and all. There were VHS movies too, very rarely, because I don’t know, maybe that was too much for the yung straight high dude to see. But man, I LOVED those typewriter font paste-up story-mags—over-the-top shit like city queer and his buds decide to do a backwoods-ranch vacation in the hinterlands only to be raided, bound, and fucked by a bunch of rambunctious cowboys, and when the latter are passed out in post cattle-roping orgy bliss are bound up by the city bois and treated to some of their “own medicine” (with branding irons, probably). That shit was so absurdly beautifully written. I think it may have hit some aesthetic trigger born of watching so much wrestling as a kid—the drama of a promo, with all the homoerotics laid (lol) bare (lol) as fuck. Plus, filter that through being devastated on three-foot glass bong and bathtub gravity bong hits of Floyd County weed that smells like a skunk soaked in rubbing alcohol, and that also may or may not have received a light dusting with who the fuck knows what else (maybe PCP, maybe crushed Thorazine, maybe powdered mushrooms), and you have some phenomenal entertainment that the digital age can never hope to match. So one of those stories about hairy, bearded muscle men traveling the Interstate highway system in vans and RVs to cum, piss, and shit all over each other, and shove beer, whiskey, knives, cigars, handguns, and rebar up their asses and under their balls could well have had the byline “Jed John Steer”. I say all this not just to poke fun at a loan-whiplashed goalkeeper who may finally be getting his moment, but to emphasize the inherent spirit necessary for a good goalkeeper in modern football—a guy that you might look at, his 6ft 3in frame filling the goal at some final minute 1-0 up home match and the opponents with a freekick in a “dangerous position”, and know that he’s into some really sweet kinky sex shit. [Paul]

#15: TYRONE MINGS (previously ranked #22 for Bournemouth on 15-Mar-2018) – Mings is a back who can play either in the middle or left side, and was loaned from Bournemouth the second half of last season to Villa, who are now desperate to sign him on a permanent transfer. It is also funny because Mings became a supporters' favorite in that period, so they're all over Villa to secure the transfer, and overanalyzing every tweet Mings sends out. Being a rabid idiotic club supporter in 2019 with social media and believing culturally everything is a conspiracy with Q-anon-like SECRET HINTS WITHIN TWEETS BY RANDOM ASS DEFENDERS is how you figure out a dude is signing for your fave club. Not that it's just some weird ass and mostly far more incompetent than you'd expect business dudes hashing out details, which often means people forget to get back to each other, not that they're actively sitting there in constant discussion. Somewhere at least four times this summer somebody has gone, "oh shit, I forgot to respond to that Mings message" which to a bunch of Villa supporters, they're refreshing their favorite site feeds hourly. Haha, being alive is so fucking stupid in 2019. [Raven]

#16: ORJAN NYLAND – Norwegian Nyland was GK of choice at times, but suffered achilles injury which defaulted the post-minding to Jed Steer. Nyland likely not returning to Villa this upcoming season, though he's not landed anywhere else as of yet either, so is sort of floating in that purgatory of potentially being back-up. But Villa's also looking to pick the relegated carcass of previous PL teams, and Cardiff City's Neil Etheridge might move to Villa, thus relieving them of any need for Nyland as insurance. [Raven]

#17: MILE JEDINAK (previously ranked #16 for Crystal Palace on 15-Mar-2017) – The old warhorse who used to be Crystal Palace’s heart and the Australian captain ihas been put out to pasture, released by Aston Villa after helping get them to the Premier League, but that is just what happens to old warhorses. He’s had a fine life, and he surely leaves Aston Villa psychically richer. There’s not much else to say about a dude like this. He’s had his time and now his time is through and that is just the way of things. Maybe he latches on somewhere else, but probably he just heads back to Australia, settles down with a Sheila or a Dingo or whatever the fuck and tries not to get bitten by some mutant outback spider and to be honest there’s nothing wrong with that, it is about as good as any of us can hope for. G’day Mile. [Neil]

#18: TOMMY ELPHICK (previously ranked #22 for Bournemouth on 15-May-2017) – Elphick sneaks onto this list, despite having mostly appeared for Villa in the first season after their relegation in 2016. He actually had been loaned out to both Reading and Hull City the past season and a half, thus he was part of the pack of dudes Villa released this past month. Huddersfield Town, already looking to restock for Championship relegation season of their own, gobbled Elphick up. [Raven]

#19: SAM JOHNSTONE – A Man United youth product who also was owned by them for a long ass time, which culminated a series of long-term multi-season loans, first to Doncaster Rovers, then to Preston North End, and finally to Aston Villa for two entire seasons upon their relegation to Championship, where he did well, but not enough ot maintain the job, although season-before-last, he was their guy (Villa's, metaphorically speaking, because contractually Man United still owned him). That gave Man United enough reason to pawn him off to West Brom last season, where he remains their guy now, both metaphorically and contractually. [Raven]

#20: BIRKIR BJARNASON – Fuck man, what a name. Of course, he is from Iceland, and his first club was even called Viking for fuck’s sake. This is a dude with some serious psychic spirit warrior powers at first glance. Of course, on second glance he is a 31 year old who has only vaguely been a factor in the upper reaches of European club football, bouncing around from his homeland to Belgium and Italy and Switzerland before finding himself in England, which honestly is appropriate for a man of restless Viking heritage, but I’m not sure what that says about him as a player. But does it really matter? He is Birkir Bjarnson, a Viking from Iceland, good enough to play on their national team and good enough to burn and loot and pillage his way through terrified frontier territories and monasteries where they keep all the good silver and the fat young monks with virgin asses. He’ll be fine. Skál, Birkir Bjarnason. [Neil]

#21: ANDRE GREEN – Young winger (about to turn 21 later this month) who came up through their youth academy and has sparingly played at Championship level so far, so Premier League might be asking a lot of the young man. Unfortunately, winger is a spot Villa is not deep at, so though he might could benefit from a loan to lower tier, even back at Championship, he may be forced to pull duty with Villa. Which of course, if you were a 21-year-old dude, that'd be great, regardless if it's for shitty ass Aston Villa or not. [Raven]

#22: ROBERT SNODGRASS (previously ranked #13 for West Ham United on 01-Mar-2019) – Another one of those Scottish players in the tiresome category of “when will they come back to Scotland and sign for Rangers or Celtic?” Competent enough, as he’s bounced all around the English League setup, across clubs and has a pretty solid goal record for a winger in that environment. Really not much here to work with—I applaud his harassment of drug-testing officials, that he was apparently pulled up for at one point. I also see that he copped a charge for driving around Glasgow with the car’s passenger holding a baby in the lap. The best I can do here is reminisce about being a child of the late 70s/early 80s in a rural Southern U.S. working-class environment—to whit, I don’t remember having a car seat. Ever. I DO remember sitting in the back seat, on the driveshaft contour, of my dad’s 69 Mustang Cobra Jet and how sikk the chrome cobra logo on the center console was. And I remember my grandmothers holding me in their laps while my grandfathers drove. But no carseat, no seatbelt, here. That changed quick in the 80s though, such that I recall my grandmother actually getting a ticket for holding my cousin in her lap in the car—and he was like 3 or four at the time. [Paul]

#23: KORTNEY HAUSE (previously ranked #17 for Wolverhampton on 01-Jun-2018) – Hause is a burly defender who played for Villa the second half of last season during their promotion run, on loan from the Wolves. Villa made that move permanent this past month, which is part of the dilemma of a second-tier club utilizing a bunch of loans. With Tammy Abraham for example, you can't make it permanent, so you're achieving success with guys who are not going to remain. With Hause, they had an option-to-buy clause built into his loan, so were able to make it permanent at a relatively affordable (by PL standards) fee. This was a strong move on their part, even though Hause has never made a Premier League line-up. A London boy who came up in West Ham's youth academy before being released, which lolol wow I hadn't really thought about the fact actual kids get released from youth academies. An interesting note: after his time at West Ham ended, he was in Birmingham City's youth academy before ending up at Wycombe Wanderers, whom he turned professional with. He spent a couple seasons as a Wycombe Wanderer, before transferring and being contractually obligated to Wolverhampton Wanderers up until this past month. Thus, the past few weeks are the first time in his adult life he hasn't been, contractually speaking, a Wanderer. [Raven]

#24: JAMES BREE – Bree's a defender who got loaned down the Championship table last season to Ipswich Town, who were relegated to League One. He was not a consistent feature there even, so it's hard to imagine a guy struggling to crack the starting XI consistently at a Championship-tier relegated club is going to get a spot once returning to Championship-tier promoted club. And yet, he's only 21, so he has not been released yet, because at that age, the club can pretend he's yet to fully develop, which may be the case but uhh it probably should start happening. [Raven]

#25: JOHN TERRY (previously ranked #15 for Chelsea on 15-Sep-2017) – Alongside Alan Shearer and Steve Gerrard, the final head in the Cerberus of hated-ass English football. All I see are interchangeable goofy-looking, doughy-faced white dude with a “hard man” reputations. I mentioned it in an earlier 25 Man Metaphysical list, so let me take this opportunity to unpack my hatred and contempt for English football (and England as a national concept). Some of my English friends have understandably and justifiably taken issue with my raging Anglophobia, and that’s fair. But understand that it’s rooted in deep-seeded/seated self-hatred on both a macro and a micro level. On the first point, the United States, for all our asinine chest-thumping about exceptionalism is really just an extension of England—in both psychic national outlook and world ambition: whiteness, Protestantism, Empire. It’s that simple. Hell, I honestly think Canada is less English than the United States—what with dirty French Catholics, First Nations, Metis, and wack Prairie Mennonites exerting considerable influence over Anglo domination. So I hate my American-ness, which is really just a moderately bastardized evolution of English-ness. And I expect any decent English dude to have that same degree of national contempt. On the micro level, I can’t stand how strange, kooky, outcast white American “smart” kids (of whom I was one, a generation ago) try to take refuge in English culture (both high and popular). Back in my day, it was Monty Python, Dr. Who, and some mix of self-consciously English punk/goth music. Thinking that Shakespeare, or T.S.-fucking-Eliot were the pinnacle of literature, thumping that Joy Division, and planning some kind of high-tea salon wherein your other outcast friends get together and discuss matters of import. Today, I guess it’s Harry Potter, still fucking Dr. Who (die already, you egomaniacal sex predator), and maybe Downton Abby (or any of the other BBC/PBS period pieces I see on-demand). I’m troubled by how even us well-meaning “liberal” kids tried to take refuge in undiluted manifestations of the same cultural superiority bullshit that makes America so heinous in the first instance. I even have the notion that a lot of this shit is the gateway drug to “smart” kids going Alt-Right these days—like that cultural chauvinist kid-dude that just yesterday got his ass beat by Antifa at the Portland protest. I don’t know his background, and don’t care enough to research it, but I saw a brief video where he was making his bleeding-for-the-West martyr statement, and it seemed to me like he was affecting a learned, high literate English accent—some variant of what they call “droll” I guess. Is there not a huge difference, in time, space, and cultural weight, of some Alt-Right American kid taking a beatdown for western, white, English-speaking superiority complexes (even though he has east Asian ancestry) and some old-ass casually racist central defender lunk English national sporting hero? Yes, because both hit that English (culture AND nation) pride button. As this project progresses, I’m gonna try to chip away at these metaphysical biases and conceits. [Paul]

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