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.

Saturday, November 16

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION FC

{An important Seagull moment - last goal at Goldstone Ground, which helped them survive relegation to fourth division in 1997.} 

[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 us tips @ravenmack23.]

Let us discuss the footballing metaphysics of this Brighton & Hove Albion football club, which sounds so wonderfully magical to my American ears, like fevered daydreams of Beatrix Potter as she masturbates in her country cabin surrounded by a labyrinthine meditative maze of finely cultivated red poppy gardens, grown for medicating away the world’s ills, not for remembering historical conflicts. A lovely little south coastal city (hence the Seagulls nickname) where bold and daring artistic people walk down the street singing that “EVERY WOMAN IS A LESBIAN AT HEART” song from Pride as loud as can be, dancing like Jimmy McNulty. We don’t have magical things like that in American sports… we have dullard names like the Dallas Cowboys or Pittsburgh Steelers or Phoenix Suns or Brooklyn Nets. You see, it’s a basketball team, so they’re called the Nets. Also, the Washington Nationals. They literally just gave themselves a nickname of like, being a fucking country. But Brighton & Hove, two separate but right there together resorts, where people who can afford to do so are living the good progressive life. That prosperity is evident throughout the club. This was a fourth tier football team less than 20 years ago. Their old historic Goldstone Ground, where they played for nearly a century, was sold (as part of that regional prosperity) and demolished, to build commercial shit. Supporters had a couple of late era pitch invasions in the late ‘90s to protest this tomfoolery, and the club played home matches 70 miles away for a couple seasons. But they also started to benefit from that same neoliberal prosperity, stalking their way back up the English footballing pyramid, and once their benevolent Lizard, Tony Bloom took over, it was time to dream. Bloom (aka The Lizard… seriously, that’s what he’s known as) made a fortune through online gambling, and then property investments, so it’s your usual tale of a man manufacturing exorbitant wealth from vice and avarice, a tale as old as civilization itself. Two years after he took the reins as chairman, they won League One to get back to the Championship, had a new stadium built, and completed the path to the Premier League three seasons ago. Chris Hughton had been a highly popular manager that oversaw half a decade of this rise, but after the Albion were only 2 points beyond relegation at the end of last season, he had to suffer sacking. That’s the way of the Premier League. And obviously they needed a magical replacement for such a hugely popular figure, so they got Graham Potter (from my beloved Swansea City), a tactical mastermind (allegedly), and great grand nephew to Beatrix Potter herself. I am hopeful for a Jemima Puddleduck-esque seagull character to eventually appear onto the public consciousness, scattering magical intentions among the youth of south England, and enchanting this club (along with the Lizard’s money) to new heights.

But also, let’s be real here – once you get beyond the top 4 clubs in the Premier League table right now, it’s a two match swing between 5th and 17th place. At this very point, there’s three classes – the upper class of 4, the three stuck in relegation zone right now (who need drastic hope), and then the chunk of everyone else, which even includes Man United and Arsenal right now. Within this clusterfuck, all most clubs who are not one of the greatly ordained of English football can hope for, is to become a brief flame that perfectly captures money and manager and personnel into a bright blast of eternal memories. This likely means a Europa League run of some sorts, and allowing supporters to talk drunkenly of cracking the Big Six’s blood money fraternity. But then again, look at Leicester, who are in second currently, and shocking the world in similar fashion to a couple seasons back when they miraculously won the PL.

How have Brighton & Hove Albion done it though? Who are their most prominent players? Well that’s what this football metaphysics 25-man roster is all about. We compile the minutes of the club’s past 100 competitive matches (no friendlies), and weight today more heavily than the past (as you should in your own life, to be honest… thus don’t just wear a poppy pin, GROW POPPIES EVERYWHERE!), and we metaphysically deduce the 25 men who have the heaviest unseen foot in a club’s current status. Then myself, Neil, and Paul, deduce what this means on a case-by-case basis. For me, it usually involves taking my “soul shine plus” tincture, custom made by my former wife, who realized she was lesbian, and once that realization settled would often tease me with that “EVERY WOMAN IS A LESBIAN” song from Pride, and rambling about the geopolitical historical context of the player. For Paul, it tends to be that geopolitical analysis times 3, but from an anti-English, pro-Celtic bent, which also hates the hyper-English whiteness of America, all while wanting a thick woman to sit on his face until he is literally dead. And for Neil, oh lovely errant Neil, who cannot afford to get a gold chain and Camaro to parade up and down the street opposite whoever he is trying to show, it means taking cheap and dangerous opiates and launching from Wikipedia look-ups into gibberish ramblings. The three of us together may not appear to be much (although we’re already 1000 words into this thing and haven’t even technically begun it proper), but as a trio, we are the purest of American football voices, un-American when it comes to that empirical conquering American exceptionalism thinking, but we all three are people of the dirt, of the mud, of the Earth, of the rust and cracked leather, of the vacant strip mall and swimming quarry where three kids got paralyzed on acid. We are truth, even when we try not to be. [RAVEN]

#1: LEWIS DUNK (same as last time Brighton & Hove Albion was metaphysically ranked on 15-Dec-2018, as well as the time before that on 01-Jan-2018; thus THREE METAPHYSICAL STARS!) – The Brighton captain and mainstay center back has been with the club all his footballing life, which is an impressive display of loyalty these days when everyone is a cutthroat mercenary pirate. But he has stuck with his club through relegation and promotion, displaying the sort of steady quality that a club like Brighton doesn’t see enough of. The son of a footballer, Mark Dunk, who toiled at Sussex in obscurity, Lewis has made his old man proud, which is some appreciable psychic energy to bring to a club, as so many of us have let down problematic fathers who are ashamed that we know how to read and maybe this is just me projecting, but maybe not, and good for Lewis Dunk for making his dad proud. [NEIL]

#2: MATHEW RYAN (up from #3 last time) – Having experimented with one classic mode career in Football Manager 2015 where I took over a lowest level club in every nation available, stockpiled my team with the top native talent, in an attempt to appeal to nativists as I climbed to the ranks, only to abandon them to go to some other nation afterwards, I am very familiar with Matthew Ryan. He was key to my success in the Australian leagues (which is actually only one league, and built similar to America’s MLS), so much so I brought him with me when I jumped to an Indian club. Our time together at Bengaluru was a joy, partaking of the wonderful South Indian cuisine, and often smoking opium together while looking at Urdu poetry texts, scheming up notions of learning the language well enough to translate Urdu sonnets into English. We never got far with that though, outside of some limited vocabulary in a composition book we both wrote in over tea while smoking, and when I left India to take a new position in Peru, I didn’t bring him with me. As far as I know, in that corner of the multiverse, Matthew Ryan is still stuck in Bangalore, although it’s been about 43 seasons since then, so who knows if he’s still even alive. I am though. In that particular classic career, I am 93, and still remarkably sharp. Also I have unlimited transfer funds because I have cultivated financial relationships with international drug barons. That’s also how I get opium. I never until just now thought about how Ryan would’ve had to find a new opium supplier when I left. It really got him, like he had a very nervous look in his eyes on the training pitch when it had been a few days since I’d had him over for that pure opium I had access to. Shit man, maybe he didn’t even like Urdu poetry now that I think about it. Fuckin’ junkie, working me like a mark. I’ve got to be more careful with who I trust. [RAVEN]

#3: DALE STEPHENS (up from #4 last time) – Stephens is one of the dudes who was constant presence at Championship level (played in 45 out of 46 in 2015-16) who has kept his presence at Premier League level. Supporters love dudes like this. One thing that trips me out about English culture compared to American culture is the apparent lack of desire to use initials. Stephens’ full name is Dale Christopher Stephens, and how the fuck more impressive would D.C. Stephens be compared to fuckin’ Dale? Of course, we in America are all about showy bullshit, oftentimes lacking actual substance, so maybe that’s not the best goal to shoot for. Anyways, D.C. Stephens remains prominent role player in the midfield for the Albion, and to be honest I always love these guys like this that have played at every level of like the top six or seven tiers of English football, are sitting around the age of 30, and just get to ride out this brief Premier League existence they have as a footballer, which you know is going to be the shit they talk about until they’re old and almost dead. [RAVEN]

#4: SHANE DUFFY (down from #2 last time) – For a modern footballer, Duffy has been through/seen some shit in his time. He’s automatically going to appeal to me because of his place of birth: Derry, Ireland. As I have I think already mentioned on here, when I am not scribbling and tapping away about the world’s football in nonsensical-all-the-damn-sense in the world ways, I am a lowly college literature professor, mostly in the areas of Southern and/or Appalachian letters. I sometimes show this video by this Appalachian mystery novel writer lady talking about how people that misspeak “Appalachia” and put that “y” and maybe a “sh” for the “ch” are basically outside Yankee or Plantation South neo-colonial assholes (I generalize and hyperbolize here, but the essence is that you ain’t from there and that you possibly-to-likely don’t have the best interests of po’ folks at heart). Whereas if you say it with that “t” after the “la” and do the “ch” along the lines of “cheese”, then you are saying it as Allah in His Jannah intended. And you are probably, but not certainly, down. She straight-up compares it to the difference between someone in Ireland saying “Derry” or “Londonderry”—that there choice tells a local all they need to know about you (so best not be shrugged-shoulders ignorant in your choice). So along the lines of another player that has to have the black balaclava taken away from him by the kit man in the dressing room, James McClean (intense hater of Elizabeth II), Duffy chose (through some FIFA or UEFA allowance) to represent the Republic of Ireland over the (temporary) accident that is the Northern Ireland administrative division of his birth. Outside of the Balkans, this is probably the most controversial double middle-fingers choice an international footballer in Europe can make. Like a few boys from the area, he seems just as adept at Gaelic Football as the Sassenach variety for which he gets paid those EPL pounds. He’s also had his liver exploded in a training accident and managed to score two own goals *and* get sent off in a match. Which damn, that’s some luck. Add in a sweet red-carded for taking out noted Vaudevillian Antoine Griezmann in international play and Shane is looking more than alright. So to summarize: politically antagonistic fuck-you Britain surly center back with serious internal war wounds who took out a little white shithead that fancies blackface. I have no choice but to love the dude. [PAUL]

#5: DAVY PROPPER (up from #6 last time) – The digital vaporwaves are mostly known as electronic muzak to cut through the ever-present They Live-iathan fog that permeates all our tracked motions in the dystopia. Resistant characters created in the cybertronic realm to combat Yakubian devil plans within the copper wires, micro-spirit warriors vaccinated against robot allegiance by a single drop elder birch semen, placed upon the third eye’s general location on the dome’s frontal topography. The ultimate spirit warrior in this unseen realm where the silent wars are happening is the yung Davy Pröpper, surname acquired because of innate ability to analyze artificial intelligence’s manufactured tendrils in a full and proper fashion, aided by the epic poems of the elder birches, which he sat under from a young age, a descendent of the forest people on the interior of what is now colloquially referred to as “the netherlands”. Pröpper amazed the elder birch spirits by comprehending their runes, suggesting some sort of lineage to Odin himself, with the Yggdrasil tree’s poetry having trickled through blood lines unto the young Pröpper. It has also been suggested that Pröpper speaks the language of the gulls, often seen tromping along the coastline, with wisps of purple sage smoke enveloping his head, as gulls fly overhead in erratic but mesmerizing murmurations. These unexplainable by data or science or even traditional football scouting techniques phenomenon seem more powerful than ever, contributing to Brighton & Hove’s opening day ceremonial largest Premier victory ever of 3-0 over Watford, in which Pröpper assisted on one goal officially, and psychically on 4 (two of which not reflected on the physical realm’s score), suggesting powerful forces at play. It is the presence of such strange nomadic wizardry, usually conducted through strange souls such as Pröpper, that enables a middling club to appear more powerful than what makes normal sense, and even conquer the traditional overlords on occasion, such as repeating that high watermark of three goal official victory feat this past month over the mighty Hotspurs of London’s Tottenham district. But the invisible wars between micro-spirit warriors and the overarching dominion of the Earth attempted to be exerted by economic devils do not relent, and the mighty robotic machines of marketing and death like Manchester United and Arsenal shall not relinquish their control without horrible and often unfair fights. But rest assured, with the language of the gulls and the aid of the ancient oral texts of the elder birches, Davy Pröpper shall fare as well as a “supporter” of what’s real could hope for. [RAVEN]

#6: PASCAL GROB (up from #10 last time) – Young Pascal, who has one of those weird ass German surnames, pronounced “Gross” I believe, although who is to say in these strange and terrible times, comes to Brighton from Germany, which is where he first made a name for himself for various clubs, most notably FC Ingolstadt 04, which is an impressively obscure place to make a name for yourself. Like his captain, Lewis Dunk, Groß is a second generation footballer, as his dad Stephan Groß played for Kalrsruher SCM which again is some impressively obscure lineage. But Pascal here has assumedly made his daddy proud, which is more than most of us can say, see previously mention reading ability. Anyway, Pascal is a midfielder of middling account, which is something to be I guess. Beats sucking dick in an alley for crank anyway, but not by much as let’s not get too judgy on those who enjoy some nice crank or those who enjoy sucking a nice dick, god bless ‘em. [NEIL]

#7: GLENN MURRAY (same as last time) – Near-geriatric striker that has jobbed like a motherfucker throughout his career, including time served in US soccer with dead-and-buried Wilmington Hammerheads early on. I bet US soccer in Wilmington was heinous—always struck me a place where the white people are hella full of themselves and their privilege, thus generating a tide of children splitting time between soccer practice and Presbyterian catechism lessons. Glenn climbs up and down and all around the English League ladder, but in two stints across three levels seems to have cemented his position as a Brighton notable. Career highlights include a goal in Stevie G’s final (as a player) humiliation match. He’s held it down surprisingly well as a consistent striker in the Premier League, although I suspect he’s beginning the slow fade this season and if Brighton stay up may well relocate to yet another lower league club. Still, he seems obviously very fit and capable, so he’s probably going to be one of those chill dudes that’s still playing for some regional semi-pro club at age 52—further shaming my mid-40s derelict ass [for real y’all, I’m writing this in bed with a heating pad under my ass and an ice pack on my head, at 9:00 on a Friday night]. [PAUL]

#8: MARTIN MONTOYA (up from #19 last time) – Interesting lineage at the right fullback spot, with Bruno’s retirement, and Martin Montoya taking over that space, as Montoya was a way more touted player early on (having come through Barcelona’s system), but like Bruno is a Catalan, and like Bruno came directly from Valencia to Brighton & Hove. Montoya actually plays internationally for the UEFA-unrecognized Catalonia national team as well. It’s like they got a newer and hopefully upgraded version of Bruno somehow. [RAVEN]

#9: SOLLY MARCH (same as last time) – I had a hard time believing a human being named “Solly March” existed, but he does (although of course finding his existence on the internet proves nothing, because this all could be an elaborate sham designed to make me write 100 words about “Solly March” because two space alien overlords bet a dollar that I wouldn’t do it). He’s played his entire senior career for the Albion, outside of a single appearance for Lewes FC in the Isthmian Leagues when he was still under 18. I really only added that last sentence to bore the space alien overlords, although while you are looking I’d like to thank you for Hawkwind. So many of us truly appreciate you sending them to Earth for us to enjoy. [RAVEN]

#10: ANTHONY KNOCKAERT (down from #5 last time) – Every time I see this dude’s name in a match report, I think of some German adulterated sliced meat in the deli section of the grocery store. Probably made out of 15 parts of a fat, barely mobile Alpine cattle breed, ground, pickled, and aged for months in a wooden crate on the outskirts of some Baden or the other. Or maybe just a chemical process purporting to simulate all that, in a New Jersey processing plant. No one buys that stuff except for your crazy uncle that kept a handle of Aristocrat behind the seat and a pint of classic grape Mad Dog in the glove box of his 1972 Opal station wagon that no one knows how the fuck some peckerwood in southwest Virginia came by a foreign car like that (I mean, Beetles and Ghias are one thing, but this?….)They’ve nicknamed it the “Green Weenie” and he’s covered the ripped seats with black duct tape and there’s literally a pile of rifles and shotguns stacked up in the back, so it’s all good. He already liked those pink pickled eggs and red hot sausages on the counter of the gas station, so when his best friend’s wife that he brought back from his time in the Berlin Brigade (dodging Vietnam like a champ) offered him a Knockaert sandwich, he was skeptical at first. But he got a taste for that sweet-sour sample of European packaged meat absurdism. Surprisingly to me, Knockaert the player is actually French, but he’s from one of those European border places where names blend together and the bullshit of rabid, exclusionary  nationalism gets exposed for the garbage that it is. Or maybe it really is a French name/word and I persist in my stupid American-ness. Knockaert seems like a solid, if not spectacular, winger on that EPL/Championship liminal zone. Brighton sent him down to Fulham on loan, which is odd considering he didn’t appear to be dropping in his output, and also that Brighton aren’t exactly spoiled for wingers. [PAUL]

#11: GAETAN BONG (down from #8 last time) – The impressively named young Bong here, and who among us doesn’t appreciate a good bong, comes to Brighton from a variety of clubs in his native France, most longly (is that a word? Fuck it, it is now) with Valenciennes, who briefly sold his ass off to Olympiacos, where he surely appreciated some nice Greek ass. He then found his way to English shores with Wigan and now Brighton, where he is just barely hanging on. He deserves better though as he repped France in his youth career before going rogue and saying lol see ya suckers and switching his international loyalties to Cameroon, the people of his blood. That is an applaudable move in my idiot opinion and should bring some nice psychic Spirit Warrior energy to Brighton, if only they would give poor Gaeton a real chance, which is on him if he steps his game up, but I believe he will, if only because he is a dude named Bong who reps Cameroon. May the lord, whoever it is, bless and keep him. [NEIL]

#12: BERNARDO (up from #22 last time) – Bernardo is an interesting story with regards to footballing path, because at age 17, in his native Sao Paulo, Brazil, he moved to Red Bull Brasil, owned by the same global conglomerate that makes Red Bull energy drinks, and has football clubs on four continents, most notably with the New York Red Bulls in MLS, as well as RB Salzburg in Austria and the big one, RB Leipzig in Germany. Once Bernardo was hooked up to that global corporate entity, he transferred between Red Bull owned clubs multiple times, actually playing for both Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig. After making a name for himself with the German Bundesliga club, he was sold to Brighton & Hove Albion in July 2018. A lot of times when players bounce around different places, we can consider it free will, and they’re trying to find a good fit. But in this case it’s literally a kid from Brazil being shipped around the world by the corporation that bought his ownership rights to play football, until they sold him to an English club looking to bolster their defense. Colonialism often comes up in the context of football metaphysics, but all too often our current analysis tries to separate global corporations from colonialism, as two entirely different situations. But really they are the same, just a newer version of the old colonialism, which can successfully navigate the limitations of governmental order once the colonial system collapsed. Bernardo’s still young though (only 24), so I hope he finds the same comfort along the English southern coast as Bruno did, and steps into a similar role. And even though being Brazilian, which means Portuguese is his native language (lol, due to colonialism though), not Spanish (like the rest of Latin America, which the Spanish colonized), supporters could easily just plug in a “Bernardoooooooo!” at the end of their desire to keep on doing the Ole! chants. (Also, I can’t easily do “ole” as “olé” like I actually should, also because of colonialism, and I exist in a former English colony, so my keyboard doesn’t have the proper accents automatically, without great effort made on my part. Sometimes I mean to start making that effort in these football write-ups, but also I think to myself if I wanna start making that much effort on something like that, I should just start working to learn Persian instead, so I can read Attar of Nishapur’s works in their original language. [RAVEN]

#13: YVES BISSOUMA (up from #17 last time) – Young Yves here is a youngster who hasn’t gotten a chance to really show his game yet as a midfielder for Brighton. Coming to you from Mali, who he represents internationally, Yves was actually born in the Ivory Coast, who he was most recently seen competing against for Mali, which is some dark African shit I don’t want to criticize or get involved with for fear of having my dick stolen by witch doctors. Is that racist? I don’t even know anymore, but what I do know is that young Yves has some work to do if he ever hopes to make a real name for himself with Brighton. I believe he can do it, again mostly because I don’t want to have my dong stolen by said witch doctors who I totally respect and please don’t take my dick, okay? [NEIL]

#14: BRUNO (down from #11 last time) – Let us recognize the beauty of the elder Catalonian fullback, with the shaven head and strong beard of a man resistant against bullshit societal conventions, who spent his entire 20s in Spain, which though that’s his national registration with the bureaucrats at FIFA, cannot be considered his native land, as he is Catalonian. Many years back, when Brighton & Hove Albion secured promotion from League One to the Championship, Bruno was their big signing after that jump, coming over from Valencia to the south coast of England, where he settled in as their man in back on the right side of things. It was a simple two-year deal, but Bruno became the defensive face of the club, continually getting extensions, and earning the captain’s armband as well. Despite 35 cycles around the sun on this Earthly orb, he remained their first choice at right side fullback even upon promotion to England’s top tier, where he maintained a steady (though not every matchday) presence, a good two-thirds of the time showing up in the starting XI. The first match of last season saw a hamstring injury that opened the door for the young lion Martin Montoya to assume that spot in the starting squad. Bruno showed back up for a strong club-wide defensive spell in October, and played in the early rounds of the FA Cup. He was inserted into 5 of their last 6 league matches though, and aided them in narrowly avoiding relegation back to the Championship, whereupon he announced his retirement, with his final words after his final match (which sadly was overshadowed by Man City stomping on Brighton to claim the PL title) being “Once a Seagull, always a Seagull.” Apparently Bruno did not finalize his decision to retire until Brighton was safe from relegation – a true spirit warrior accepting his captain’s role fully to heart. Fellow defender Lewis Dunk has taken over the captain’s armband this season, but obviously, Bruno’s presence will be missed. Every shooting star of a club has those long-time tenants who occupied important roles in a club’s rise from the second- and sometimes third-tier of English football. And it is always a sad moment to see them go. But it is better in some way to see them be able to retire true to the club they gave so much too than wander off to another club. Bruno will always be loved in Brighton & Hove, and the echoes of “Ole! Ole! Ole! Brunooooooo!” chants will hang in the æther of Falmer Stadium for many seasons to come. [RAVEN]

#15: BERAM KAYAL (down from #13 last time) – Finally, a player I’m legit stoked to write about, and one that I’ve actually watched play in a fair number of matches. In assessing a footballer, there are so many metaphysical factors that we hold at a premium—soul-eating, spirit-warrioring, wild-man unpredictability, etc. Beram has several fine playing qualities, but I quite like him because he is…..goofy. He’s this smiling Arab dude that seems overjoyed by life and the chance to play football. I was pretty stoked when Celtic gave him the move up from Israeli football to Europe [see what I did there?] He was a skilled defensive midfielder—not so much a brutalizer as a harrier. Wherever the ball went, he followed. Neil Lennon, in his first managerial spell, obviously fancied him as a player. And Kayal was saying all the right things about learning that DM position from a former master of it like his new manager. Kayal even captained Celtic on several occasions that I remember and I thought it was absolutely fucking beautiful to watch the dude leading out the ostensibly Catholic Irish Rebel Antifa team doing sunnah as he walked onto the pitch. And it didn’t seem like an issue at all for the supporters. In one of the vagaries of football metaphysics and football fate, Kayal and fellow midfielder Scott Brown (now of legendary Celtic captain status) were vying for the role of team heart—they played the same positional role and had the same levels of physical and spiritual drive, but of course “there can be only one” in such instances. And then in one Old Firm match, Beram got broken. Lee McCulloch, whose footballing soul and footballing abilities were probably more American than Scottish, in that he was a rank combination of reptilian-brained brutality and sheer tactical incompetence, jammed Kayal hard on a “tackle.” He was never the same player, for Celtic at least, after that. He’d have flashes, but something was gone. I was happy to see that he seemed to flourish again for Brighton, but he seems to be winding down into the Championship with a loan. I confess to some confusion over players like Kayal—Arabs that choose to represent the Israeli National Team. Celtic, with it’s very (very) pro-Palestinian affiliations is now on their second Israeli Arab player (who took Kayal’s old Celtic number specifically as a shout-out) and also has one long-serving Jewish Israeli player. Fan chatter has referred to them, at one time or another, as “the Palestinian Fenian” and I have to wonder what these players think about such attributions. Kayal, if I remember correctly, came from a Bedouin background, and I’m not particularly sure how much they identify with the Palestinian movement. The Jewish dude ran afoul of pretty much everyone when he tossed out an IDF chest thumping tweet early in his Celtic tenure, and it disappeared right quick, to be replaced with some “peace for everyone” type boilerplate. But then there was a rumor that dude got froze out of the national team setup because of the club for which he plied his trade. I don’t know really what to make of this, but Celtic and geopolitics (football and geopolitics) are inseparable, and Kayal was at the center of some of my (still unanswered) questions on this tip. [PAUL]

#16: DAN BURN – Whichever space alien overlord lost the bet on Solly March must’ve went double or nothing on “Dan Burn”. Burn’s mostly played for Wigan Athletic the past few seasons though, including even being loaned back to them last season after he transferred to Brighton. Shout out to noted Wigan supporter and other Dan, this dude Dan on twitter. He’s part of our ridiculous football picking League of the Doomed, which is getting down to its final few matches of Clausura 2019, and to be honest, I’m more concerned about that than a motherfuckin’ Dan Burn. [RAVEN]

#17: JURGEN LOCADIA (up from #21 last time) – Locadia didn’t get a ton of action last season, but was integral in one of their hypest moments, at Millwall in an FA Cup quarterfinal. They were two down after two quick goals by Millwall towards the end of second half. The degenerates at The Den were rocking, and things looked doomed, until Locadia gave the Seagulls hope with an 88th minute goal. Solly March added an equalizer five minutes into injury time, and it ended up going to penalties, with Brighton winning, and advancing to an FA Cup semifinal, their best showing in the competition since playing Manchester United for the trophy in 1983, and forcing a replay (back when they still did replays instead of penalties). Locadia got action in two early season matches before going off to 1899 Hoffenheim IN A FUCKIN’ TIME MACHINE for a season long loan. Not sure how “season long” is defined in terms of time travel. [RAVEN]

#18: ALIREZA JAHANBAHKSH (up from #24 last time) – In following World Cup qualification cycles and national team trends the past decade or so, I fell in love with the Iranian national team while Carlos Queiroz was in charge. It was the rare time where a national team actually had the feel of a club being built slowly, with a philosophy installed, and personnel being upgraded. Queiroz pushed for expat players to be included, instead of just Iranian-based players, where people are football mad. During qualification for World Cup, Iran will regularly have 100,000 people attend big matches. And oddly, Queiroz’s time coincides with other progressive pushes. Women have mostly been forbidden from attending matches in Iran, but with the inclusion of the expat community, and proud Iranian heritage women being visible at matches abroad, this helped pushed that movement internally, to where there are now women’s sections at big matches in Iran. The leaders of this movement are of course pushing further, to not have separate seating but open seating, and it’s all very interesting because progress and oppression happen in different ways than we maybe realize in America, being fed our media’s version of things all the time. But that’s probably a whole other rabbit hole I don’t need to go down. Jahanbakhsh is a big star for the national team, being the one guy playing in the English Premier League. But he’s struggled to maintain his spot for Brighton, and the explosiveness he showed in the Dutch leagues has not translated to England. Maybe it’s cultural though, as there aren’t many examples of Persian players succeeding in England. In recent history, they seem to enjoy more success in Belgium and the Netherlands, perhaps where a larger expat community exists. Jahanbakhsh is considered to be one of the Premier League’s biggest flops the past two seasons, and hasn’t even seen time on the pitch under Graham Potter yet. Hopefully he’ll get moved elsewhere in January, to allow him a chance to thrive again, before his English experience completely deflates him. [RAVEN]

#19: JOSE IZQUIERDO (down from #12 last time) – Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo has had a tumultuous history with football, being pushed into tennis as a youth, until he fucked around kicking the tennis balls with his feet so much his coach told his parents to let the boy be what he was. Then his brother died in a traffic accident which led to a sabbatical from the sport, but he returned, made enough of a name for himself  in Colombia that Club Brugge imported him to Europe. When the Albion got promoted to the Premier League three seasons back, Izquierdo was one of their big upgrades to go along with the new level. But he’s had two knee operations since making the move, and has never been the full-speed threat on the left wing they had hoped after that first season. Last year he played sparingly, and has yet to make an appearance this season, though everyone remains hopeful he will be recovered and help aid the team in surviving another PL campaign. His first year, he netted 5 goals on 32 PL caps, and last year got none on 8 caps. That first year, the Albion finished comfortably in 15th place, and last year just barely cleared relegation in 17th. Both seasons they had 9 wins on the season, but two seasons back, there were 13 draws, compared to last year’s 9 draws, and that 4 point difference in the table added drama and stress to the campaign. It is funny how five goals from a single dude might not feel like much, but a couple of draws along the way adding to their total, and it might not have gone down to the last two weeks for their survival last season. But that is dork numeric analysis, not metaphysics, and from a pure metaphysics perspective, having a Colombian dude haunted by his sibling’s tragic death at a young age is exactly what a middling Premier League club needs as a spark on the left wing, to give them just enough thrust, especially if you combine the right back force of Montoya, to recreate the Bruno/Izquierdo arrow of thrust from two seasons ago, which creates a vortex through the middle of the formation. When you are competing against the bottomless coffers of clubs like Man City and United and Liverpool, a club like Brighton has to develop these guerrilla personnel lighting in a bottle strikes, regularly, to make it through each year’s onslaught. [RAVEN]

#20: FLORIN ANDONE – People sleep on Romania as a locale for football. But it’s solid as fuck and I kinda look for Romanian dudes in British football. If that Cluj team I’ve watched Celtic grapple with repeatedly this season are an exemplar, they play a type of wild-ass kamikaze ball, the settings on “Overload” and “More Direct”, a bunch of Bielsa acolytes cranking their hogs like the starter on an old International tractor and howling for “5-4….4-5….makes no difference to me….I just love goals!” Partially my affinity is also because pretty much all my interactions with Romanian folk over the years (and there have been A LOT for some reason—perhaps I am a Romanian magnet, but then also there’s been some recent trans-cultural exchanges about the Carpathians and the Appalachians being montane cousins of peoples and place, so maybe I was unconsciously on the early tip of that, who knows?) have been excellent. Particularly the woman. Phew. Damn, Magda from grad school with the jet black hair and olive skin and rotation of black heavy metal t-shirts, and big eyes, and friendly-but-still-with-a-hint-of-contempt-accent. But the dudes were chill too. And yet Florin here is maybe capable of the not so chill, with references to a world-class terrible tackle in which he wrecked some French full back dude, seemingly trying to remove dude’s ACL with his cleats. After some running around and striking mediocrity for two seasons a Brighton, Florin has headed on down to Turkey with Galatasaray, where an attempted leg break in a match with Besiktas will warrant a stern talking to, maybe a yellow if there’s some blood. [PAUL]

#21: NEAL MAUPAY – It would seem I only managed to grab five dudes this time around, which fuck it, is a loss for you more than anything, although I don’t want to take anything away from my fine colleagues here at Football Metaphysics where we are really one gibbering voice manifested as three wild idiots. Anyway, Neal Maupay, who spells his name the false way, which is a troubling start here, not gonna lie, nevertheless reps all Neils or Neals or however the fuck you want it. This means he has a lot to live up to lest he fall into the abyss with common fuckups and embarrassments like Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Anyway, young Neal here comes to Brighton this year from Brentford, where he did a decent enough job at the Championship level. Before that, he bounced around clubs in his native France before crossing the North Sea to party it up with loose English chavs. A Frenchman, Maupay is actually Argentinian by blood, yet has chosen to rep France internationally, which we won’t hold against him seeing as how he grew up there and all. Anyway, young Maupay, who hasn’t really earned his status as a Neil or Neal, styles his game on his idol, Zinedine Zidane, these days best known as the manager of Real Madrid, who of course was a huge name for France back in the day, although he made his money at places like Juventus and Real Madrid before hanging it all up in 2006 after head butting a dude in the World Cup, which we all know and remember. I can get behind that kind of deviousness, though, and even though Zidane is loathsome due to shady professional loyalties, he is I suppose a worthy idol for young Maupay here. Anyway, Maupay has a lot of work to do if he ever hopes to make Zidane or me as the best Neil proud. We will both keep a watchful eye on him and hope he doesn’t fuck up or fuck us over too bad. So don’t fuck up, Neal Maupay, you have a lot to live up to. [NEIL]

#22: ADAM WEBSTER – Adam Webster founded the economic theory of rational inattention, where the cost of information acquisition affects decision making, so often times an entity will choose to make an informed decision on limited information, to avoid incurring the cost. This is what makes Webster a natural defender, but not very likely to ever be a manager after his career is over, as he’s not willing to “pay the cost to be the boss.” [RAVEN]

#23: DAVID BUTTON (previously ranked #11 for Fulham on 01-Jul-2018) – Button’s the back-up GK, who was a Tottenham youth academy player, and in four years as a senior player contracted to Spurs, was loaned out to eleven different clubs. I love listing clubs in cases like this because it sounds ridiculous: GRAYS ATHLETIC, ROCHDALE, BOURNEMOUTH (who were far from Premier League back then), LUTON TOWN, DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE (which I think is also a gluten-free flour brand), CREWE ALEXANDRA, SHREWSBURY TOWN (sounds hot), PLYMOUTH ARGYLE (my dad used to drive one of those), LEYTON ORIENT, DONCASTER ROVERS, AND BARNSLEY. He also played 8 minutes as a Spur before beginning his journeyman career. The past two seasons with Brighton have been his only at Premier League level, although 6 of his 10 matches played have been in Cups (classic back-up man). He did play four full Premier League matches last season though, including keeping a clean sheet against Everton in a home match late last December. Is that his high watermark as a player who has tromped through the English system for over a decade now? I don’t know. David Button has to answer that question. Maybe that 8 minutes for Spurs was. He’s never really had long-term contracted periods of being a first-choice GK. When he went to Brentford in 2013, that was his role, and he was instrumental in their promotion to the Championship. Maybe that’s his personal highlight. Or maybe his personal highlight has nothing to do with football. Have you fuckers ever thought maybe these guys have a life outside of this shit? Fuck. [RAVEN]

#24: STEVEN ALZATE – Damn, how do Colombian folks find themselves in England? And what the fuck does that look like for their son growing up? How do they cook anything halfway decent with what’s on offer down at the Tesco? Maybe it’s better in London—I only have shitty grocery stores in south Wales to go on, and they seemed to be on a par with Wal-Marts in Harlan County, Kentucky. Gross produce—carrots that had already ossified on the inside, nothing at all crisp and fresh. But on the upside, if yung Steve’s parents had plopped down in Terre Haute, he’d probably be in the “development” setup of the Chicago Fire and whatever bullet head middle school health teacher is managing the USMNT would’ve already snookered him into a senior appearance and then it’s just nothing but a deluge of shit from there. So props to his parents actually, trying to coax a decent sancocho out of limp-ass root vegetables from Ireland all so there son has a halfway decent shot of maybe seeing a World Cup from the pitch. Swindon Town will get him there way before Indy Eleven. [PAUL]

#25: LEON BALOGUN – Half-German/half-Nigerian footballer which… wow that’s some sort of a combo, isn’t it? Like I kinda got lost there contemplating the cultural combinations involved in such a human being. His pops was Nigerian (Yoruban, which if you have your twitter trends set to West Africa like I do, you’d know that Igbo/Yoruban designation is important), and apparently Balgun had a long spell in his late teens where he abandoned god and declared himself atheist, which of course pissed off his parents, especially his dad. Early struggles he had in the lower levels of the German leagues caused him to embrace the holiness of Catholic God again. I say fuck that though, because he’s barely played for Brighton, and appears headed to a spell of getting some time again due to injuries with defenders leaving Potter short-handed in the role. This is the time for Balogun to shake off his Christian chains, embrace his Ayanmo, and become full spirit warrior in this moment. In Yoruban metaphysics, each person is born with a destiny called Ayanmo, which you must realize to achieve unification with the spirit of Olorun the creator of all things and source of all energies. Your ori-inu physical consciousness must be cultivated in order to reach that Iponri spirit warrior self in accord with Olorun. This rich cultural syncretic traditions could benefit the aging defender as he gets perhaps his last shot at English notoriety. Christianity is built off binaries, the strict duality of good and evil, rather than the larger blending of all things that is how our actual biosphere works. But of course, that maternal German voice is like a motor inside his head as well, making all things cogs and bits of a larger whole mechanism, rather than organic blur. Balogun will have to find a way to reconcile this internal dialogue should he get back on the pitch for Brighton in these coming weeks. Or as a defender, perhaps he settles into simply stifling everything that comes his way, a physical act of avoiding the internal dialogue and destiny and purpose of life by just kicking the ball back the other way. Sometimes we become our most practical tool to our employers by denying destiny rather than embracing. That’s why “success” in terms of how our culture is built is so misleading, and oftentimes an outright lie. [RAVEN]

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