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.

Thursday, February 27

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: BURNLEY FC

{Burnley legend Jay Rodriguez} 

[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 FOR OUR METAPHYSICAL LABOR @ravenmack23.]

Burnley's in their fourth year of this Premier League stint, and only their sixth since the Premier League's inception, though Burnley was a First Division regular the first century of organized English football. Sean Dyche has been at the helm at Burnley since 2012, and in that time he earned them a promotion from the Championship that only lasted one season, but they only went back down for a single season before returning for this current run. Two seasons back they finished in 7th, Burnley's highest finish since 1974. Even in this year's expanded clusterfuck of a relegation scrum, Burnley have remained clear of the bottom, while also not really threatening at another top seven finish.

But also I don't really give a fuck to think about it too much. Me and Paul and Neil committed to this shit, but fuck man, mediocre English football full of a bunch of pale mediocre English dudes with boring ass names wearing a boring ass color with a club that honestly I could not give less of a shit about. Being I have no idea where Burnley even is (I'm American, we don't know shit), I'm assuming it's some former manufacturing shithole somewhere, when some past oligarch built a factory in a hobbit field where they somehow made textiles from woolly mammoth penis bones, or some fucked shit like that. But we committed to doing this, so we push through, EVEN THOUGH NOBODY READS THIS CRAP. Nobody even reads. We should just do 25 memes instead, make a fucking game theory tweetstorm about Burnley, with digital blackface animated gifs, and start raking in those fucking bitcoins from Kekistan. But we can't do that, so we just write this inane gibberish about a club that probably doesn't deserve it to be honest. [RAVEN]

#1: JAMES TARKOWSKI (up two from #3 last time Burnley was metaphysically ranked on 15-Mar-2019) – Top dog and metaphysical star of this Burnley club is a 27-year-old defender who made the slow climb from Oldham Athletic in League One to Brentford, who got promoted to the Championship while he was there, and then to Burnley, whom he was with when they got promoted in 2016. He's that classic solid but nothing glorious style defender who has the ability to even chip in a goal on a set piece now and then. When longtime defender Michael Keane left last summer, Tarkowski took over that psychically important #5. [RAVEN]

#2: JACK CORK (down one from #1 last time, thus also previously ONE METAPHYSICAL STAR, with this club on 15-Mar-2019) – Football allegiances and histories are weird, because the players are never as important as the crest on the kit, and supporters remain while the dudes who run around on the pitch come and go. As a tacit but ardent Swansea City supporter, I know Jack Cork well, because he was key part to our clusterfucker of just barely good enough midfielders for two seasons. He had a famous goal against Liverpool in May of 2016, which sealed a 3-1 home win, as well as Premier League status for another season. But he's now been gone to Burnley for as long as he played at Swansea, and has featured way more regularly for Burnley, which is why he's so high on this list. Which also is weird, because despite his moments, he never seemed like a key player with the Swans. And he had a similar four season spell with Southampton before Swansea, so what we have here is a very nondescript but solid midfielder option who has given extended service to three clubs, and it's hard to imagine any of them being the one that has a staked claim to his soul. And in fact, he was a Chelsea youth player, who never latched onto the senior club, and had two loan spells at Burnley back then as well. So maybe that early period combined with the return make this his true home? So if the players come and go, but the crest remains, how does a club infect a dude's heart so he considers them his home club? This is the type of footballing metaphysics I guess we haven't gotten into a lot, because we're covering active players. But guys like Cork end up being coaches and then assistants, and there's dudes at every club who have weird hands in administrative duties, and stay associated with clubs in dedicated capacities. I find that shit intriguing actually, but it's not a glamorous field of study. [RAVEN]

#3: BEN MEE (down one from #2 last time; also previously ONE METAPHYSICAL STAR with Burnley, on 15-Apr-2018) – Ben Mee is one of those dudes who live a life doing grunt work and are solid and dependable. Been with Burnley forever now, he is a fixture who probably doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves.  He may not be a star, but most stars are mercurial punk asses anyway and dudes like Ben Mee are there doing the grunt work so those punk asses can shine. I have nothing bad to say about Ben Mee, and I have nothing good either. But that’s okay, that is simply the role most people play in life. They are just there, solid and dependable, no manic freak outs or poison personality, just a dude being a dude while passions play out around him. I will also say that my parents were planning to name me Ben before this Trickster Neil got in the way, so I always have a connection with dudes named Ben. They are not me but that’s okay, I am a Rockstar and Ben might not be me, but he is Ben Mee and that is enough. [NEIL]

#4: ASHLEY WESTWOOD (up three from #7 last time) – Damn, man, basically just Ben Mee but in another body, so yeah:  Ashley Westwood is one of those dudes who live a life doing grunt work and are solid and dependable. Been with Burnley after a stretch with Aston Villa, he is a fixture who probably doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves.  He may not be a star, but most stars are mercurial punk asses anyway and dudes like Ashley Westwood are there doing the grunt work so those punk asses can shine. I have nothing bad to say about Ashley Westwood, and I have nothing good either. But that’s okay, that is simply the role most people play in life. They are just there, solid and dependable, no manic freak outs or poison personality, just a dude being a dude while passions play out around him. I once knew a girl named Ashley, she was the only one of my young Neil harem who wasn’t into me in some way. But she was beautiful like most Ashley’s are and Ashley Westwood is beautiful to someone out there, just not me. But that’s okay, he and Ben Mee are solid people and I thank them for being there even if we don’t have anything in common. Not everyone is an asshole and not everyone is a saint and sometimes people are just people doing the best they can, which may not be Spirit Warrior Energy, but solid enough to just be in the world while the vampires and dragons do their thing. [NEIL]

#5: CHRIS WOOD (up from four from #9 last time) – Strapping New Zealand center forward brutalizer with an excellent scoring record during his years bouncing all over the fucking English Championship with a variety of loans and transfers, including those bizarre little short-term loans that I didn’t realize were such a widespread thing until I started writing these blurbs [it happens in the Scottish league, but man, lower league English ball goes wild for that shit]. Playing for another club for just a month here and a month there reminds me of a NASCAR driver jumping into another driver’s/team’s car to finish a race while still wearing his flame-retardant suit covered in different sponsors. Seems like it would mess with a sense of psychic loyalty, or lead to some kind of listlessness on the part of a player. Wood gets the Premier League jump with Burnley and honestly seems like a pretty solid striker even at that exalted level, especially considering Burnley’s mid-table residence during his tenure. New Zealand has always seemed a curiosity to me in the world’s football as another example of a nation that really could give two shits about the sport, being obsessed as it is with rugby and the spectacle of the All-Blacks national team in that sport. And I have to confess that despite the admitted awesomeness of that Haka spectacle those dudes put on before their matches, rugby is not a sport I can much bear to watch, but that also is likely a result of the American socio-cultural poisoning; much like lacrosse, it reads to me as a sport populated by gym-rat rapey-ish fratboys (though it seems like thick lesbians really dig it too, and that of course is well and righteous). I remember watching New Zealand play in the 2010 World Cup (in which Wood here participated) and while they did ok by New Zealand standards (three draws), it was painful to watch them desperately holding on while lumbering around the pitch in ugly defensive desperation. I wasn’t really sure what to make of the “All Whites” team designation, as on the one hand, why not be consistent with your national sporting nicknames (call everything “All Black”: rowing, track and field, fucking curling if that’s something New Zealand competes in)? It got me wondering if it wasn’t some subconscious admission that the All-Black rugby (with both the cultural imprint of Maori iconography and symbolism paired with the preponderance of Polynesian dudes in the team) was the more “indigenous” [“black”] sporting manifestation, and that football/soccer (like it is in the Republic of Ireland) is the sport of the white-ass British colonizer and that there’s not really any significant interest in subscribing to it [“white”]. And of course this is further confounded by rugby being British as fuck in and of itself (probably also explaining my failure to appreciate it), yet like the Indian subcontinent with cricket, it seems to be the ground on which New Zealand has chosen to brutalize-through-sporting-dominance the former colonial overlord. And of course, all of this (the world’s football, cricket, rugby) is eminently more respectable than the American habit of making up our own stupid sports and declaring ourselves world champions in all of them, while achieving mediocrity-at-best in any sporting field the rest of the world favors. [PAUL]

#6: JEFF HENDRICK (down one from #5 last time) – In his prime Republic of Ireland central midfielder playmaker type holding it down in the Burnley engine room. Commendably, Jeff here has been a two-club guy, racking up triple-digit appearances for both Derby in the Championship and now Burnley in the EPL. Hendrick seemed like a project of sorts for Nigel Clough during his tenure at Derby (I had to check and make sure I got my Cloughs correct, after watching that film The Damned United, about the elder). Jeff here seems like he could be a very solid player in a team with talent around him, in the mold of a sheer mid-field powerhouse metronome type—not particularly flashy with any bursting forward goals, but just keeping the flow going, the game management of speeding things up or slowing them down. He’s got that dirty blonde semi-long-haired, feral-eyed white boy look that wouldn’t be the least bit out of place for a rhythm guitarist in an early 70s Southern rock band like Black Oak Arkansas or some other obscure regional act from northern Alabama that put out two or three 45 singles in their time, one of which invariably pops up on one of those Oxford American Southern Music CD collections—and the track bangs or slaps or whatever social media millennial superlative applies, but you feel at the edge of guilty because consuming it in such a curated format is just another slightly less shitty form of farm-to-table restaurant and micro-distillery socio-cultural gentrification. With his powerfully low-quality collection of piecemeal tattoos (the deer skull forearm one is particularly solid), Hendrick seems to be running down his contract at Barnsley and I imagine he’ll be in demand for other mid-table EPL clubs—maybe even an outside shot at the bench for a upper-half-of-the-table team, if he’s so inclined. But then again, some click-bait site put him in the worst EPL team of the season (so far) starting 11, for not really producing—but fuck, dude plays for Burnley. [PAUL]

#7: DWIGHT MCNEIL (up thirteen from #20 last time) – McNeil's a youngster potential star of the future for the club, having been a youth player for them, but not before an earlier stint at Manchester United youth systems. He's appeared at the national team level in both the U20 and U21 levels, and his pops, Matty, also played league football back in the day, for both Macclesfield Town and Stockport County, though of course not at the same time, as the football workers of the world have not risen up, and are forced to only play for one club, contractually. Footballers should seize the means of producing football matches. [RAVEN]

#8: CHARLIE TAYLOR (down four from #4 last time) – Lol goddamn Burnley is just loaded with these same dudes, growing up English and reporting for duty while the world burns with the chaos of Spirit Warriors making it all interesting. Charlie Taylor and Ben Mee and Ashley Westwood might as well be the same person, but that is a solid foundation to build from while freaks like me run wild over their heads. I don’t feel anything about Charlie Taylor and maybe he resents people like me or maybe he doesn’t care at all. I have nothing bad to say about Charlie Taylor and I have nothing good either. Dependability seems to be paramount at Burnley, where the sun doesn’t shine but there are no alligators in the sewers either. [NEIL]

#9: ASHLEY BARNES (down three from #6 last time) – A thirty-something pale skin English striker wearing that #10 jersey, who's been with the club for over half a decade. Nah fam, you not lighting up anything with that metaphysics. I'm already starting to get the feeling Burnley is like Brexit, the football club. [RAVEN]

#10: MATTHEW LOWTON (same as last time) – Lowton’s one of those English-born stable journeyman defenders, very tradesman-like, with multi-season stints at Sheffield United, then Aston Villa carrying him to his time with Burnley since the summer of 2015, so that he’s only really been contracted to three clubs, and is now a thirtysomething right back with time spent at a handful of environments (including multiple loans to a single Hungarian club while with Sheffield United), all the while never really remaining solely loyal to any one crest. All that said, he’s quietly and rather ungloriously accumulated over 170 Premier League caps, thus earning that #2 jersey at a high level, albeit on the low end of that high level. It’s still no slouching accomplishment. [RAVEN]

#11: NICK POPE (up four from #15 last time) – Well goddamn. It makes sense that Burnley’s keeper is as vanilla as Ben Mee, Ashley Westwood and Charlie Taylor. How can I write about the same person over and over and over again without going mad? Is this a trick being played on me by Raven? If it is that’s okay because while I like chocolate the best, vanilla is soothing enough. The last line of defense, Nick Pope might not taste the way you want him to, but his dependability is the foundation for freaks like me to play wild knowing he’ll always be there to keep the world going. I salute him and the many hims out there who are a million miles away from my throbbing heart. [NEIL]

#12: PHIL BARDSLEY (down one from #11 last time) – Yet another relatively hapless English-born-but-Scottish-repping player that has managed to somehow stay consistently in the EPL across multiple teams, while also interacting heavily with a variety of Old Firm and Old Firm-adjacent personalities (including a ridiculously short interval playing on loan for Rangers—such that upon seeing his name in this list, I knew there was a specific reason I didn’t like him, but couldn’t immediately recall). He seems most noteworthy for his “bust ups” with Paolo DiCanio—a crazed Italian Nazi former (excellent) striker that absurdly enough played for Celtic and continues to hold the club near to his heart, despite his predilection for fascist salutes and the general consensus of supporters that while he was an admittedly impressive goalscorer you can fuck off with that Nazi shit. Bardsley here also navigated both Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane during their club managerial stints. Phil and Matthew Lowton seem to share the right back duties at Burnley, with Bardsley getting the call mostly in the second half of this season, and both prone to recent injuries. I don’t know, Bardsley just seems like another fucking dime-a-dozen pretend “Scottish” “hardman” with his scruffy-trimbeard and his squnty-ass eyes and his dubious actual on-field playing ability. Even the Scottish National team didn’t seem to particularly enthused to call him up on the regular. I’m certain his EPL time is up at the conclusion of his Burnley contract this summer, with future time in the mid-to-lower Championship for his final playing years. Seriously though, I really can’t understand how this dude has stayed in the EPL so long, other than coming through the Manchester United youth set up and that somehow giving you career-long clout, even if those expectations go perpetually unfulfilled. [PAUL]

#13: JOHANN GUDMUNDSSON (down five from #8 last time) – Icelandic winger who has been part of that nation's golden generation along with Aron Gunnarsson and Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ragnar Sigurdsson. Gudmundsson's ever so slightly the youngest of that golden generation crew, still only 29, and it's interesting if that same level of football metaphysics will exist for that tiny island nation come the 2022 World Cup. This might be the closing end of their greatest run as a tiny footballing nation. It's weird to think about that shit too, that forever now this recent period from the 2016 Euros where Iceland shocked everybody by beating England in the first knockout round to make it to the quarterfinals, and then the disappointment felt when they only got 1 point out of their group in World Cup play, despite that point being an opening match shock draw with Argentina (featuring Messi's failure demoms). Those high glories now become Iceland's future failure demons - ghosts to never live up to. Gudmundsson's role with Burnley has gone down a little bit as well, with his age, although of course it ain't all that old. Interestingly enough, Gudmundsson's family relocated to London when he was a kid, and he played at the youth academies of both Chelsea and Fulham, but when it came time to his pro contract, he moved back to Iceland to play with his boyhood club again. That led to time in the Netherlands, then a return to London in 2014 with Charlton Athletic. He's been at Burnley since 2016, and may follow the lead of other Icelandic golden generation stars who have started the downward check-cashing cycle of going to plays like Italy and Qatar for a season or two. [RAVEN]

#14: AARON LENNON (down one from #13 last time) – Veteran winger who, at only 32 years of age, already has a full decade of Premier League service for Tottenham Hotspur, plus a season with his boyhood club Leeds, 3 and a half seasons with Everton, and is now just two years beyond his January 2017 transfer to Burnley. All told, he’s getting near 400 Premier League appearances, with 34 goals in all that time, although he’s only got a single goal in the past four seasons of Premier League play. In fact, he’s only got that one single goal across all competitions for Burnley, mostly just occupying minutes, and his contract runs out this summer, so another destination is probably likely for the old boy. [RAVEN]

#15: ERIK PIETERS (previously ranked #2 for Stoke City on 01-May-2018; also previously ONE METAPHYSICAL STAR with Stoke City, on 01-Jul-2017) – Come on now. I feel like I’ve been assigned the same person over and over again. Erik Pieters is Dutch, so at least that is a little different from his English friends and teammates. He comes from Stoke City, drenched in vanilla and takes his place in the collective doing the grunt work that goes unappreciated by the rock stars like me. Goddamn Burnley is all foundation, no messy fuckups. English or Dutch , it is all pretty much the same Germanic Vanilla Person. They are everywhere and they keep the game going for us rock stars who sometimes forget to put on pants and might have shit the bed. I am thankful that those people are out there cleaning up my shit even if we have nothing in common. [NEIL]

#16: TOM HEATON (up two from #18 last time) – I don’t have a lot of patience to write about Tom Heaton, because I spent a while yesterday riding the bus. Not a long distance bus, but circuitous city route bus, which only exist in places that don’t have trains but wanna pretend to be offering public transit, in a slow ass way. Riding the bus is always a land of beautiful sadness. I guess they have bus trips to away matches in England, but even that is called coach and not bus, because it’s a different class of riding a contraption experience. When I got on the bus yesterday, in the fucked part of America, I waited at the bus stop with people from the nearby halfway house. The guy with the face tattoo was worried he was gonna be late for his job, so he stopped waiting and started walking downtown. The other three dudes and me laughed about how cops make us nervous, and finally the bus came, and we had to stall because one of them was inside the store across the street buying Newports, and the bus driver was mad about all that but he let us continue play, no yellows. One of the halfway house dudes fell over as the bus took off, and landed in the seat next to an old woman wearing a breathing mask over her mouth, and with a milk crates on wheels covered in duct tape, plus a single crutch heavily duct taped together as well. That was American as fuck, that whole little scene, and me and the other halfway house guy laughed to keep from crying, and then we saw the face tattoo dude walking fast as the bus went past, and we all felt bad for him. His face tattoo was tiny, right below his right eye, and faded already. I wasn’t sure if it was a fucked up teardrop or mangled logo, but truly all of this should help you understand the mangled logo of American life these days is a fucked up teardrop. Unless you’re removed from the real life experiences, and ride coaches instead of buses. [RAVEN]

#17: JAY RODRIGUEZ (previously ranked #24 for Southampton on 15-Jul-2018) – Jay Rodriguez is a weird name for an English dude. Looks like he has Spanish heritage through his pop's side of the family though. Born in Burnley, he was a Burnley youth player, and spent half a decade with the senior club before wandering periods at both Southampton and West Brom, before returning wherefrom he'd came this past July. Rodriguez's most notable moment in recent times was when the Clarets had a 0-0 draw with Arsenal earlier this month, where Rodriguez had an opening in the 78th minute to stab home the game winner, but it hit the woodwork and landed right at the goal line, but on the wrong side. Owned. [RAVEN]

#18: JOE HART (down one from #17 last time) – I could almost feel bad for this young-Joe Biden-looking motherfucker, seeming to lose his secure spot with Man City because he lacked “sweeper-keeper” abilities (as I have mentioned before, fuck this sweeper-keeper shit as a priority for managers—giant beast motherfucker with psychopathic tendencies, poor hygiene, and cheap-looking tattoos keeps the ball out of the net, it’s that simple). Yet….he is a clean-cut English white dude keeper who, like so many British EPL players, rode hype and national desperation for a competent player in a given position (particularly one that said nation-state is not known for producing anything resembling quality) to a lengthy career, despite mediocre-at-best playing ability repeatedly emphasized in every second or third game. Nothing exemplifies this more than reading that he got a man-of-the-match award in an international against San Marino. I mean…..maybe that was “taking the piss”, but somehow I doubt it. Hart has halfway done ok in domestic competition, particularly if he has dominant outfield players in front of him, but in the grand tradition of English keepers, he’s been an absolute trainwreck in International competitions, particularly the World Cup and the Euros, such that even the Three Lions setup has given up on him. Burnley replaced him halfway through last season and his contract is up at the conclusion of the present one. I see some chatter about his possibly making a move to MLS, but I don’t know, even that seems a lukewarm prospect. I remember that maybe two years ago there was a seemingly viable rumor that he might get loaned to Celtic and I was definitely on the “hell fucking no!” tip. Coupled with players like Bardsley, I’m wondering if Burnley isn’t just a repository especially loaded with formerly hyped-up British footballers that no one wants to admit have pretty much sucked more than not across their decade-long careers. [PAUL]

#19: KEVIN LONG (down five from #14 last time) – No longer so young Irish central defender dude that is a “squad-player”/bench-rider for Burnley across the past four seasons, with a collection of League One and Championship loans in the seasons before that—and even at these Long wasn’t really getting much playing time. Partially it’s because of injuries and partially it’s because of being stockpiled indefinitely at an EPL club, but this guy is closing in on 30 and still hasn’t managed 200 career playing appearances (even including getting somehow picked for the Republic of Ireland squad a handful of times). Only thing I can really fixate on with this dude is that he’s from Cork and I tend to be moderately interested in Irish players that come from parts other than the Dublin metrocore—like, I figure that football in the capitol city has a decent following and makes a sort of sense for developing players, but I wonder how difficult it is to “get into” football if you’re from southern Ireland (like Cork) or even more so from the Gaeltacht of far western Ireland where I’m inclined to think no one gives much of a shit about Sassenach-ball and it’s all hurling/shinty and Irish football. But then that is also probably my dumb American perceptions, although I have actually visited the place—and I never could rightly settle on whether people in shops and stores were speaking Gaelic as an everyday thing, or whether it was because I was a dumbass American tourist fondling the woolens and whiskey on sale and they were either playing up some local color, or they were just fucking with me because Americans need to be ridiculed and fucked with pretty much everywhere they go in the world. When I worked in Wales, my boss used to talk on the phone in Welsh a lot when I was in the office, and I really hope he was explaining the trials and tribulations of the situation wherein a dumb-motherfucking American had been sent to him to make flyers for the Britney Spears impersonator that was coming to the village. Really though, this Long dude needs to just go back to Ireland and play for Cork City FC. [PAUL]

#20: ROBBIE BRADY (up one from #21 last time) – Baby-faced Dubliner who at one point was a Manchester United youth, but not all of us are Manchester United destinies. Brady ended up being more of a Hull City destiny, which transferred to Burnley, where he’s been since the January transfer window of 2017, where Dyche had amassed a small contingent of Irish players, mostly in support roles, but Hendrick and Brady get a good amount of playing time. [RAVEN]

#21: SAM VOKES (down five from #16 last time) – I'm very familiar with the robot version of Sam Vokes, having run through a couple of Football Manager 15 themes with mostly Welsh players. He's never been as amazing in real life as he was helping me guide The New Saints to a shock UEFA Champions League title, but hey, without the guidance of Raven Mack, anybody would be lesser. Vokes was at Burnley forever it seemed, with nearly 250 caps for the club across all competitions, including scoring their first goal in European competition in over half a century by equalizing against Aberdeen in the 2018-19 Europa League. His playing time under Dyche started to shrink, so he was allowed to transfer in January of 2019, back to Bournemouth, the club he made his professional debut with all the way back in 2006, when they were still a League One club. It was his two seasons for them way back then (when hoes didn't want him), that got him hot, and signed to Wolves (with the hoes all up on him at that point, as is the case it seems). [RAVEN]

#22: STEPHEN WARD (down ten from #12 last time) – Solid for most of his career Republic of Ireland left back (that difficult to fill competently position), currently on a late-career one-year contract at Stoke, who are in freefall in the Championship. Even at Stoke he’s gotten replaced in the starting lineup, as I think Michael O’Neill is desperately looking for some “defense-first” solidity before his wonderboy reputation is completely shredded. Stephen (with the “ph”, usually denoting adherence by one’s parents to the Catholicy/Irish Republican-y faith, versus the “v” as approved by the Protestanty/Orangey faith, at least in an Irish/Scottish context and not the clueless American-ness that might send a Southern Baptist “Stephen” on a mission trip to convert the Papist Heathens of Belfast only to unite the sectarian divide in chasing his ass out; but seriously, it’s wild how in a Scottish/Irish context the spellings of phonetically-the-damn-same given names and surnames carry socio-religious-ideological weight—like, put an “e” on the end [Clarke, Burke] and it’s suddenly Fenian Catholic, the “ph” versus the “v”, “William” all sorts of fraught as to whether you go with “Billy” or “Liam”, most New Testament Biblical names being a no-go for Presbyterians). Stephen here is from Dublin, so I doubt he had to put up with this. But still, for any dumbass Americans reading this, knowledge is power. [PAUL]

#23: MATEJ VYDRA (same as last time) – Czech forward who came to the club summer of 2018, but to be honest hasn't featured all that often, considering the hype around his signing when he arrived from Derby County. You can never be too wary of Czechs though. [RAVEN]

#24: STEVEN DEFOUR (down five from #19 last time) – This is insane. Yet again we have this same person serving as the foundation for freaks like me to play off. He is basically Nick Pope, just a Belgian version. This is wild. All six of these dudes I’m writing about are the same fucking person over and over and over again. Is this where sanity ends? I don’t know. All I do know is that Steven Defour is Ben Mee and Ashley Westwood and Charlie Taylor and Nick Pope and Erik Pieters. They are all the same person, just different aspects peaking around, looking for the magic that makes this life thing go while they build the foundation. I am not any of these dudes and they are not me, but we have to appreciate each other’s roles we play in this crazy fucked up world. Steven Defour is the foundation on which I play and I thank him and all the hims like him for keeping the world running while the Spirit Warriors wrestle each other in space and time. And on that note, let’s do better the next time when Spirit Warriors and Vanilla Foundations collide. [NEIL]

#25: BEN GIBSON (down one from #24 last time; also previously ONE METAPHYSICAL STAR, with Middlesbrough, on 01-Apr-2017) – I would much rather write about Bushwick Bill than Ben Gibson. English football has a lot of international players, but a shocking lack of one-eyed black midgets. Too fucking fancy for y’all’s own good, in my opinion. [RAVEN]

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