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My squad-number beefs

My squad-number beefs

As this blog will (hopefully) have a long lifespan, with admirers waiting eagerly for updates, it’s important at this early stage to lay out what we like and don’t like, starting with the latter but going beyond the blatant stuff like a striker wearing 5 or a first-team regular having number 44. It should be pointed out that this is almost certainly an inexhaustive list, and other irrational hatreds will make themselves known as time goes on.

1. Having two or more of the numbers 4, 5 and 6 worn by midfielders is wrong

When looking at a teamsheet, we like to work out who’d be wearing what if the team were wearing 1-11. A lot of the time, it’s easy to process this, but take Barcelona’s squad this season – new signing Ivan Rakitić is 4, Sergio Busquets has taken 5 and Xavi is still 6. If Barça were, for some reason, forced to forgo squad numbers and all three of those were in the team, then two of 7, 8, 9, 10 or 11 would have to be in a four-man defence.

2. A two-man strikeforce should never be allowed to wear 10 and 11

Number 9 in midfield is actually a guilty pleasure of ours, once it’s not worn a defensive midfielder – Paul Ince at Middlesbrough, we haven’t forgotten you and your crimes. If 9 is a midfielder, though, then the two strikers must be 8 and 10 (for example, Michael Laudrup in the hole at Barcelona behind Hristo Stoichkov and Romario). What is a complete no-no is 10 and 11 playing up front together, with extra marks deducted if 9 is the left-midfielder (we did say these were irrational).

This affliction likely comes from a complete phobia of having a team numbered in order from left to right, defence 2-5, midfield 6-9 and strikers 10 and 11 – something our manager at U13 level persisted with. Dennis Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord’s rarely-effective partnership probably contributes too (mainly due to Wiltord, it must be said).

3. Captains wearing numbers higher than 11

This stems from a hope that clubs would still number players in a method some way related to having the best players in the lowest numbers, and the players keen to wear numbers in the first 11. We accept that it is a forlorn one by this stage, but nevertheless seeing a captain in a high number still jars. That the most visible exponent of this is John Terry is probably not a coincidence.

4. Players switching from a 1-11 number to a higher one

A young player being given a number in the teens having worn 34 in his debut season is a clear sign that he will feature more in the coming campaign. It’s a sign of progress, so therefore a player’s number going in the opposite direction – without being expressly put on the transfer list – can surely only be taken to be the opposite? He mightn’t be a first-teamer anymore, but at least afford him the dignity of allowing him to keep his number rather than making clear to everyone that you’re helping his career down the tubes. At Middlesbrough, Gary O’Neil went from 4 to 16 to 18 (the latter completely needless), while Oldham’s Genseric Kusunga can’t have been too happy to see his number 5 swapped for 21. Apparently, Alvaro Albeloa chose of his own accord to change from 2 to 17 while at Liverpool, while Joe Hart’s move from 1 to 25 at Man City (when Shay Given took 1) was eventually reversed.

One exception that we’ll allow is Abou Diaby changing from 2 to 24, as 2 was a mental number for a central midfielder. It says much about his injury record that a lot of people thought that his move took place this summer when he actually switched at the start of the 2013-14 season.

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  1. September 28, 2016 at 14:25 — Reply

    Hi Lester, think you mean the 12 he wore for France, MVB wore that in Euro 88.

    He took 14 at Arsenal as it was only available choice – Davor Suker had arrived just before him and taken 9, with 14 freed as Martin Keown moved to 5.

  2. Lester Soh
    September 28, 2016 at 14:22 — Reply

    A factor in Thierry choose 14 could be because of Marco van basten.

  3. Joshua Butler
    February 8, 2016 at 10:28 — Reply

    The 10 & 11 combination up front was actually used fairly often by the Swedish national team:

    2. 3. 4. 5
    7. 8
    10. 11

  4. October 6, 2014 at 23:07 — Reply

    I don’t think Anderton had 9 at Portsmouth – he definitely wore 11 in the FA Cup semi-finals against Liverpool in ’92. I just assumed it was because 9 was often used in midfield by Spurs around that time.

    Boulahrouz will definitely feature in a future post, maybe in more than one category, the hooligan.

    Re Charlton – wrong, certainly, but unique enough to be quirky. Worthy of further analysis, for sure.

    I’d say you’re right about James – surely too the only example in the PL of one player having different coloured shorts and socks to his team-mates? It wasn’t jarring though and the Laws Of The Game don’t even forbid it.

  5. October 6, 2014 at 11:40 — Reply

    You might be right about Graham making the changes, he switched Darren Anderton from 9 to 7. Anderton had always worn 9 at Tottenham as he did previously at Portsmouth.

    Another classic example of a player choosing the wrong number was Chelsea’s Khalid Boulahrouz, who chose 9 despite 2 being available.

    One that caused great displeasure to rationalists was Charlton’s decision to do their squad numbers in 1993/94 in alphabetical order, Midfielder Stuart Balmer wore no. 1 and Keeper Bob Bolder wore no. 2!

    The only example of a Premier League outfield player wearing no. 1 I can think of was David James, who played out on pitch for the last 7 minutes of Man City v Middlesbrough at the end of the 2004/05 season. Sub GK Nicky Weaver came on for Claudio Reyna and James put on a pre-prepared Navy outfield shirt (City, who were at home, were previewing the following season’s away kit).

  6. October 6, 2014 at 11:00 — Reply

    Hi Statto,

    I think it was just that 14 was the lowest free number when Henry came – thankfully Martin Keown had switched to 5 that summer – though it would have suited better if Davor Suker hadn’t arrived just before him and taken 9. Chris Wreh had 12 (which Henry wore at Monaco and for France as a tribute to Marco van Basten) at the time though I don’t think he played at all that season. Henry had worn 6 at Juventus, which was just grotesque.

    I’d forgotten that King always had 26, Sol Campbell had 23 for a good while as captain but switched to 5 in 1999 as part of a general tidying-up of Spurs’ numbers, perhaps down to George Graham’s desire for order.

    • Del
      August 21, 2016 at 21:13 — Reply

      Did Campbell not do the same when was at Arsenal?

      • August 21, 2016 at 21:23 — Reply

        No, 23 from 2001-02 until his departure at the end of 2005-06, despite 6 becoming free in 2002 and 5 being vacated in 2004

  7. October 6, 2014 at 07:43 — Reply

    Denis why did Terry Henry wear 14 for Arsenal but 12 for France?

    Tottenham Captain Ledley King never deviated from the no 26 he wore on debut in 98/99 until he retired in 2011/12.

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My squad-number beefs