Wherefore art the fat man on the pitch? Where is the proper chunker of yore? The honest ruddy yeoman of the football pitch? There aren’t many anymore are there? Paddy Kenny, Andy Reid and the recently retired Dean Windass come to mind. Gary Taylor-Fletcher (though that may be more to do with the terrible cut of Blackpool’s shirt). Mido. That’s about it.
Cardiff City have just signed Jon Parkin from relegation bound Preston North End and he is one of a select band of professional footballers who could honestly be described as fat. Having watched my team play against Preston this year I can confirm that when Parkin runs you can see his gut wobble. At full speed he is a ferocious sight akin to Vinnie Jones’ character in X-Men 3, not even walls will stop him. Combine that with a propensity for throwing his elbows about and the fact that he’s 6ft 4in and it makes him a handful to deal with, even if he’s not actually that good. Though I’ve been reliably informed he was decent at Macclesfield.
The truth is there aren’t many fat players around today. You don’t get the true chunkers on the pitch at the highest levels such as Tomas Brolin, Jan Molby or all-time great Ferenc Puskas. You can have muscle bound monsters who have a lack of mobility due to their gym habit, but that is something completely different. You don’t get many with a proper gut. And I’m not talking about a Frank Lampard and the slightly ridiculous ‘Fat Frank’ jibes. The guy has admitted that he may not be the greatest natural athlete in the world and that he has to work harder than those blessed with a ‘good engine’. But he’s in no way fat and only looks slightly bigger when placed next to other professional footballers who, we should remember, are super fit and generally built like whippets. I’d hesitate to call someone fat when they’d be regarded as super-buff in normal society. Besides, have you seen the state of most football fans. Not exactly paragons of healthy living.
Modern day players can’t afford to be out of shape. The demands of the game and training regimes mean that players are at peak fitness, improving standards within the game which can now be played at a ferocious pace for longer periods. But it does widen the gap between the fan and the players. Fans like to identify with the players which is why they like having local lads turn out for them. Many fans are out of shape and may have a special admiration for the guy who seems to be a bit out of place but is putting his all in. If there’s a fat guy running about on the pitch now then it’s a pitch invader about to get ejected from the stadium and banned for life rather than a terrace favourite. Which is, to a certain extent, a shame. Especially as I frankly admire a person who can pack away enough food to still be fat when they are paid to basically run about all day.
So, like the bearded footballer, the fat footballer passes into legend.