Every winning team is made up of far more than the first eleven you see out on the pitch every weekend. There are backroom staff, physios, fans, the executives and even people like cooks and kit washers.
Everyone loves the stars, the people that are on the back of the fan’s shirts but what about the squad players? The players who may not start every game – in fact they may start very few at all – but they turn up to training every day and give their all, they do not moan or complain that they should be playing but aren’t, they just work as hard as they possibly can to break into the team, and when they get their opportunity, either through suspension or injury – or just sheer persistence, they take it with both hands and do the club proud.
They may not get the adulation of a Wayne Rooney or sell as many shirts as a David Beckham, or even go down in the halls of United fame like a Robson or Cantona, but we would be no where without them. Squad players are not just there to make up the numbers, they are there to be called upon when the manager and the team need them most. A good squad player will not complain, they just put their head down and get on with it. They can even rack up a surprising amount of games and be at the club for years.
Take Wesley Brown or John O’Shea – both suffered criticism from fans and were hardly what you would call ballon d’or nominees, but both played vital parts in United’s success, filling in across the back when needed and always performing to the very best of their ability. Both have amassed a collection of medals that most players can only dream of. When United were injury stricken and needed a right back, O’Shea stepped up and did a job. Likewise with Brown – he may not be as good as a Rio Ferdinand but he played, did a job and more often than not a good one.
Strikers can often be labelled squad players, but come on as subs and score fantastic goals, and change games. Ole Gunnar Solskjar is often described as a ‘super sub’ but we all remember his goal in the Champions League final, possibly one of the most important goals in United history, and United fans love him to this day for it.
Whilst some less intelligent football fans criticise players such as Park Ji Sung, and joke that the club have only extended his contract to boost shirt sales in the Far East, the majority will know and understand what a player like Park offers the club, and just how important a player like the Korean is to our success. Michael Owen, Jonny Evans etc there are numeous players that all play their part even if these parts aren’t prominent.
Just because a player is not flashy and lights up the crowd each time he plays, does not mean they are not worth having in the team.
This season will be a long and hard one, and players will inevitably suffer injuries, suspensions and loss of form. It is then that the players who little has been written or said about up until that point will emerge and put on the United shirt and do us proud. Players like Lindegaard, Gibson or even Berba may spend the majority of the season on the bench but that does not mean that when called upon they are not as vital as a Rooney. They could well be the difference between a goal and not, or three points or not.
Squad players have always been and will always be vital to the success of our club, and our depth is often lauded. No one is too big a player or too famous to sit on the bench or be a ‘squad player’ and both fans and out of favour players could do well to remember that when honours are being handed out at the end of a season.