LANDON DONOVAN, AMERICAN GENTLEMAN
Mickey Blue Eyes
A long time ago Harry Catterick dubbed the late great Brian Labone, "Last of the Corinthians." For those who don't know, in this context Harry referred to amateur Corinthians Football Club, founded in England in the late nineteenth century as an antidote to the cynicism of newly professional association football; for many years the club were considered the epitome of everything good in the game. (Which illustrates limited knowledge by their founders of the Corinthians of biblical antiquity). This changed later but the concept and reputation lingered. Those who watched Brian and who met and loved him knew just how much-merited was Harry's praise. We can all be proud he was a life-long Evertonian.
That bit of club folklore applies proportionately to Landon Donovan and his impact at Goodison Park. It was a well earned comparison during two all-too-short loan spells in which he played only a total of nineteen games, made three substitutions and scored two goals.* What a pity we didn't see him play in the cup tie V Blackpool.
However, there was no doubting his effect both as a player and a personality. Everyone liked and admired him on both counts, a rare combination......play and appearance that were perfectly complementary, as they were with Brian. Throughout both stays he conducted himself impeccably with behaviour directly contrary to an era riddled with corruption in most professional sports as well as cheap hate, petty jealousy and tenth rate chauvinist selfishness amongst some fans. It was difficult to imagine him losing his temper unless it was perfectly justified. In short he was a breath of fresh air. It can't be a coincidence his home is in arguably the most beautiful state in the union. After all, you don't get many Landon Donovans in, say, Nevada or Texas.
When Brits think of US Americans they don't often think in terms of "gentlemen," and apparently there aren't many in the ex colony who would welcome it if they did. Donovan might bridle at it too. Americans prefer the word "class" in the same context, though doubtless he is no more squeaky-clean than anyone else. At the opposite end of the scale the worst aspects feature Schwarzenegger/Stallone self-styled alpha males on steroids and false gravelly voices. Still, Landon looks and sounds like an intelligent, determined self-made man with a sense of decency, the kind of US American many of my generation admired and hoped would prevail in government; alas they didn't, but there's still time.
His play was never spectacular. It was thoroughly professional and occasionally he could do something really inspirational: his pass to Denis Stracqualursi for our second goal against Chelsea this season was just sublime. So was his lay off for Darron Gibson's winner against Man City. Overall, the opposition could never leave him alone because if you gave him space he could murder you - and did, with a high percentage of enabling passes that led to goals. He was on the end of some fearsome tackling too, but I never saw him fazed. He took the roughing up, got up and got on with the game, a real can-do Yank as well-liked as expat predecessors Brian McBride and Joe Max Moore. English fans love that quality almost above all others.
So let's compromise on the words and say: Landon Donovan, US class gentleman......Thanks for everything.
*Courtesy once again of Steve Johnson's wonderful website at http://www.evertonresults.com/allaz8.htm