Chris Kamara: "Ramsey Player Of Season But Ozil Rescued Arsenal"

Everyone's favourite pundit opens up on Arsenal, Ronaldo and Messi and why Sepp Blatter is a moron...
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Everyone's favourite pundit opens up on Arsenal, Ronaldo and Messi and why Sepp Blatter is a moron...

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It is testament to a sportsman, who, when he realises he is going to be a little late for an interview, gets a message across to the interviewer to inform them of the fact.

It is a small courtesy but one that is appreciated nevertheless.

It is also an insight into the character of a man who is prepared to offer such old-school politeness, as it invariably means the interviewee is a good bloke.

Believe me Chris Kamara is a good bloke.

He also is a passionate and articulate football man who can’t wait to talk about all things football.

“My team of the season so far has got to be Arsenal. To be fair I never got carried away after the Villa game. Leave it to Arsene Wenger, the man knows what he is doing. They’ve played decent football so far. I loved Jack Wilshere’s goal v Norwich the other week.

“My player of the season has to be Arsenal’s Welshman Aaron Ramsey. He’s really caught my eye with his goal-scoring performances. The good thing to his credit is that he’s never let his standards slip even when he’s come on as sub. But of course it’s far too early to say he’s going win player of the year – look at this time last year when Swansea’s Michu was playing so well.

“As for the signing of Mesut Ozil, he has rescued Arsenal’s season. He really is something special. It is telling that all Ozil’s Real Madrid team-mates including Ronaldo were sad to see him go as they were so happy with him at the Bernabeu. He has a great attitude and is a great player.

I ask Chris who he thinks will win the Premier League.

“It’s too open to call – people say Chelsea should be the favourites to win the League – the strength of their squad is frightening, look at their ‘reserve’ team against Arsenal [in their 2-0 League Cup win], but I think Man City are strong as ever , it’s an open league. Manchester United under David Moyes, who I have a lot of time for, is putting a run together now too.”

For a fervent football man like Kammy talk soon turns to the Champions League.

“I think the question was could Munich improve after their brilliant season last year when they did the treble. Could they do better? Could Pep Guardiola do better than Jupp Heynckes?  Or do better than when he was at Barca?

“What did he do? Well because he is such a fabulous coach, he’s managed to keep the same ethos. I don’t think you can look beyond Munich. After that you would say Dortmund, look how they played at Arsenal the other week, and of course Barcelona.

“In terms of the English sides I’m going to fly the flag and say all four teams will qualify, Arsenal despite the home loss against Dortmund still look like a very good side and will frighten a few teams.”

(It was to prove a very prescient statement from Kamara given I talked to him before Arsenal won impressively in Dortmund – for all his ready smile and jocular nature this is a man who knows football inside out).

He adds ardently: “Once our sides get into the knockout stages anything could happen, it’s down to the draw then – and if the luck is with you and you avoid Munich or Barca early on then you never know.”

We are speaking a few days after Sepp Blatter has created another argument of his own making. This time instead of talking about making goals bigger or women footballers kit smaller, with a World Football of the Year vote coming up he publically favoured Lionel Messi over Ronaldo, whilst also raising questions about the supposed narcissistic nature of the ex-Manchester United winger.

Unsurprisingly Chris, like many, takes a strong view on the Swiss bureaucrat.

“It was a foolish comment. I mean if your opinion is that Messi is better than Ronaldo then fair enough, that’s your opinion. But if you’re in charge of World Football don’t follow it up with ridiculous comments.

“For me Ronaldo, like Messi has been immense over the last few years. They are the two best players in Europe. In the world even. Messi is going through a relatively quiet patch – quiet by his standards anyway  - which makes me think if Ronaldo doesn’t win the award this year then he never will win it.

“But what else was foolish about Blatter’s comments was that it doesn’t matter what you look like.

“If Ronaldo wants to look the way he does then good luck to him. But imagine if someone had said to the great George Best you look ridiculous – when long hair was frowned upon – then how daft would they sound?

“Blatter’s a relic. It’s 2013, it was a silly comment. He needs to move on.”

It is good to know that Kamara’s verdict on Blatter is as crunching as one of old his tackles.

Warming to a discussion of the world’s best players, Kammy says with all the enthusiasm of a true football lover: “Look at Lewandowski, he had a great season last year, played some beautiful stuff -  his four goals against Real Madrid in Dortmund will never be forgotten - but will he win the award? No.

“If there were team awards then Dortmund would be amongst the favourites behind Munich who would be shoo-ins - but the voting for the individual award will be split between the Munich players so players like Thomas Hitzlsperger, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller and Bastian Schweinsteiger won’t win it either.”

Kammy’s voice is rising keenly, just like your mate’s down the pub when he has a decent football point to make. “Take Ibrahimovic at Paris. He might have scored goals for PSG and you would vote for him if you’re family or friends with him - but World player of the year?” His voice trails off firmly indicating his answer.

Kammy being the good natured bloke that he is then tells a joke against himself and the players of his era, not to mention being a revealing insight into how many pros used to think: “When it came to voting for the PFA Player of the Year back when I was playing, the voting forms used to come round in February or March. Well, players such as myself who weren’t the brightest used to forget who had performed well early on in the season and vote for the lad who had played well over the last six weeks up to us receiving the forms”.

Aaron Ramsey beware I suggest? Kammy laughs and says: “I’m sure players are different now. Although the way Ramsey’s been playing I’m sure he won’t let his standards slip all season.”

I mention to Chris that during the World Cup in Japan & Korea in 2002, he actually stopped and had a beer with my mates and myself in a bar in Sapporo on the day of the never-to-be-forgotten 1-0 defeat of Argentina. “I remember you lot”, booms Chris before adding with a smile, “there were a lot of beers sunk that day by England fans”.

It seems his off-field career success in the intervening years still haven’t changed him from being one of the lads, and a good bloke to boot.

Talking of England immediately gets Kammy animated and it is re-assuring to hear him talk so enthusiastically about young English players. “I was looking forward to seeing Ross Barkley play for Everton against Villa the other week. I and a lot of other people have seen enough of the lad to know that he is a fabulous young player who appears to genuinely love the game”, he says approvingly.

“It was a shame that on the day I saw him he was a bit disappointing, as he didn’t have a good day. But that can happen, when you’re a young lad, you try so hard but sometimes inconsistency comes with that. But he will be a great player for Everton and hopefully England if he carries on working as hard as he’s doing at the moment.

“Andros Townsend is another. For me he’s the young player of the year so far. He played a blinder against Montenegro at Wembley the other week. It was a very impressive, mature performance from him. I’ll tell you something else about him. When he was on loan to QPR last year he stayed in the same hotel that we use for Sky Sports before filming. We used to have a chat with him at breakfast and he was such a good lad, really nice lad, so grounded it made me think he’s got a big future in the game.”

“People who love the game still enjoy players who have the courage to take people on, to excite the crowd. Andros Townsend can do that. Of course he’s still young and he will have his ups and downs just like young Barkley, but when you have a player who always wants the ball, always wants to take people on, then in my book that’s a good thing”.

Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29

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