You Think You Know Me? The 5 Greatest Football Metamorphoses

From the maligned to the misfiring, this collection of managers and players prove that a leopard can change its spots...


Pardew re-inventing himself at Newcastle, Wenger revolutionizing Arsenal, Forlan leaving Manchester United and scoring and more Football metamorphoses...

Thanks to the modern day media saturation of football, Sky TV, the evolution of the internet, twitter, etc., etc.; we are all very confident of our knowledge and familiarity with all involved; the clubs, players, managers, chairmen, pundits, presenters are all very well known to us. Sometimes there are those that surprise however, the ones that we think we have all figured out, only to learn that they’re not as crap as we thought, or not as much of an imbecile, or not quite the disaster waiting to happen that we had all concluded; these select few, are football’s five greatest metamorphoses.

Alan Pardew

When Chris Hughton was sacked by Newcastle in 2010, for seemingly the umpteenth time, there was uproar on Tyneside. Once again Mike Ashley was meddling with club and this time the “Cockney Mafia” was getting involved in the first team. Out went the popular and much respected leader of the dressing room, and in came Alan Pardew, an averagely regarded manager, but even worse than that; seemingly Ashley’s puppet that would gladly stand by and do as he was told as they stripped the team of all the prime assets.

It started ominously with sale of Andy Carroll, but since then; Pardew has proved everyone wrong. Assisted by one of the best scouting networks around, the man they now call Pardiola has proved to be a fine coach; continuing the work done by Hughton, maintaining the cohesive team spirit instilled following relegation and developing the team with excellent signings. All the while, dealing with employers who create more problems than they solve; and charming the Newcastle faithful with his honest, forthright views, explanations and nonsense free statements.

Last year he led Newcastle to 5th in the league, a return to European football and just four points from the Champions League places. Given the roll call of managers who have failed at Newcastle, this achievement should not be underestimated; quite rightly for the 2011/12 season he received both LMA and Premier League Manager of the Year awards.

Once again Mike Ashley was meddling with club and this time the “Cockney Mafia” was getting involved in the first team

Gary Neville

You could hear the collective groan of many a football fan when Gary Neville was announced as a new pundit on Sky for the start of the 2011/12 season. After finally freeing the world of Andy Gray's constant cack-babbling, Sky then went and shot themselves in the foot by hiring one of the most generally loathed and annoying players of the modern game. The prospect of Neville, his crap little goatee, and Jamie "State the obvious" Rednapp, look set to ruin the return of the new season.

Then, something rather strange happened; yes Rednapp was still a dullard who offered no insight whatsoever, but Neville actually turned out to be rather good. Last season Gary Neville really did manage to pull off an amazing job of changing people’s perceptions of him (myself included). A good pundit is someone who shows the audience something that they didn’t see, or explains something that they may not have known, and that’s what Neville did.

He offered insight into tactics, techniques, positioning, the dressing room, whatever it may have been that match, and that’s what makes a pundit interesting and it’s what makes you want to listen; not Rednapp telling us that he expects Stoke to launch it into the box today. Of course there will be those who still can’t stomach him, and I can understand that, but given that he has changed many a preconception about him after just one season, is only credit to his punditry.


When Arsene Wenger took over at Arsenal in 1996, the team was synonymous with two things; a great defence and their even greater boozing sessions. The infamous Tony Adams, Paul Merson, Ray Parlour etc. drinking club was something that was not really uncommon in the British game; it seems strange to think now, but by and large, most professional footballers liked a drink. Arsene Wenger changed this culture.

Due to these implementations by Wenger at Arsenal, modern day footballers are now true athletes

By changing the diets of his players, looking at their lifestyles and ways they could better look after themselves, Wenger knew that he could get far greater performances from his players. He was also ruthless when it came to implementing his methods, change your ways or change your club was the message.

What seems obvious now was revolutionary at the time, and it was not long before the rest of the league followed the Arsenal way. Due to these implementations by Wenger at Arsenal, modern day footballers are now true athletes, tee-total thoroughbreds who are developed, fed, watered and trained; all with the primary objective of delivering optimum level performances.

Diego Forlan

Given Manchester United’s success over the last 20 years, it’s hard for the fans of other clubs to feel any real sympathy when they splash a load of cash on a dud; so when in 2002 Fergie paid £7.5m for Diego Forlan, only to find he couldn’t hit a bulls arse with a banjo, oh how we lapped it up. It took him eight months to even score a goal, eventually only scoring 10 goals In 63 appearances before Man Utd cut their losses and flogged him to Villarreal for a cut price £2m.

Once out of the Old Trafford glare, Diego had a point to prove and boy did he ever. In three seasons at El Madrigal, he scored 54 goals in 106 games before signing for Atletico Madrid for €21m. At Madrid, partnering a certain Sergio Agüero, he scored 74 in 134 games helping the club to the Europa League & Super Cup trophies in 2010. Since leaving Manchester United Forlan has won two European Golden Boots and the World Cup Golden Ball in 2010 as the tournaments best player. Not bad for a dud eh?

It took him eight months to even score a goal, eventually only scoring 10 goals In 63 appearances

Sir Bobby Robson

Those of a younger age might wonder why the legendary Knight of English football is on this list, but those of us of a certain age will no doubt recall the time when Sir Bobby was not held in such high regard. Before Graham Taylor was depicted as a turnip by The Sun, Bobby Robson was the victim of a media vilification campaign himself.

After an abysmal showing at the European Championship of 1988, where England exited in the first round after three straight defeats the press went to town on Robson, leading the nation in calls for his head, the good old Sun chipped in as ever, even giving away free “Robson Out” badges. Somehow he clung on in there until the Italia ‘90 World Cup, even overcoming a second hate campaign for accepting a job with PSV for after the tournament, when no new contract offer had come from the F.A.

From then of course it’s all history, England had their greatest tournament since ’66, and Sir Bobby went on to win titles with clubs all across the continent, even managing the great Barcelona; and in the process cemented his legacy as one of British footballs greatest and most loved managers. In 2002 he was knighted for his services to the game.

Honourable mentions should also go to José Mourinho, going from Sir Bobby's translator at Barcelona to arguably the world’s top manager. Newcastle United, in going from a laughing stock and the Spinal Tap of the Premier League, to one of the most sensible and economically run teams in the league; And of course David Beckham, who has gone from national figure of hate, to British icon and probably the most famous man on the planet.

It’s with great credit to the human spirit that these changes have occurred. Sometimes, we as a public are too quick to pass judgement, what you see isn’t always what you get. The drive, ambition, vision or knowledge that may lie within an individual or an organisation, is not usually something tangible, it’s something that can’t easily be seen through a TV or PC screen.

Therein lay the beauty, because once we’ve all made our minds up about someone or something, when they do pull off the unexpected and surprise us all, then not only is that a victory for the individual, but a victory for the human spirit, and that’s what deserves to be applauded.

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