Shinji Okazaki – The Ultimate Ron (or a reminder of why this blog’s called “Every Team Needs A Ron”)

There comes a time in oh so many forms of media when things need to be updated for a new era. Shakespeare gets taken over by Baz Luhrmann, with swords becoming guns and pre-pubescent boys becoming Claire Danes. Captain America still starts as a Nazi-fighting soldier in World War Two, but there comes a point where the passage of time dictates that he must be frozen in ice in order to exist in the present day.

‘Every Team Needs A Ron’ theory began in 2011. It was an entirely different age.

The final Harry Potter film had recently been released and Scott Parker was in the running for awards and England caps. This was a time before we (the people, the mainstream) properly valued defensive midfielders who didn’t just exist to put in crunching tackles. It was before the revisionist history of Paul Scholes was penned, writing him in as an alternative reality’s World Cup winner, had he only played in central midfield.

The broad strokes of using the Harry Potter trio as personality types still kinda works though (albeit marginally more embarrassing to explain as the Potter-brand moves further away from hot cultural phenomenon and more towards ‘oh, so they’re still giving JK money to write more of this, I thought Voldemort had been defeated, it was happy ever after, and the whole thing had been put to a nice, clean end’ territory).

Cristiano? Bit arrogant, talisman of every team he’s on, quietly hard-working – Harry. Iniesta? Genius, magically so – Hermione. The aforementioned Scott Parker? Holds things together in a team, impact only marginally felt, will work all day for the success of others – Ron. If you were putting them in traditional English footballing parlance, then Harrys would be the Captain, Hermiones the Playmaker, Rons the Workhorse.

The title-winning Leicester side were just the universe-reboot that ETNAR theory needed (in order to spin out a semi-topical article and kinda remind people why the blog’s called what it is).

Leicester winning the Premier League title was all of Ron’s visions in the Mirror of Erised coming true. Look at the names in the team:

Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Mahrez, Drinkwater, Kante, Albrighton; Okazaki, Vardy.

Mahrez had a Hermione-esque season, mesmerisingly magical. Vardy was the closest the team had to a talismanic focal point, to a Harry, but even he ran himself into the ground out of possession purely in order to lessen the burden on his team-mates. Apart from those two, though, there’s not a single player who would achieve the star-like status which sets them apart from the Rons of the footballing world.

The entire back four were functional workhorses. Kante was magical in his efficacy, but not quite in a way that would lead to him escaping the ‘Ron’ tag. If Harry were told to run so much that people thought he was in two places at once, he’d go off and sulk about it; Hermione would invent a Time Turner instead. Ron would do it, and ask how you were doing after he had.

Drinkwater, while responsible for a lot of good long balls for Vardy to run onto, was hardly (and I should probably whisper this as I’m writing it in Leicester) a visionary. You wouldn’t, if you were overly eager about football, compare his touch to the finesse of Canaletto or his vision to Van Gogh’s use of colour. And Drinkwater has that Manchester United youth product tag hanging over him, the promise of what he could have been but isn’t, in a similar way to the successes of Ron’s brothers hanging over him.

And Okazaki. My adoration for Okazaki is best summarised in his goal against Newcastle last season. No, not that , not the overhead kick. This one. How can you not love that player?

And he deserves goals, whether ones like that or of the quality of the overhead kick. He runs so much that he has to be subbed off after an hour, and no-one does it better. His running is intelligent, cutting passing lanes with every metre ran; his movement when Leicester get the ball is fantastic, finding pockets that other players wouldn’t.

Even though his goal tally might not be outstanding, he’s an absolute coup for Leicester, and it’s no surprise that they wanted to bring him in before they did (From May 2015, the summer that they bought him: “Pearson admitted Okazaki had been on their list of potential targets for the past two transfer windows.”).

It’s a shame that Leicester aren’t doing too well in the Premier League again this season, but let’s remember their successes. Let’s remember the value of those who cover, who put in a shift, who do a hard, unglamourous job. Let’s all be more like Shinji Okazaki.

 

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