Vital Match Statistics: How a Player's Height and Weight Became Closely Guarded Secrets
Davies, Hunter, New Statesman (1996)
I was a weed as a child. Now look at me-still a weed. But having asthma made it worse. Dribbling, passing, that was fine, but shooting from any distance, that was agony, especially on wet pitches when the ball was like a coconut. It just sort of dribbled forward expectantly a few yards, then came to a halt, prematurely. Would I ever play for Scotland, or even Carlisle United? That was my ambition in life aged 11. It seemed very unlikely.
One of the rare moments of revelation in my whole life came when I was 17. I realised that, although I was still small and weedy, if I were determined enough and could tackle a big lump and bring him down, it would hurt him more than it would hurt me. Overnight I became a demon tackler--and got into the First XV at Carlisle Grammar School. Boaster.
I have always followed the weeds with extra interest, knowing that kids like Shaun Wright-Phillips, Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon, Tomas Rosicky and even Robinho must have been told all their childhood that they wouldn't make it as they weren't big enough.
The ones who looked ugly and ungainly, not just small, like that duo at Man City, Stephen Ireland and Craig Bellamy, must have found it even harder. Watching Ireland off the ball, I still find it hard to believe he is any sort of athlete and not an escapee from some day release, looking for a soup kitchen.
It becomes a challenge, of course, when you're small and weedy, to make yourself more skilful than the bigger, better-built lads--and also fiercer. Wee Billy Bremner made himself a giant, as did Nobby Stiles, scaring everyone with his physical menace--ie, kicking people. Bellamy has worked on his facial expressions, as opposed to his fouls. He looks constantly furious, with the ref, opposition, team-mates, himself. …