Nearly all the attention was focused on a player who was not going to play. Even the BBC got wrapped up in the “Will he? Won’t he?” saga, with 5 Live’s football correspondent John Murray commentating on which Tottenham players he could spot as they trooped off the team bus and made their way around the stadium perimeter. It was breathless stuff, as the expectation and anticipation of who would be involved in the match against Manchester City reached fever pitch. As Murray later wryly commented that the answer to the question on everyone’s lips was…No.
No, Harry Kane was not going to be playing, indeed he was not even included in the squad. Such is the way of the modern football world that a much-speculated about rumour grabs the headlines rather than what was going to transpire during the match itself. What the vast majority of the media missed, ignored or did not care a jot about was that Tottenham’s goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris was about to equal the Premier League appearance record for the club because this was going to be his 299th match.
The Frenchman was drawing level with a man who rather undermined his nickname, as pointed out in my book Premier League Nuggets – “Although he earned the rather unfortunate sobriquet ‘Sick Note’, Darren Anderton remained free of injuries long enough to make the most number of appearances for Spurs, just one shy of 300. From the first season in 1992/93 he was at Spurs for over a decade until he moved to Birmingham in 2004 and scored 34 goals. One of Jacques Santini’s last acts as Spurs boss was to release him and Anderton was clearly not exactly chuffed at what was on the table. ‘The new contract gives me only a tiny rise and I won’t sign it,’ Anderton admitted in the News of the World. ‘They have only made me one offer and they haven’t come back. If they don’t want me to stay then I’ll go. I would love to sign a new deal but what they have put on the table simply isn’t good enough.’ And off he went to St. Andrews in high dudgeon.”
Anderton did play another twenty Premier League matches for The Blues but he just missed out on joining the players who have made 300 Premier League for one club. This is a feat that Lloris should achieve this Sunday when Nuno Espirito Santo takes his new team to his old stamping ground of Molineux. Lloris will join a select group of three current players who have reached this landmark. The most recent addition to the 300 Club did so last weekend, just beating Lloris to the tape.
|DAVID DE GEA||MANCHESTER UNITED||14 August 2011||340|
|SEAMUS COLEMAN||EVERTON||25 October 2009||300|
|HUGO LLORIS||TOTTENHAM||7 October 2012||299|
Having joined Everton from Sligo Rovers in 2009, Seamus Coleman capped off his dozen years at Goodison when he captained the club in this season’s opener against Southampton to reach the 300 mark. Suffice to say this fact did not make the BBC report on the game. Coleman is one of those understated, underrated players who barely gets a mention as there is nothing flash or spectacular about him or his play. Solid reliability is not an attribute that is so easy to encapsulate into a meme or on Tik-Tok so Coleman’s achievement passed under the radar but is surely worthy of greater recognition.
His national manager, Martin O’Neill certainly recognised his qualities when making him Ireland’s skipper in 2014 and after their notable victory over Italy in the 2016 Euros he summed up Coleman’s contribution. “He galvanised the team as well which was great because, off the field, he is a really quiet lad but he has a bit of grit and determination about him which is very evident.” It may be evident to O’Neill but it is seemingly not so for many others.
A few years after Coleman joined Everton David De Gea moved to Manchester United from Atletico Madrid. Early on, De Gea seemed to be a little flummoxed by the physicality of the English game. Reading the reports on his first few games for United suggested he might not make it beyond the first few months as his error-riddled performances put his place in doubt. Here’s how the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor summed up his Premier League debut against West Brom – “From Sir Alex Ferguson, there were only supportive words. David De Gea was embarking on ‘a learning process”, he said, and the Manchester United manager went on to recall how Peter Schmeichel had endured some difficult moments of his own during the early part of his career in England – “and Peter went on to become the greatest goalkeeper of all time”.
Taylor continued – “What he did not say for certain was whether he would persist with the Spaniard or whether this was now the time to remove him from the team. But there was a clue. “Pat him on his head,” he replied when asked what approach he should take. “They battered him in the second half and the referee should have protected him more . . . but welcome to English football.”
De Gea’s uncertain start did not last too long and after that uncomfortable welcome, he stayed in the team that season and has since become the regular keeper as he enters his second decade at Old Trafford. Last weekend’s match against Leeds was his 340th in the Premier League, putting him almost a hundred ahead of Harry ‘Will he? Wont he?’ Kane. But the Spaniard is second on the list of current players with the most matches for one club. In next week’s Part 2, a look at the player who is way out in front in terms of matches for a single club, alongside a few who are about to reach the 300 mark.