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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
Can footballers large it?
Were Swindon right to transfer-list Neil Ruddock for being overweight? We weigh up the arguments for and against.
Swindon may want to shed pounds and kilogrammes by shifting Neil Ruddock's bulky wage packet and hefty frame.
But time was when Weight Watchers meant going along to watch top footballers perform, even if it did involve a bit of puffing and panting.
The original of the calorifically challenged was William "Fatty" Foulke.
Foulke stood at 6ft 4in, and weighed in at 20-plus stone. A goalkeeper for Sheffield United and England, his party trick was to pick opposing forwards up and stand them on their heads in the goalmouth.
Then there was the dumpy little major who had the nation laughing at him when he came over with the Hungarian team in 1953.
But the grins disappeared from the faces faster than a bag of chips down Jan Molby's throat as Ferenc Puskas dumped Billy Wright on his backside - like a bus on a skid pan - with an extravagant drag-back.
In subsequent years, bulky players were at the heart of successful teams, proving you get more bang for your buck.
Spurs completed the first Double of the 20th century and became the first British club to lift a European trophy with the barrel-chested icon Dave McKay leading the way.
Nottingham Forest won two European Cups with Larry Lloyd and John Robertson swelling their ranks, both of whom should have carried "Extra-wide Load" stickers on their shorts.
Francis Lee's goals fired Manchester City to League Championship and FA Cup glory, and when he moved to Derby for a then British record transfer fee, it was rumoured that the Rams had bought him by the pound.
Elephants are the largest land-based animals on the planet, but possess the gentlest and most delicate of touches.
Same went for Jan Molby, who caressed and cossetted a football around a pitch from his exclusive preserve in the centre circle.
And what about Micky Quinn, whose pear shape made it nearly impossible for defenders to get in a tackle unless they took a detour.
Surely in the hurly-burly of the modern Premiership there is more than a little room for the talented heavyweight?
While Swindon's desire to rid themselves of Neil Ruddock probably has more to do with his fat wages than his inability to fit into his shorts, football's fatties are being squeezed out of the professional game.
The days when roly-polies like Ruddock, Jan Molby and Micky Quinn could rely on their ball skills to compensate for their lack of mobility are over.
Modern, top-flight football - with its bleep tests, controlled diets and specialist fitness coaches - simply has no room for the big-boned player.
The supreme athletes running the show in the Premiership, Serie A and La Liga would run rings around the huff-and-puff brigade of yesteryear.
Can you really see Molby getting the better of Patrick Vieira, or Quinn leaving Rio Ferdinand in his wake?
No team with pretensions of success can afford to carry dead weight, no matter how skilful, as Matt Le Tissier and Paul Gascoigne have recently found out - although fans of Southampton and Everton probably did not realise their teams had pretensions of success.
And anybody suggesting Ferenc Puskas as a role - or is that roll? - model for the larger footballer is using an argument flabbier than the legendary Hungarian.
The game he played in the 1950s and the game played today are distant relations.
Today's game is played by fitter, faster and, as a result, thinner players.
High-tempo modern football is not necessarily better - it is certainly not always more skillful - but the time and space Gascoigne et al need to do their best work just does not exist anymore.
The dimensions of the game - in terms of pitch size and time on the referee's watch - may be the same as always, but a football pitch is a more congested space these days. And there is no second-half let up either.
The long and the short of it is that you can be long or short, but fat is simply out of the question.
07 Aug 02 | Swindon Town
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