Croatians, we’ve had a few, but then again, not too few to mention. Four at one point recently in fact; Niko Kranjcar, Charlie Corluka and Stipe Pletikosa (the man who helped cover for Cudicini after he and his Honda took a closer than advisable look at the tarmac in Blackhorse Road) to name three and of course the floppy haired/ratfink/traitorous/magician (delete as appropriate) Luka Modric.
I always liked having them (the Croats) here. It’s wrong to stereotype of course but they all exhibited what I assume, having extrapolated from my poll sample of four, to be national characteristics that included head down hard work, an uncomplaining attitude (all the outfield players were regularly played out of position by Harry with very little back chat), a high level of skill and a very very deep & gruff voice. Their fierce patriotism seemed to translate into club loyalty – with one floppy haired/ratfink etc etc exception of course.
Charlie, Niko and Luka all contributed fully to the relative success of the past few years. Corluka never looked a day under 40, ran as though demons were clawing at his ankles but more often than not kept opposition wingers in his very ample back pocket. Kranjcar’s genius was as plain to see as his lack of pace. His crashing finishes at Stoke and Sunderland were topped by the left foot belter that gave us a late win against Bolton two seasons ago. His subdued celebration was full of smouldering looks in the direction of the bench; “you dare to leave me out, when I can do that?”.
TV will show Modric also banging in long-range efforts, against Liverpool and Bolton most probably. Regular watchers though will remember the scuffs, drags and balloons that were more common when the goal gaped. His apparent yearning for Champions League football would’ve been satisfied more frequently and earlier if he kept his head more often when in on goal. We’ll miss his link-up play, I’ll miss his outside of the boot curled passes, no one will miss his corner taking.
They’re gone though and whilst it was fun while it lasted, the revolution is underway and needs embracing. Modric goes and Dembele signs. Kranjcar and Charlie out, Vertonghen in. Belgium is the new Croatia.
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