Visionaries are often only recognised after their death. Van Gogh severed his own ear before the people of Arles realised the Dutchman was actually pretty decent with a brush and a tin of Dulux. Galileo Galilei could have advanced science by a hundred years if some bible-bashing Christians hadn’t got in his way. Edgar Alan Poe invented a whole genre during his lifetime, and still ended up with less funds than you’d find in your average student’s bank account. These visionaries rejected normality, pushing the boundaries of art, science, and social thought in ways the world wasn’t quite yet ready to handle. And, although most of us don’t know it yet, every Sunday night we are witnessing the emergence of another name to add to that great list: Garth Crooks.
How do you describe a concept like Garth Crooks? Dynamic centre forward? Controversial pundit? Ethereal demi-god? Whatever way you look at it, Garth Crooks is an enigma. Legend has it that Garth Crooks once completed Football Manager 2005 in a 27-hour stint of Red Bull, cocaine and self-inflicted genital asphyxiation, as the computer game’s coding buckled under the pressure of meeting such a superior force. It was precisely such undisputed folklore that saw media networks world-wide clamouring to acquire The Garth Crooks as their chief opinion on football, and it was this clamouring which led to the liminal seminality of ‘Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week’.
Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week is a thing of ridicule amongst football fans across England. It’s the intellectual equivalent of curling up in bed and watching the scholars over at Arsenal Fan TV eloquently dissect how their team threw away a 3-goal lead over Bournemouth. Compiling the 11 best players from across the weekend’s football, Garth Crooks’ team selections are met with unfair derision online. But I am not fooled by this narrative of naivety. No. To me, Garth d’Crooks is a visionary of quixotic proportions, the likes of which we have never seen before, and may likely never see again.
In his weekly exploits, Garth Crooks has given birth to what can only be described as a new form of football: super-post-football-realism. This form has only one rule: there are no rules. Only through anarchy can you achieve the true artistic freedom of jogo bonito. It’s for this reason that Garth Crooks is the type of man that makes Gareth Macauley his man of the match for scoring two headers against Stoke, despite simultaneously conceding five goals against a team whose main strike force consisted of Jonathon Walters. It’s all about attack, because Garth Crooks OBE is a football purist, a man who looks at Pep Guardiola’s philosophy and scoffs.
Garth Crooks’ pioneering experiments into super-post-football-realism delineate reality and blur boundaries, meaning that his teams transcend the borders of nationality or personality. Can you imagine James Milner and Paul Pogba styling each other’s hair in the dressing room? Wayne Bridge and John Terry keeping the ice bath nice and warm for their teammates? Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez bopping heads to their latest mixtape on the way to training? Garth Crooks quells any in-fighting; morale and chemistry filter from the top down alongside an uncompromisable respect for the special one 2.0 himself – Garth Crooks.
Let’s take a look at some of the more revolutionary selections from Garth Crook’s repertoire, so that we can try to unpack the inner-workings of a mind that makes Vicente del Bosque look like Roy Hodgson circa 2010 Liverpool manager.
It’s often suggested that ‘offence wins games, defence wins titles’, but here we have two testaments to the fact that that phrase is nothing more than an old-wive’s tale. Unlike most footballing cynics, Garth Crooks knows that you can rely on a defensively absent midfield of Willian, Mkhitaryan, Kenedy and Mahrez (who have an average height of 5-foot-10 between them) when you’ve got the exceptional defensive capabilities of Chris Smalling behind them to steady the ship. In fact, HMS Crooks can sometimes sail with only one man in midfield – the talismanic and out of position Kurt Zouma. Although having 6 strikers on the pitch would seem, to many, a tad overkill, Garth Crooks would have subbed out De Gea for Charlie Austin if he could. But the bastards at the BBC said “he was contractually obliged to follow FA rules.” Bastards. Short-sighted bastards.
Like a devious Sith Lord, Darth Crooks sees the potential in players to be so much more than their position. Troy Deeney has been masquerading as a centre forward for too long now. You’ve seen him bully the Arsenal defenders with their lack of “cojones”, just imagine what he could do in a midfield battle with Jason Puncheon. It would be like an unreleased episode of Dragon Ball Z that was pulled from production because it was too graphic. It’s an opportunity that eludes even the greats; Pelé, for instance, has openly admitted that the biggest regret of his career was that he “never got picked to play defensive holding midfielder in Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week”. And sure, Olivier Giroud may well have a noggin made of steel and a left foot with a penchant for scorpion kicks, but have you ever considered the pure chaos he would create if unleashed at attacking mid? Of course you haven’t. Because you aren’t Garth fucking Crooks. And only Garth Crooks is prepared to ask the questions no one else would ever consider asking.
Garth Crooks defies conventions, both managerial and morale. Crooky Garth would give the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award to Marcos Alonso on account of his ability to rack up a low-key murder charge in a drink-driving incident yet still have the presence of mind to stick a free-kick top bins with a clear conscience. Likewise, Garth Crooks refuses to switch Kante and Silva to their more natural positions just because some sandal-wearing snowflake thinks its ‘the morally right thing to do.’ Garth Crooks pushes his players to their physical limits, asking Sanchez and Arnautovic to do a shift at wing-back in order to improve their defensive frailties, or giving Eriksen and De Bruyne a week’s stint as midfield anchors so that Moussa Sissoko or Phil Foden can have a pop at goal from 30 yards instead.
The reason most of us confuse Garth Crooks’ eccentric selections for the ramblings of a madman, instead of the impressionist masterpieces they truly are, is because Garth Crooks’ super-post-football-realism has left him in another realm of time, space, and sex entirely. We mere mortals should feel blessed to walk this Earth alongside a visionary like Garth Crooks. For he has translated the complexities of modern-day football into one simple statistic, the only statistic that matters:
The 11 players chosen in Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week.
Images: – BBC Sport
– The Mag
– 101 Great Goals