William Gallas is playing his 13th consecutive season in the Premier League this year. Last season was the first when he didn’t play 20 or more league games. He has performed well at every team he has played for and made the PFA team of the year on two occasions. He has captained all of the Premier League teams he has played for, which considering the teams involved, is an incredible feat.
He is surely one of the best defenders to have graced England's top division, dynamic enough to play in either full back role, and so accomplished a reader of the game that he is a steady hand at centre back even now, at 35. Yet he will never receive the kind of plaudits that are directed the way of other Premier League greats purely because of the path his career has taken. His greatest fans have all been, at one point, his most fervent enemies. That’s what happens when you move from Chelsea to Arsenal to Tottenham.
The contractual disputes that plagued his final few months at both Chelsea and Arsenal haven’t helped Gallas’ relationship with the fans, not did the meltdown he suffered at St. Andrews when playing for the red half of North London. Being part of the French team that has been through so many public tantrums has not helped Gallas’ reputation either. He has also had a knack of scoring important goals against the teams he has ended up joining, this seems (to my mind certainly) especially true against Spurs. But uppity as he may be, there’s no denying he has given his all for each of the London teams when he represented them on the pitch, and the sterling performances he has already turned in this season shows that his commitment on the training pitch muist still be whole-hearted as well.
Gallas was an unlikely choice to start the first game of the season for Tottenham, and having decided to keep Vertonghen on the bench in the first game, Villas-Boas had probably intended to bring him in to partner Kaboul in the second. Following the latter’s operation on his knee AVB faced a difficult decision on who would play at centre back for Spurs. It speak volumes of Gallas that he has held of the challenge from the emerging Steven Caulker, and fan’s favourite Michael Dawson, to retain his place on merit.
He will never be a fan’s darling in this country, an acrimonious departure for a local rival is a hard thing to overcome, two of them are insurmountable. But there should be a healthy respect of the Frenchman from fans of all the clubs he has played for. After all on the pitch, where it really matters, Gallas has never left the fans short.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald