The curious case of Nathan Delfouneso

10 years ago our Nathan Delfouneso was hot property. Full of skill and trickery, getting on the end of things for Villa and England u21s. The pace and hard running, a stylish package full of potential. 

The goals came slowly at first but such a classy looking player would surely add a more clinical side to his game as he gained experience…

Nathan Delfouneso 10 years on

Cut to now, and it feels like the Fonz has re-lived his early career year upon year. Each season bringing a couple of moments of wonder and a frustrating blend of fleet-footed forward forays and bungling blind alley dribbles. 

Every next match might be his game, every next season might be the one. 

He’s lost nothing on his initial promise. He’s every bit the player who had the world at his feet, but now he’s 29. 

He’s the ultimate enigma. Drop him and you miss him. Play him and you’re guaranteed to be rueing the opportunities he misses that any carthorse would have buried. 

Brilliant positioning and lovely movement, the perfect touch and athletic physique, the crowd up as one only for him to nod or scuff weakly into the hands of the keeper or (as he managed this year in a feat of incredible skill) to run with the ball along the goal line itself evading the oppositions desperate lunges but somehow not putting it into the net. 

‘Fuck’s sake Fonz!’ 

Every miss, every wrong decision is slightly more painful than the next. 

Every time he’s left out, thought of what he might have done lingers a little longer. 

A curates’ egg of a player. Is it a striker? Is it a winger? Is it a…. whatever people call an advanced midfielder these days? No, it’s Nathan Delfouneso. None of the above and yet weirdly all of them at the same time.

If he had a go on one of those mad fairground things where you run a metal hoop along the wiggly wire, he’d do it perfectly then sneeze at the last.

A link to before everything went sour

In a period where players come and go everywhere, Blackpool doors have revolved with a particular speed and it’s very tangerine to have a player in his 4th spell at the club as the one consistent presence. The one link to before everything went properly sour.

 From total football, through seemingly endless lumpen and defensive managers through to a new high pressing style, and past fans in court, owners in court, mobility scooter pitch invasions, judgement days, relegations, boycotts and homecomings, Fonz has been an enigmatic flame flickering but never extinguished.

Talented but enigmatic

He’s ridiculously talented. He’s like a thoroughbred racehorse in a group of ponies but you get the feeling he’s never had the right jockey. You could imagine him galloping into an insurmountable lead but then being spooked and refusing the final fence. 

If he was a golfer, he’d lead after round 3 and then slice the ball into the water for a triple bogey at the outset of round 4. 

If he had a go on one of those mad fairground things where you run a metal hoop along the wiggly wire, he’d do it perfectly then sneeze at the last.

'He's one of our own' Nathan Delfouneso

But still, he’s ours. Nothing in our recent history speaks of perfection. If he wasn’t so flawed he’d have gone long ago. For all the howling self-doubt, there’s a player who can lift us, who can have us singing his name.

If our new boss can finally work out what it is that Fonz does best, if he can get him in the stalls with blinkers on, if he can whisper the right words in his ear then we might finally see what he can really do. 

There’s always hope but it’s the hope that kills you. 

C’mon Fonz lad! 

We love you. You love us. This will be your year…

Article by Mitch Cook’s Left Foot

Featured image attribution: “Obligatory Random Man Hugging” flickr photo by joncandy shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

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