Greatness may not be as random an occurrence as we think. Great players tend to be born in certain parts of the world. And great players tend to evolve thanks to a certain type of coaching.
But when it comes to when great players are born, one would think that it's entirely random. After all, there is no logical reason to think that this planet produced more great players in, say, 1982 than 1978? Or is there?
The thought crossed my mind as I looked at the list of players born in 1987. You could build a side that would threaten for the league title anywhere in the world. Imagine
There might be a few issues at the back -- defenders tend to develop later than attacking players, of course.
Perhaps at no time in recent history have so many 20-year-olds already carved out a spot for themselves at major clubs. Nine of the players mentioned above are already starters at Champions League clubs and, in the case of Messi and Fàbregas, they're not just regulars, they're key figures.
And there is no telling how this group will develop. Just compare them to some of the guys who finished in the top 10 in the European Footballer of the Year or Ballon d'Or voting. At 20,
The guys who finished first and second --
Oh, and in case you're wondering about the two guys missing from the list, they are Fàbregas (eighth) and Messi (third), both still 20.
Admittedly, I haven't really done any comparative analysis with, say, '86 or '85. Obviously, one would assume that the "classes" get better as you go back, level off around '82 or so and then probably being their decline around '75, as age and injuries catch up. But this doesn't change the fact that this is a special group of players.
One more thing: Of the players in the Ballon d'Or top 10, just three were older than 25 (Drogba, Pirlo and van Nistelrooy). What this suggests is that the generational change has already occurred. This is very much the era of the kids, not just those mentioned above, but also their colleagues from '85, '86, '88 and even '89 (
So, 10 years after the fact,
Yes, St. James' Park is always full. Yes, the Toon Army is very passionate. Yes, it would be nice if the long-suffering supporters had something to celebrate. But the sooner the media stays away from the facile stereotyping and allows Keegan to get down to what truly matters -- what happens on the pitch -- the better it will be for Newcastle and anyone who cares about the club.