Left Back: Paul Konchesky
What’s in a Konchesky? We all know his look: big bubble face, enlarged eyes, flushed cheeks, a man constantly drenched in sweat and carrying the demeanor of someone waiting for something bad to happen. He senses it’s there; just not sure when. A problem you always wish belonged to someone else.
While most of these articles have focused on especially brilliant left-backs—look at Roberto Carlos and his bendy free kick! Cor, wow, Bixente Lizarazu is a tiny man yet bestowed with World Cup-winning greatness! Et cetera!—there must also be room to discuss those that vex more than they delight.
As a Liverpool fan—my first life mistake, I’m aware—seeing Paul Konchesky all big-smiled and happy about joining the Reds was a dispiriting day. Not only was it confirmation once and for all that we were a decidedly middle-rate club with enough of a decline in recent years to consider it a pattern and not an anomaly, but it was almost a sign of contrition, of defeat. We’d hired a man set to drag us out of one malaise and into another different kind of turgid hell, and he’d promptly gone and recruited perhaps the least essential member of his former squad at Fulham. Paul Konchesky. Paul fucking Konchesky. A man whose finest highlights were incontrovertible, yet happy, accidents.
Take the goal for West Ham against Liverpool in the 2005 FA Cup final. A sublime finish, to be sure, and one that had the Hammers within a late Gerrard thunderbolt of lifting the trophy, and yet, there’s absolutely no mistaking that Paul was trying, bless him, to cross the ball for Dean Ashton’s square forehead and not, as it came to be, float an artful shot into the only square inches of the goal Pepe Reina could not reach from fully 35 yards away and from an equally absurd angle on the left flank.
But that’s Paul Konchesky. Give him a season, and he’ll give you one perfect moment, a lifeboat amid a sea of hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing mediocrity so strong and forceful that you swear it’s planned that way.
For a club that harbored delusions of grandeur, we hoped for a left-back and we were promptly given Paul Konchesky. He represented Liverpool’s future, all grim and grey and peripatetic and ordinary. Moderate amounts of graft and and grit other attributes that harkened back to the terraces, but he muddled through games with all the panache of Sisyphus nudging that massive rock up an improbable incline. Tied up as Liverpool was with the shenanigans of Hicks & Gillett, and with Roy Hodgson’s frantic face-rubbing on the sideline, you’d have been forgiven for tearing your eyes out at watching Konchesky play. We loaned out Insua for this clown?
The final nail in his coffin came when he remained silent through endless Anfieldian abuse, and yet his mother simply could not. This shifted him from a stoic, mediocre battler to that wimpy kid we all knew in school whose mum wasn’t afraid to chase you off her doorstep for harassing her liddle, widdle baby boy. I understand her defense mechanism, but I’ll note that when I went to the 2009 Carling Cup Final and had the pleasure of sitting in the Spurs Friends & Family Section—two main highlights: watching Martin Samuel manhandle a cup of coffee while his lackey typed out notes for Samuel’s match report, and seeing two men argue over one man’s insistence on waving a very large flag that blocked the view of many—we cursed David Bentley and a (then) hapless Gareth Bale mere seats away from the Bentley and Bale families. Especially when Bentley shanked his penalty in the shoot-out, tricked by an iPod-wearing Ben Foster of all people.
Am I proud of that? Not particularly, but I’ll note that not one brother, cousin, father, or mother downed a pint and faced us to defend their child. Time and a place for everything, Mrs. Konchesky. Time and a place. Perhaps, on some level, they knew our rebukes were justified, or maybe their sense of pride was simply not something they wished to lay on the line at that particular moment. Having watched that game again recently on replay, I’d even argue that we were merely expressing (rudely) what everyone around us was thinking.
But back to times and places for a moment. Leicester City seems about right for our Paul. He gamely fought through half a season before Dalglish put him out of his misery, but his brief and hilarious tenure at Anfield sets right the following: sometimes shit is just shit, even if it is trying very hard.
And that’s important too. I think.