Absence makes the heart grow fonder?
You may have heard me mention something on the podcast a couple of weeks ago that has been bugging me for a while now. Before I start, I'd like to make it clear that this piece is in no way meant to be derogatory to the midfielder that I am about to discuss, it is more intended to look into the way that the minds of football fans, including me, work.
'What the hell are you talking about?', I hear you ask. Don't worry, I'm getting to it.
The growing popularity of social media, and especially Twitter, has given more football fans the chance to voice their opinions more than ever before. The past saw us gathered in the pub, talking about how we thought our team would fare in the forthcoming game, whereas now, we stand quietly, talking it through with thousands of others on Twitter.
It was on Twitter, and Facebook comments, that I saw the particular subject of this article. After people were asked who were our midfield pairing, I noticed a number of people claiming that David Meyler was one of the two best players in our squad in that position. Considering the amount of players available to us in the centre of the park, I was taken somewhat by surprise.
Looking at the players that we have in midfield, David Vaughan won player of the season at a Premiership club last season, Lee Cattermole has been a regular in the English top flight for a number of years, Craig Gardner has also played for a number of Premiership teams, and Jack Colback has proved himself to be calm on the ball and wise above his years.
On the other hand, David Meyler has played for Sunderland just 16 times. As I said, I'm not here to bash Meyler, but my theory is that, rather than him being the magnificent player that some of our fans seem to remember him being (don't forget that he's been injured for the best part of 18 months), he is actually well down the pecking order when it comes to our team.
To reinforce my point, I'm looking back to the most recent tournament which us England fans had to suffer through, much in the same way as we are doing now, as we were left pining for a player that we couldn't have.
Gareth Barry picked up an injury four weeks before the tournament which ruled him out of England's first game, a dire 1-1 draw against the United States. This is where our nature as football fans kicks in. We see the players that took part in the game, and pine for those that aren't available. It isn't something that happens when a team is playing well. You don't look at your team when they are successful and wonder if the players on the physio's table would be able to do a better job than them.
Incidentally, and less than unsurprisingly, Barry wasn't the answer.
Later on in the tournament, with England uninspiring in every encounter, we as fans clamoured for more creativity in the team, looking to the sidelines at Joe Cole, a player who had his chance on the big stage for years previously. However, as he wasn't in the team at the time, in our eyes, he shone, and there was a nationwide campaign to get Joe in the team.
We all know how the Germany game ended.
My point is that, although Meyler is undoubtedly a talent, and offers some height in the centre of midfield which none of our others do, it seems that we have developed an expectation of him that isn't necessarily justified. It is born out of the fact that he has been unavailable for so long, and that is why we are so desperate to see him back in the red and white stripes.
Interestingly, the same can also be said our manager, as he has been singing the praises of the young Irishman this week following his return to fitness.
While I would be surprised if Meyler was to walk straight back into the team, I fully expect him to play some part at the weekend, and will, of course, welcome him back with open arms. I just hope that if he is to make it back into the team, it is on merit during training, rather than the reputation that he has built up by not actually playing for the club.