Many west ham fans must still have memories of Dimitri Payet and that final season at Upton Park. Much of the football played in that final season was brilliant, in the true spirit of West Ham -and the Frenchman was at the centre of most of it.
The drag backs, step overs and pull downs of the ball. The brilliant free kicks. The sense of anticipation as the ball looped over to Payet, what would he do with it next? It was the sort of exhileration that fans were happy to pay their money to see - the exciting, the unusual.
Payet ofcourse fell from grace and left the club, things have never been the same since.
We now have work rate continually discussed, have the players run far enough, are they fit enough. The result is all that matters, we must "grind out" some results is the regular cry. Avoid the drop, sack the manager. Hang on a minute is this not an entertainments business?
All a far cry from that final Upton Park season. Payet didn't tackle back but nor did Paulo di Canio or Trevor Brooking in their time. These players were the artists of football, not the journeymen putting in the miles. Players who lifted the game to a new level of entertainment beyond the attritional business of so much we see today. Players that the fans loved to see and be thrilled by week in week out - it's what makes the beautiful game beautiful.