7 December 2011


I'm devastated.  I'm broken hearted. I'm forlorn.  Can somebody just tell me, where is Vicente?

For the last 24 hours I've been unable to come up with a suitable metaphor to accurately describe my feelings about El Punal's sad absence from Albion's starting 11, but I just can't find one. Everything about the man is enigmatic.

Yes, I know he's been struggling with injuries, that was part of the package I suppose.  And yes, I understand that the infinitely boring 5 substitutes rule has severely hampered his chances to get 20 minutes here and there and get that all important match practise.

But it's not good enough.  I'm honestly annoyed every week when I hear a rumour about his renewed fitness, his eagerness to get a game, his guaranteed place on the bench only to hear Jonny Cantor once again affirming that Ashley Barnes or Kazenga Lua-Lua will be warming those coveted stripey seats.

Lest we forget, Vicente signing for Brighton and Hove Albion was the biggest coup in our division, maybe the whole country last Summer.  This was a guy with such a pedigree of flair that many Albionites were seen crying in the streets, he was a figurehead, the leader of the Gaylaticos, and arguably the most distinguished footballer ever to pull on the stripes.

I should admit now, as a miser who hasn't purchased an Albion shirt for a decade, that our famous jersey - emblazoned with El Punal #15 on the back - was top of my birthday wish list.

That was late September though, and Vicente was staking a claim for a starting place at the same point that the team decided we didn't want to defend anymore.  His wonder strike against Ipswich will be largely forgotten due to the capitulation that followed it 5 minutes after.

So far this season our Hispanic idol has made 1 start and 2 sub appearances, never completing a game.  The 2 league games resulted in 1-3 losses, the League Cup showing was his impressive debut at home to Liverpool.  All in all, we have seen around 125 minutes of playing time from Vicente, and that's out of a possible 2,070.

The excellent football league website www.theseventytwo.com are running an on-going feature on the 25 best players in The Championship.  We helped out on a piece for the ever-popular Craig Mackail-Smith who came in at number 2.  Objectively speaking though, and in recognition of his age plus 38 international appearances, 250 La Liga run-outss and a bunch of Champions League games, the single best player in our league is Vicente Rodriguez.  Yet  Vicente will not be listed, he wont be anywhere near the list, he's probably not even on Gus Poyet's list at the moment.

I pray he's happy, I pray he's working hard, I pray he is feeling fit and healthy and I pray that he is knocking on the proverbial door.  For now, we can just sit and hope that The Dagger does not end up being thrust disappointingly through our collective hearts.

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