A rigtig Jesper Olsen and Kenny Wharton sitting on a ball

In Denmark, a hospital pass is known as “en rigtig Jesper Olsen”. A real Jesper Olsen – or in my northern brogue, a “right Jesper Olsen” (looks almost the same done that way, I like that).

This stems from the 1986 World Cup match between Denmark and Spain. Olsen having given Denmark the lead, thought he would even things up a bit, you know, make it a bit more interesting. He made a backpass to his goalkeeper that instead of reaching his team-mate, fed Emilio Butragueño. Jesper’s plan to liven things up backfired, as after the Spaniard levelled, he then proceeded to almost single-handedly take the Danish apart in a 5-1 rout.

From that date, blunders or gaffes, or said hospital passes in Denmark are “Jesper Olsens.”

As a youngster, I loved Jesper. I was about 9 years old when “Big” Ron Atkinson made the exciting triple signing of Alan Brazil, Gordon Strachan and Jesper Olsen. These being the first transfers that I probably ever took notice of, I naturally gravitated towards them as early forerunners for the moniker of twig’s favourite player.

Even back then, Alan Brazil looked old enough to be my grandad – he would be at the back of the queue. I didn’t know what to make of Gordon Strachan – he looked a bit scary, I’d hold judgment on him.

So Jesper it was. The reason being – he was more exotic than Brazil and Strachan (being from proper abroad, rather than Scotland), Buck toothed, fuzzy-haired, skinny and waspish – letting the long-sleeved version of the red shirt drape over his hands, or with his twig-like arms waving around the short-sleeved version. He made me think that scrawny old me could make it as well – without resorting to drinking 15 build-up milkshakes a day.

Every game at school – I was Jesper. Every match I saw – I would concentrate more on him than anyone else, trying to gleam anything I could from watching his style of play. He was my most sought-after panini sticker – after the foil ones, of course.

Sadly, despite a few flashes of brilliance over his career, a hat-trick, an FA cup win and not forgetting the wonderful start to the 1985-86 season – Jesper never really flourished in England. However, mainly because of that 8-stone wet through image of him in an ovesized shirt – until I realised the true importance of a certain Mr Robson -he was a hero to me.

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I opened my thoughts to the world of twitter to see if anyone else had players that they loved (or really liked), or just followed. They took a shine to, basically. It could be those that were never fan favourites or even those that the rest of the world thinks “meh” about. Or those on opposing sides, but you couldn’t help but enjoy. And what reasons they had for said devotion.

It could be Zola and his winning smile, Batistuta’s flowing locks (although I have been there before), Bobby Charlton’s comb-over, Alan Cork’s beard. It could be actual football reasons – Goalkeeper Jimmy Glass’s last-minute goal, for example – although I prefer the more esoteric vibe.

Well, the little straw poll to the small number of followers I have somehow garnered was not exactly a success – but there was a great reply from the site www.inbedwithmaradona.com  – who, completely in the spirit that it was meant, offered this nugget:

“Kenny Wharton. Search youtube for “Kenny Wharton sits on the ball” to see why…..”

Well, my memory was jogged a little – but it was in my early football supporting days, as with Jesper, and non-United stuff at the time rarely registered – so I duly searched. Just so you can also indulge in a little nostalgia as well – I have done the searching for you…..

An absolute delight to watch the showboating – although still disconcerting to see the goalie pick the backpass up if you watch to the end…

If anyone does want to offer any further names to the measly two I have collected, please comment or email!







  1. porkymorky August 18, 2012
    • twig August 18, 2012

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