Speak to anyone on the street these days about their opinion of the top modern day footballers in the Premier League and there’s a pretty strong chance they’ll all give you similar answers.
Too pampered? Overpaid? Poorly advised? Irresponsible when out in a public domain? Quick to throw their toys out of the pram when they don’t get what they want? Ill-thought-out comments and pictures on social media sites?
During my 30 years of watching and supporting Saints, we’ve had a small handful of those sorts of player, but generally we’ve been very lucky to have a consistent team of lads who are all proud to pull on the red and white stripes and give their all for our great club.
This 2014-15 season has once again proven that, and, with one final game to go against Manchester City, fans are united in our gratitude and celebration for Ronald Koeman and his team’s record-breaking achievements this season.
That spirit, belief, passion to improve and desire to win has been encapsulated each week in the performances of one specific individual – the players’ player, and fans player of the year, Jose Fonte.
Jose signed for Saints in January 2010, when we were in League One, six months into our post-Markus Liebherr evolution, and has played well over 200 games since then during our rise up the leagues.
During that time he has grown from a fairly slow, hairband wearing centre-back, to a suave, sophisticated Premier League Captain and Portuguese international.
He has achieved that by working hard every day and by being supported by a football club that are driven to tease every ounce of potential out of players that they can.
But it’s not just his performances on the pitch that have won him the accolades this season – in fact arguably I’d say its been as much about what he has done off the pitch as well.
Last summer, when the exodus of players and staff from St. Mary’s occurred (what did happen to the majority of them by the way?!), Fonte wanted to become the glue that kept everything together after Ronald Koeman was appointed.
Alongside Kelvin Davis, Jose was instrumental in building a tight, trusted group of lads that wanted to work hard for each other and were keen to achieve things as a team.
He is everything that a lot of modern day footballer aren’t. He’s not arrogant. He’s not temperamental. He’s not pessimistic. He’s not dependent on others all the time.
No, he is a leader who benefits from being an inspiration to his team-mates. Who always wears a smile. Someone other players feel comfortable going to talk to if they need advice. The figurehead who links management team to playing staff to fan base.
The respect the other players in the team have for him is well known in and around the Club. That’s a proper captain.
Indeed, unlike our last captain, Fonte didn’t want to escape at the first sign of panic or money or both. He had the belief and desire to ignore any scaremongering and continue to help our club develop and grow. The results this year speak for themselves.
Surely that’s what you look for in any captain? One who isn’t just in it for his own personal gain.
As a fan, be you young or old, Jose Fonte is the model football professional you should be idolising. Ok he may not have silky skills or score lots of goals but does that really matter?
I’d suggest being a good family man, well mannered, well-disciplined and someone who is always upbeat is equally as important as a footballer. Add that to a commitment and passion to deliver on the pitch each Saturday/Sunday and it’s not hard to see why he’s won the accolades he has.
Such is the man he is that he almost seemed embarrassed to be in the spotlight, receiving the awards. I don’t see those changing the way he is at all.
In fact I’d go as far as to say I reckon there’s more chance of Luke Shaw giving up his McDonald’s loyalty card than there is of Fonte becoming a stereotypical modern day footballer any time soon.
In short, you could say Jose Fonte is a true Saint! One we’re very lucky to have as captain of our club.