Mark Schwarzer has been saying some things. Now, before I get onto the particulars of what those things are or might be, I want to be clear that this isn’t an attempt at a one-man character assassination of Mark Schwarzer, who seems to be a lovely man. I have always been clear that I will save that kind of thing for my private emails about Richard Whittall, and those emails alone.
However, when you do feel the need to clarify that you aren’t planning a character assassination on someone, needless to say it does hint you might be about to say some mean things about them. This I will not deny. But after signing for Chelsea, Mark Schwarzer has come out and said some words which quite possibly require a quick going over from someone impartial, and more importantly, someone who has not yet entirely taken leave of his senses. If you want to take it as a boast that I feel I am that person, then so be it.
Here we go. When asked about signing for Chelsea, Schwarzer began with the usual bland platitudes. “I had a conversation with the manager and he told me his intentions for the season,” said Schwarzer, like a normal, reasonable, media trained person would. He went on: “He told me it’s an unbelievable club and this was a great opportunity to join such a fantastic club, so I decided to give it a go. I didn’t think twice after speaking with him.” Normal, reassuring words from Mark Schwarzer there. No reason for alarm or to suspect that a sociopath was on the loose. Merely a football player expressing ideas he is expected to express in the manner he is expected to express them.
The ugliness began when he started talking about what it meant to be a number two goalkeeper. “I’d had some doubts,” Mark tells us, openly – admirably, even, if you are that way inclined. “But once I’d spoken to the manager those doubts disappeared pretty quickly. It’s going to be an adjustment, of course [to being a No2], but given the amount of games Chelsea play there are going to be opportunities to play games.” At this point, when reading the interview, there begins to be legitimate cause to worry about Mark. Questions arise. Questions like: Is Mark Schwarzer aware that goalkeepers tend to need less rest than other players because their position inherently involves being static a lot of the time? And questions like: Does Mark believe everything a new manager trying to get him to sign for their club tells him?
And then ‘normal’ ends altogether. Mark grabs the wheel, swings a hard left, throws the car onto the road below before taking another hard left off the end of a cliff, all the time shouting about the supposed joys of self-destruction. “You know what, when I moved to Fulham [from Middlesbrough in 2008] I thought that was it,” he told the world, apparently without coercion, “and then the Arsenal thing popped up. So, after that experience, I said: ‘Never say never.’ It’s proven to be true. I still say never say never, it’s not over until it’s over, so we’ll see.” At best, this is an outrageous misuse of the ‘never say never’ cliché; at worst is someone who has become unwell during the course of the interview.
“Never say never,” Mark? When is never, if not when you have gone from a number one goalkeeper to a number two goalkeeper? The fat lady is singing songs from The Strokes’ ‘Is this It?’ because she is so convinced this is definitely the time to say never. Schwarzer seems to have either a fundamental lack of understanding of the role of the number two goalkeeper, or has merely opted for happy ignorance over harsh reality.
Never say never?! Yes, Mark, do say ‘never’! Say ‘never’ when you have just accepted the completely reasonable but clearly subordinate position as Chelsea’s number two goalkeeper. As backup to Petr Cech, your main tasks are: sitting and waiting, talking, snoozing and possibly spreading discontent through the dressing room out of boredom alone. Is this it? This is it.
In my opinion, Mark has clearly entered a stage of his life where the delusion beats the reality. It’s understandable. Like I said, this isn’t a character assassination, merely someone—out of necessity—recognizing that Chelsea’s new number two goalkeeper has, in many ways, lost all perspective on the world and his position in it. And this is dangerous.
At this difficult time, he needs our sympathy. He will not get it.