The Gospel According to Gianni 'Monzi' MonzonWritten by Dennis Munday
The Style Council Serie A Leaders
I am an Italian football critic and an avid Style Council fan and like my favourite sport, the Council’s career is a tale of two halves. Paul Weller formed his new squad when he left his previous champion wining side, just as they were ready to topple the mighty Manchester United. The tactics were the same every match, there was talk of fights on the training ground and they played too many games. Although they had a wining formula, there was no width to their game and it was typically English - all kick and run.
The ‘boy wonder’ was capable of much more, he wasn't a one-footed player as were the rest of the team and could score goals with both feet. He’d seen how stylish my team Udinese played and how the Brazilians had won the World cup and he wanted to emulate this brand of exciting football. There was no point in transferring to another squad; this was the eighties and the football, dull and boring.
At the time, his backers had a good boardroom and they saw an opportunity for his new squad to get to a final in Europe. With money in the bank, he selected his side and decided on a game plan that would become as famous as Holland’s total football. They played with a floating line up; one-week, a goalkeeper would play in the mid-field and in the next game, as a centre-back. There were no numbers, and no team rules, if you fancied being the striker, the job was yours.
The youngsters got their chance as well, and it didn’t matter if you were only 17, if you looked the part, you were picked to play. He was lucky to have Michael Talbot in the back line who was a solid player and a dependable vice captain. Whenever a problem arose, ‘Mickey boy’ took care of it, and although he didn’t like playing up front, he never shirked his responsibilities. When Mick wasn’t playing, you noticed the gaps.
Even though he a had cupboard full of cups and medals, it wasn’t a forgone conclusion that his new team would win honours. Unlike his previous team who got to the top via hard graft and the play offs, the Council went straight into the Premier league. With his first team, I was the super sub, but with the Council, I started every game during the first half of the season. I didn’t score any goals, but I did make a few telling passes.
During the first half of the season, they played boldly and with more than a dash of flair. They let in the odd goal, but were solid at the back and their floating midfield was the envy of every other team. With only one lone striker, it meant he had to score in every match, which he did, even if some went in off the post - they all counted.
It was half way through the season, when it all went wrong and no one is quite sure what happened. I’d packed up the game by then and handed in my boots. The backers were now just a bunch of moneymen, who wanted me to play out of position, and I wasn’t having any of that. The crunch came when the Council played Milton Keynes in the sixth round of the FA Cup. Gone were the famous black and orange shirts, replaced by a black and white strip, which looked negative. Their formation was shapeless and had more holes in it, than a lump of Swiss cheese and inexplicably they lost 1 – 0. For the remainder of the season it was the same story, they were static, the defence brittle, and they let in goals by the cartload and the once famous mid-field had sunk.
Following this infamous loss, their backers tried to buy their way out of trouble, but no matter how much money they showered on the team, it made no difference. For the second half of the season they propped up the league and rather than be relegated to a division that was full off dross, they disbanded. For their last match only the die-hard fans turned up, with some booing and jeering loudly. The ‘boy wonder’s’ went through a dry patch, which he wouldn’t recover from, until his later free-transfer to Athletico Paul Weller, where he struggled at first, but then went on to win the Champions League.
It’s always difficult to start at the top, as there is no room for the odd bad pass, and during the second half of the season the Council conceded too many own goals. Even John Motson (Il mio cugino inglese) ran out of words to describe the how inept their defence was. When the final whistle came, it was all over bar the shouting, and there was plenty of that to come.
Nonetheless, the critics had conveniently forgotten what a blinder the Council had played in the first half of the season and how many goals they scored. It was all about the misses and the petulant striker, who was forever talking back to the ref and the crowd! The critics spent most of their time writing the team off, and missed several blinding goals that were scored late on, and a free kick from 35 metres that sent the tiffosi round the bendz.
It’s now over twenty years since the team disbanded and with the passing of time, and the success of Athletico Paul Weller, the Council’s games are now looked at in a very different light. Gone are the comments like, they were a team who could only play half a season, and who were heavy on style with little substance. Many of these critics now sang a different song and are chanting; 'there’s only one Paul Weller', when Guantanamera is played on the PA.
Man and boy, I have supported Udinese, and for me there is a similarity between them and the Council. They too had a floating line up, some great players and played wonderful football and like the Council; they brought on their young players. Their trophy cupboard isn’t exactly full, yes they won the odd cup here in Italy and they’re still in the Serie 'A', but they will always come second to the likes of, Juventus, Milan and Internazionale.
Does winning or losing matter, no, not when you’re Udinese and I wouldn’t swap Udinese for Real Madrid, Arsenal, Ajax, Man U, Chelsea, and all the cups and medals they have won. Likewise, I wouldn’t swap that half a season I played with the Council for a full game with any other team, no matter how big they are. I’m Udinese and The Style Council to the core.
Gianni 'Monzy' Monzon
Calcio Corrispondente al Gazzetta dello Sport - Italia