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5 Mediocre Footballers Who Achieved Greatness Late in Their Careers

The sporting world loves a football wunderkind — someone who takes over a match despite being one of the youngest players on the pitch. For most players, however, it isn’t so easy to endure years of toil and sacrifice in the lower leagues. That being said, a select few manage to find their stride later in life. They even convert their experience into production on the grand stage. Noteworthy examples include:

Teddy Sheringham

Hall of Famer Teddy Sheringham had a solid early career with Millwall and Nottingham Forest. Still, it wasn’t until he joined Tottenham Hotspur at the age of 27 that his career really took off. Despite this, individual and team honors still eluded him. 

A transfer to Manchester United remedied this, as Sheringham was a key player in the Red Devils’ Treble winning season of 1998-99. After this breakthrough, Sheringham continued to play for more than a decade. He retired in 2008 at the age of 42.

Gareth McAuley

It took Gareth McAuley more than a decade of solid performances in the NIFL Premiership, EFL League Two, and Championship before he finally made it to the Premier League with West Bromwich Albion. His top goal-scoring season came at the age of 37. He also made twelve appearances for the National Team in Northern Ireland in 2016 — more than any other year in his career.

Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy climbed the ranks of European football slowly but consistently. After solid seasons spent with FC Halifax Town and Fleetwood Town, Vardy finally made his ascent to the top with Leicester City.

Despite being with the squad since 2012, it took Vardy several years before he found himself playing for England on the international stage in 2015. Vardy continued to flourish — and in 2020 he became the oldest player to win the Premier League Golden Boot.

Antonio Di Natale

Italian football club Empoli enjoyed nine solid seasons from Antonio Di Natale, who helped the squad gain Serie A promotion. Not much was made of his transfer to Udinese in 2004, but it turned out to be the greatest move of his career. Di Natale would go on to flourish, scoring 191 goals in 385 appearances with the club.

Kevin De Bruyne

Now a star with Manchester City, Kevin De Bruyne began his career with some notable disappointment. His first stint in the Premier League, for example, was brief. After only three appearances with Chelsea, he made his way to Wolfsburg and the Bundesliga.

It was there that De Bruyne began to flourish as a player, winning Germany’s Footballer of the Year in 2015. Back in the Premier League with Manchester City, De Bruyne has become one of the best overall players in the world.

If the footballers referenced above are any indication, it really is never too late to make your mark. They should serve as enduring inspiration for people from all walks of life. No, not everybody can achieve athletic greatness at any time, but these examples remind us that the adage “slow and steady wins the race” is worth repeating.

The Moneyball Effect: 5 Sports Franchises That Do More With Less Using Data

The Moneyball Effect: 5 Sports Franchises That Do More With Less Using Data

 

If you’ve ever seen the movie or read the book, Moneyball represents a revolution in sports. The book and movie were based on the true story of an Oakland Athletics baseball team realizing tremendous team success despite having one of the lowest budgets in the history of Major League Baseball. In Moneyball, factual analysis of player data and play statistics help run the team.

 

The whole point of Moneyball or Sabermetrics is to find low-cost or undervalued players and which scoring strategies work best. The result has been more wins and lower-cost rosters for the teams that institute the strategy.

 

Here are five franchises currently using Moneyball to their advantage.

 

Liverpool FC (Premier League)

Harvard graduate and physicist, William Spearman, joined the club in 2018 as the lead data scientist to use sports analytics as a way to transform how the club recruits and even plays the game through strategies like "pitch control." Prior to joining, he worked at CERN studying Higgs-Boson particles! Seriously! 

The team’s 2011-2012 record was won: 14, drew: 10 lost: 14.

That record in 2021-2022 was won: 28 drawn: 8 lost: 2

What year did their win, draw, and loss record start to see massive positive change? 2018.

 

Houston Rockets (NBA)

Michael Lewis didn’t just write about the Oakland A’s but dedicated a chapter to the efforts of Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey in his book, The Undoing Project. A graduate of M.I.T. and Northwestern, Morey was called the "Moneyball" GM when he took the job is 2007. Although highly criticized for this approach, Morey went on to trade for James Harden, considered a great "6th man" player. Harden went from a 6th man to one of the greatest scorers in the league.

Morey turned the Rockets into a top-ten offense, based on the statistical conclusion that shooting threes is more valuable than field goals. Shopping for players that’d probably never make the All-Star Game and second-round draft picks, he created a winning record with one of the cheapest rosters in basketball.

Brentford FC (Premier League)

There is no other Moneyball success story like Brentford’s. Bought by a professional gambler that knew a few things about numbers, Matthew Benham started transforming the team using sabermetrics.

Considered nothing more than a feeder team for the big clubs, Brentford had a tiny budget and had finished the League One series in ninth place in 2012-2013. The team finished 5th in the championship in 2014-2015, the first time in their 62-year history that they had never been relegated. Brentford moved into the Premier League in 2021. The team had gone from the 2nd league to the highest in football in just 12 years.

St Louis Blues (NHL)

While Moneyball isn’t quite as developed in the NHL, the St. Louis Blues are the savviest spenders in the league. Despite a payroll ranked in the bottom 10 of the NHL, the Blues have consistently been a hot team. The Blues’ goaltending coach, Jim Corsi, measures the number of shots versus the number of shots while a player is on the ice. The name of this method is now called "The Corsi Number."

The Blues showed the fabulous results of Moneyball after winning the 2019 Stanley Cup final.

 

St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)

Using advanced statistics and analytics starting in 2003 for recruitment, the Cards are a premier team in MLB, with a farm system that has transformed the game. Finding the best talent to cultivate in their farm league teams through data, they know who to develop and who to draft. They produce a constantly winning record that keeps them at the top of their division.

 

Moneyball still has doubters in professional sports that prefer traditional recruiting out of an allegiance to the past, but the results speak for themselves. It is a discipline here to stay.

Wasted Genius: 5 Footballers Whose Careers Didn’t Match High Expectations

It’s a well-known fact that only the best footballers make it to the sport’s top. But what happens to those who don’t quite reach the same level of success as their peers? This article will look at five footballers whose careers didn’t match expectations.

Some of these players had the potential to be world-class, but their careers just never took off for one reason or another. Others were perhaps always destined to be journeyman professionals, plying their trade in the lower leagues. Either way, it’s always interesting to look at what might have been.

1. Joe Cole

Joe Cole is a name that will be familiar to most football fans. He was once seen as one of the most promising young talents in the country, and he even won the prestigious Young Player of the Year award in 2003. However, his career has not gone according to plan.

After a promising start with West Ham United, Cole failed to make the expected impact at Chelsea and then spent time on loan at Liverpool and Lille. He eventually returned to West Ham in 2013, but his career never picked.

2. Jack Wilshere

Another player who was once seen as a future star of the game is Jack Wilshere. He made his debut for Arsenal at 16 years of age and was tipped for big things in the future.

However, injuries hampered Wilshere’s progress, and he has struggled to regain his best form in recent years. At 30 years old, Wilshere’s football career seems to have ended just before the world could have seen the best of him.

3. Ravel Morrison

Ravel Morrison was once seen as one of England’s most talented young players. He came through Manchester United ranks and was compared to the incredible George Best.

However, Morrison’s career has been plagued by off-field problems, and he has never been able to fulfill his potential. He had spells at several clubs, including West Ham, Lazio, and Atlas, but he never made his mark on the game.

4. Robbie Savage

Robbie Savage was always a controversial figure during his playing career. He was a combative midfielder who was never afraid to get stuck in, and he was often involved in on-field altercations with opponents.

However, Savage was also a very talented footballer and enjoyed a successful career at the top level. He represented Wales internationally and played for several clubs, including Blackburn Rovers, Derby County, and Leicester City.

5. Gary Cahill

Gary Cahill is another player who has had a successful career but has not quite reached the heights that many expected. He came through the ranks at Aston Villa and then spent time on loan at Burnley before moving to Chelsea in 2012.

Cahill was a regular for Chelsea, winning several trophies along the way. However, he has never quite established himself as one of the best defenders in the world, and his career never went according to plan.