What is a super sub? And what makes a good super sub? Is it a player so reliable to come off the bench and make an instant impact that they simply cannot be used anywhere else? Or is it that they are just not quite good enough to start week in, week out?
Best super sub in Premier League history? pic.twitter.com/Zl587Nw1yi
— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 6, 2017
Whether it’s scoring a goal or just making such a difference that your team fights back to gain a result, a super sub’s reliability is their unique selling point. They must be ready to jump into action at any point of the game, though it’s usually with around 20 minutes or less to go.
The super sub needs to be able to pick up the pace of the game as soon as he comes on. The old cliché of hitting the ground running has never been truer.
The joy of the super sub is the fact that things are never their fault. The team go 3-0 down, it’s not their fault, they were not on the pitch. If they are unable to make a breakthrough when they were brought on, again that’s not their fault. They can not be expected to change the game in no more than 20 minutes, let alone get used to the pace of the match. However, if they score and the team fights back to gain a point or better still a win, then hero status is confirmed. The keys to the city are theirs and pretty much anything else they desire. How can a super sub not be happy with this? I would bite someone’s hand off for the chance, although the chances of me even getting 20 seconds on the pitch would be slim to none.
The downside is they are only ever thought of as a substitute. Score a hat-trick from the bench, the next game they’re still a substitute. They score four in the game after that, and still they only get to warm the bench. No matter what they do on that pitch, their fate is decided. They have to be pretty thick-skinned to pull off this role and have to be prepared for cameo performances.
There have been some great super subs in the past. Liverpool had a super sub back in the late 70s and early 80s called David Fairclough. He was always going to struggle for a starting spot with names like Kevin Keegan, Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish in front of him. Fairclough suddenly found himself earmarked with the role of super sub. A tag which was suitably justified with 18 of his 55 goals coming from the bench. Not that poor Fairclough was as pleased with the role. It’s a tough job but someone has got to do it.
How about Manchester United’s forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? The striker scored the winning goal, coming off the bench, that won the Red Devils the Champions League Final back in 1999. If you needed further proof, he also managed to score a total of 28 goals despite not being named in the starting XI. You had to love the Baby Faced Assassin, but did he really deserve the title of super sub?
Another great super sub was Cameroon’s Roger Milla. The Cameroonian striker was selected in the World Cup squad in 1990. At 38, he was never going to start a game and came off the bench for all of Cameroon’s five games. Milla still scored, and also had a hand in the two goals which almost knocked England out in the quarter finals.
So what about today, is there still room for a super sub? Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud had suddenly gained himself that tag this season. After losing his place, Giroud found himself on the bench. But fear not, suddenly the goals started flowing. It gave Arsenal a ‘Plan B’. Giroud went into the record books as Arsenal’s highest goalscorer in the Premier League from the bench. He popped up with 10 goals. Unfortunately, Arsene Wenger then decided that Giroud was good enough to start. After Giroud grumbled in the press about wanting to start a match and Arsenal’s season disintegrated soon after – you can decide if the two are linked.
There is always a place for a super sub, but the super sub just needs to understand that they may not be good enough to start. But for that 20-minute cameo, when they come off the bench, they become the world’s best players. Well, in the supporters eyes at least.
Whilst you’re here, we might as well see what you think of our list of the Premier League’s greatest ever super subs!