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Stubbs Recalls Armband Pride

by Rob Urbani @efc_roburbani

In the 39 years since Roger Kenyon replaced the departing Howard Kendall as the guardian of the coveted armband, the role of Club skipper at Goodison has been taken by 14 different players.

Of those 14, 11 have been defenders. Indeed, there have only been four years in the last 30 when the Club captain at Everton has not been a player from the defensive ranks.

Gary Speed, Kevin Campbell and Duncan Ferguson are the notable exceptions for a role which, it seems, is perfectly suited to defensive stalwarts.

From Kenyon to Mick Lyons, Kevin Ratcliffe to Dave Watson, David Weir to Phil Neville - defenders have dominated one of the most respected roles in English football.

Alan Stubbs, one of that list of 14 and an imposing central defender himself, is sure it is no coincidence.

He explains: "I don't think playing centre-back makes it easier to be captain but maybe it is because defenders tend to be more vocal on the pitch.

"As the last line of defence you see the game a bit better than other players. That could also be a key factor."

The most noteworthy central defenders of the last 40 years also share one characteristic - reliability.

It is an attribute Stubbs himself demonstrated, both as a player and now as coach of Everton's Under 21s.

And it is a characteristic players always look for in the man wearing the armband - both on and off the field.

He continues: "When you are captain you take on extra responsibility because the players see you as more of a figurehead. You do have to take more responsibility as a role model to every player in the Club.

"To be introduced as the captain of the Club is really special and there is a responsibility that goes with that. You have to be more accessible for the media and for Club events. There is a lot more involved and you are the voice.

"If players have problems or if they are not happy, they come to you in the dressing room. You then have to go to the manager and put across points they are or are not happy with. It is part and parcel of what you do as captain."

And having grown up loving the Blues as a young football fan on the streets of Kirkby, being given the armband was an extra special moment for Stubbs.

He recalls: "The main thing for me, having always been a fan, was that I played for Everton. But when you are then asked to become captain of Everton it takes it to a whole new level.

"I was prouder than anything to play for Everton. But to lead the team out and be captain was something beyond my wildest dreams and something I never thought would happen so I was really proud.

"No matter where you are, to be asked to be captain is a great feather in your cap. It says a lot about the person and the respect amongst teammates, so to be asked to take on that role is a great honour at any club. But to do it at your boyhood team gives it an added dimension.

"It was obviously great to be captain at a time when we finished fourth - our highest Premier League finish. But the plaudits for that season should go to the team. I was fortunate that I was alongside a group of players that had a great camaraderie. We had some really good players in the team and to finish where we did tells you we were a decent team. So I feel privileged and happy to be able to say I was captain of that side at such a great Club."

He was also captain at a time when the Goodison dressing room was brimming with strong characters - strong candidates for a role Stubbs was given. It speaks volumes for the man himself.

"We had a few characters in that side," he recalls fondly.

"Lee Carsley, Kevin Kilbane, Thomas Gravesen were here then. Duncan, David Weir, Steve Watson, Kevin Campbell. There were so many big personalities and so to try and tame all them at one time may not have been hard because they were all great lads but it was a strong dressing room. A captain's job is made easier by the players in the dressing room and if they respect you and they feel you are an important figure on the pitch you are always accepted a lot easier."

And there is no doubt that Stubbs was accepted. As a solid, reliable last line of defence - how could it be any other way?

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