Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Sun 11 February 2007

Dumb Footballer of the Year Award

There are some players in the game who attract the contempt of fans all over the country. There are some who find themselves on the wrong end of the fans' ridicule. And then there are some players who are frankly so dumb that they defy any such categorisation. These are the players we'll be saluting in the Some People Are On The Pitch Dumb Footballer of the Year Award.

The first nomination is for Jens Lehman of Arsenal and Germany.

He is deserving of his place on the shortlist following the Arsenal v Wigan Athletic match on Sunday 11th February 2007. Here's why:

Wigan led the match from the 35th minute following a goal by Denny Landzaat and sensing a chance to hold on for a rare away victory at the Emirates, they set about frustrating their hosts by wasting a bit of time here or there. Chief culprit for the Latics was Chris Kirkland, their goalkeeper. He was duly booked by the referee for his trouble.

As the match progressed, Arsenal got more and more desperate for an equalizer and ever more wound up by the liberal wastage of time by Wigan. Finally, Arsene Wenger's side drew level in the 81st minute after a Fitz Hall own goal. Thierry Henry couldn't help but rub salt in the wound for Kirkland with a quick word in his ear as he returned the ball to the centre spot but there was more to come for Arsenal.

Four minutes later, Tomas Rosicky gave his side a 2-1 lead and with five minutes of normal time remaining, Arsenal were feeling like justice had finally been done. To ram home the point, Jens Lehman stepped into the fray to give Wigan a taste of their own medicine now they had their noses in front.

As the ball went off the pitch behind his goal, Lehman was handed the ball by one of the ball-boys. In an effort to deliberately waste some time for his own team, he made a weak attempt to throw the ball back onto the pitch which, unsurprisingly, resulted in the ball bouncing back to him via a nearby billboard.

He'd succeeded. By the time he'd returned to the pitch with the ball, the Wigan players had already pointed out the offence to the referee and his yellow card was being raised into Lehman's line of vision. It seemed fair to the rest of us that if Kirkland had been booked for timewasting, so should Jens Lehman.

Lehman himself might have even agreed, yet he'd overlooked one thing. Lehman had already been booked four times this season, so this fifth booking meant he'd be banned from playing in Arsenal's next game.

Stupidity out of immaturity, you might think, until you learn that Arsenal's next match is the Carling Cup Final against Chelsea. Jens Lehmann had taken himself out of the running for a place in a prestige Cup Final by acting like an impetuous schoolboy. That's Jens Lehman, 37-year-old goalkeeper of Arsenal, known to many as 'Super Jens' although, we suspect, not as many as before the Wigan match.

So there you have it - our first nomination for Dumb Footballer of the Year and it has to be said it may take some doing to beat that opening gambit, but rest assured there will be more on the way soon. Watch this space...

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