Tonge's no longer stoking the fire
Michael Tonge’s loan move from Stoke to Preston after Tony Pulis’s unsuccessful attempt to establish the languid midfielder as a Premier League player comes as little surprise; his spell at the Britannia Stadium having been as excitement packed as a Cabinet meeting to discuss the Lisbon treaty. Tonge is one of a special breed of players who look the part – and his formative years in some dramatic Sheffield United cup runs were impressive.
Tonge falls into that category of players who have the talent but are outshone by the roundheads surrounding them. Even early on, the likes of Nick Montgomery, Chris Armstrong and Michael Brown would work like beavers around him, with Tonge scarcely breaking into a sweat. It set me thinking of players of a similar type – going back a bit, Chelsea’s Mike Fillery was a classic example, a kind of lo-rent Glenn Hoddle (perhaps the exemplar of this type). He stood out in some lean second flight years in the Eighties but only because the team was so mediocre. More recently, Darren Currie for a range of clubs, Iñigo Idiakez in one special season for Derby County and Junior Lewis at Gillingham showed an ability “to put their foot on the ball”, but quickly faded from view. The Championship is peppered with players who could potentially go the same way – Kris Commons anyone? – but I would trace the decline of this kind of performer to the emergence of all purpose midfielders such as David Beckham – skilled, but also willing to graft. From then on, the Tonges of this would always become a dying breed.