There is a wonderfully biting moment in the Scorsese masterpiece The Wolf Of Wall Street where Jonah Hill’s horror of a character Donny Azoff is barracking his one-time friend Brad over a money pick-up which turns nasty.
In an effort to belittle him he digs deep into his bottomless pit of insults and comes up with something as bizarre as it is funny.
“Hey, what are the citizens of [email protected]@@sville doing today whilst their emperor’s gone? Is it mayhem? Are people looting and raping? What are all the little [email protected]@@heads doing while you’re here?”
Looking at Twitter and our sports media at the moment I have an inkling I could answer that question.
I’ve read some truly abysmal stuff in the last 24 hours, but the daftest bit of it is an equally bizarre question – and this is coming from allegedly serious football people in Scotland – and it is this; “Name me a bigger signing, in Scotland, since Brian Laudrup, than Aaron Ramsey?”
Notice how it’s Laudrup they use as the benchmark; you pity these people for being so transparent at times.
They really are a joke, aren’t they?
So let’s proceed to answer the question; the citizens of [email protected]@@sville are demanding that we take it seriously, and grinning like Magnus Magnuson seeing sweat run down a guy’s face.
But the question can be answered in two seconds flat, because the answer is obvious.
First though, you need to be pretty stupid if your entire argument hankers back to the rashest and most outrageous period of spending in the history of the game here, but one where, in that time, you could get a Laudrup for a pittance, and a Larsson for even less.
Just take a second and marvel at how daft that question really is, in the context of the times we live in now, where even a modestly talented English based player can go for an unbelievable sum; I give you the 30-year-old Chris Wood, with seven goals to his name this season, and who Newcastle (who balked at signing Ramsey, don’t forget) just paid £25 million for.
Can you imagine what a Sutton or Hartson would go for down there today? A sum that would make your eyeballs bleed, that’s my bet.
But even if we’re judging this era by the same standards as the craziness of that one, the answer is still, of course, blindingly obvious to any person who isn’t looking at it through a blue hue, and who engages as much as one brain cell of concentration on it.
The answer is Joe Hart. And he, of course, plays for Celtic right now.
I mean, on what basis are we judging this? Honours? Caps? Status within the game? Hype? Hysteria? What’s the criteria? Can we judge it, as Ange said today, by sheer impact?
Well, Ramsey hasn’t made any impact yet, whereas Hart has big saves in big games and a winner’s medal in Scotland already. He’s part of the best backline in the country. He’s also become a leader in the Celtic dressing room … so in terms of impact, he has set the standard, and Ramsey will have to do something pretty amazing to top that.
In terms of standing in the game, let’s start from the hype Ramsey gets as one of the highest paid players on the planet – an issue in and of itself, and one the SFA if it had a scintilla of backbone or even basic professionalism would be looking into carefully.
But what’s he done to deserve it all?
Well, he’s got an Italian league title and a Coppa Italia over there, to go with his three FA Cups from Arsenal … and on paper that sounds impressive. But how big a role did he play in those campaigns?
A lot of appearances from the bench … not much product.
Hart has two EPL titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup. At the club which at the time was the richest on the planet and could afford the best players on Earth. They put their trust in him; he was their first pick. He was the Last Line Of Defence during a hugely ambitious era.
During that time, he amassed 75 caps for England. And yes, the last was in 2017. But think about what that means; before then he was the undisputed number one in the country, and that means he was considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
It wasn’t that long ago either, and keepers can extend their careers way beyond what outfield players usually do. Hart is 34. It’s not inconceivable that he could be playing for us when Ramsey has hung up his boots for the last time.
Ramsey gets praise for his own cap haul. Indeed, one of the things I’ve been hearing about repeatedly is how great he’s been for his country. He plays for Wales. He has less caps for Wales than Hart does for England; he’s on 71, which is four shy of where Hart is.
But imagine he gets those four extra caps and breaks level, and then surges ahead. Is that proof that he’s a bigger name? We’re talking about Wales here, not a top five European nation, with their vast populations and huge wealth.
I get in trouble for saying stuff like this at times, but let’s keep it in some kind of perspective here and a good way to do it is this;
Joe Ledley has 77 caps for Wales, six more than Ramsey. Do the caps make him a bigger name?
Craig Bellamy did even better; he ended with 78.
Better yet, there’s a player called Chris Gunter; he is Wales’ most capped player, having over 100 international appearances. He’s a year older than Ramsey. He’s playing for Charlton.
His career high was winning the Welsh Player of The Year Award in 2017.
Remember Jonny Williams, the ever-injured midfielder in Sunderland Til I Die? He has 30 odd Welsh caps.
I could go on, but you’re getting the drift.
Are Ramsey’s caps as impressive as Joe Hart’s total?
Without wishing to disrespect the Welsh national team, let’s be blunt; there is an argument – a very good argument- for saying that the answer to that is a resounding no. So if that’s not the basis, what else is there?
Hype and hysteria, that’s what.
And part of the reason for the hysteria is the massive salary he’s on, which he negotiated only because he was leaving the most cash-rich league on the planet as a free transfer, to go to a club which, like the one at Ibrox, has no concept of restraint.
They were the club that signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid, on another massive wage. Has Ramsey been worth it? Not even remotely, not even a little, which is why they cannot wait to get rid of him.
You cannot help but think, listening to some of this stuff, that the club he’s signing for is the compelling factor here, the reason why the hype has reached such gargantuan proportions.
If he had signed for Celtic, his record would be getting far greater scrutiny – including from our bloggers – and the whole conversation would have a very different tone to it.
The real questions about what he will offer their club will be answered in due course; I look forward to the bitter denouement here which I think is a certainty.
But in the meantime, as we wait for it, one question has been answered, the one posed at the start.
And honestly, that none of the people asking it even thought about Joe Hart is telling in itself. They are entirely focussed on one club, to the extent that I suspect most of them have clean forgotten about our 75 caps for England keeper.
How inconvenient that Celtic cyberspace is here to remind them.