We Need To Talk About CHAD

Laurence Griffiths

When Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli made up their minds to buy Britain's 'finest' they inadvertently created an acronym which represented a group of players fans loved to hate. So, what ever happened to CHAD?

I'm just going to come straight out and say it. I never liked or used the CHAD label. It offended me irrationally because in it there was an implied criticism of a man I could only ever see as a bastion of venerable infallibility. This was Kenny Dalglish, after all. My hero. Critical faculties were disabled by overpowering man-love and I refused to entertain the concept of his being wrong, ever.

The irksome acronym also offended me on a rational level, as I could never equate the monumental awfulness of Stewart Downing's early form with the gutsy but hamstrung efforts of Jordan Henderson in the same period. Similarly, the latent rage I felt watching Charlie Adam waddling around the edge of our penalty area, upending opponents with his ample hips, was a world away from the indulgent amusement I experienced watching Andy Carroll never score.

Effectively, I resented the arbitrary lumping together of these four players under the convenient flag of Britishness. To this day many of us remain inordinately fond of Carroll and would get a kick out of seeing him return, whilst Henderson is emerging as one of the most valuable players in the squad, having finally been given the chance to perform in the centre.

By contrast, Downing has endured justifiable derision for some truly awful showings characterised by a loathsome cowardliness -- a lack of what John Giles calls moral courage. As for Adam, well, suffice it to say that he's found his spiritual home with Tony Pulis and his band of agrarian hoofers. There, he can be the nominal ball-player, the artist amidst the grunts. He is truly lost.

Downing, however, has attained a kind of redemption of late. It is to his eternal shame that the spur he required was to be threatened with being moved-on but irrespective of the motivation, the winger has since given a passable impression of functionality and adequacy. Indeed, on one or two occasions he has been vaguely reminiscent of the kind of footballer one lavishes 20 million pounds on. He has played really quite well.

So effective has Downing's rehabilitation been, that he has been offering words of support and encouragement to his younger friend from the North East. It was with a wry smile that I read his interview with The Liverpool Echo, in which he praised Henderson's resolve and chutzpah in the face of crushing indifference from Rodgers.

"This season Jordan has come on massively," said Downing. "He had that spell out of the team and was a bit upset at not playing as he didn't really get a chance. But he knuckled down and worked hard. He's a good lad and has a great attitude. Even when he's not playing he always gives 100% in training."

The similarity in their fortunes under the Northern Irishman hasn't been lost on Downing. He proudly notes that both men have taken their chance when reintroduced. Interestingly, our number 19 reckons he acted as a support to the younger man, advising him to "keep going and not listen to what was being said." This is a skill Downing must have perfected at Anfield and he compared it to his own time at Aston Villa, as he espoused a credo of maintaining faith in one's own ability.

"All of a sudden he's in the same boat as me and you can't get him out of the team. He's playing well and now he's there, I'm sure he will be determined to stay there. I'm really pleased for him."

Most Liverpool obsessives are at least as pleased as Downing by the emergence of Henderson as a first team regular and will hope that Brendan's itchy transfer finger does not begin to twitch over the summer. Those same fans, despite his clear improvement, will shed no tears if the manager points that same finger at Stewart Downing.

When one factors in Carroll's re-emergence as a striker of quality, just as his loan at West Ham winds down, it is eminently feasible -- if hugely unlikely -- that three of the famous four could be back to a semblance of their best and all sporting a Liverbird come next season.

In the implausible eventuality of such an alignment of the stars, then I'm sorry acronym fans, but CHA or HAC just doesn't have that je ne sais quoi, so you may have to find another pleasingly resonant bundle of letters towards which to direct your bile. UEFA, anyone?

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