As part of a weekly piece, I’d like to reflect on players who should have been better for us – with everything that’s gone on in the past five years, and the barrels we’ve scraped in terms of players in the shirt, we may even find that some of these “failures” will be seen in a different light!
This week, the man who never played in anything less than a big game – Hamed Namouchi.
Namouchi was a free transfer, a promising youngster signed from Cannes in 2003. When he broke into the first team, he looked like a dynamic, talented player who would be great at linking midfield and attack with a bit of a goal threat. I remember a game towards the end of his first season where he was excellent, linking up really well with the players around him.
Then came the injury, as seems to happen often with promising Rangers players. And for reasons unknown, everything about Namouchi that looked exciting completely vanished, and he became akin to a walking wall and lost his neck into his suddenly considerable shoulders. His pace pretty much vanished, his touch was secondary to his physical presence, and he became a wide midfielder whose main job was to win headers. In a squad that contained players like Ferguson and Buffel, he seemed to use Bob Malcolm as his role model.
Every Rangers fan who remembers Hamed Namouchi will instantly say “ah, Eck’s favourite player”; despite struggling technically in a lot of aspects, Namouchi was always played in bigger matches, with long balls launched his way on many a Champions League night. It became such a running joke that when Alex McLeish was asked to name an all-time XI for a publication, he named Namouchi on the bench!
Players like Namouchi raise a bigger question – why is it players that so many fans and pundits don’t rate at all end up playing so regularly and seemingly being favourites of certain managers? From a perspective with little by way of experience in the matter, I believe it’s all about consistency. We knew exactly what sort of performance Namouchi was going to have, with headers being won and his defensive duties being carried out. A manager likes to know what a player will bring instead of hoping they’ll do it. Namouchi wasn’t as good a footballer as many others who could have played his position in those games, but his poor performance was still reliable enough as compared to those other players if they had a bad game. He never went hiding, he never let the disdain of the crowd affect him, he just did his job and worked hard for the team, and that sort of player will be considered invaluable by a manager.
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One particular memory, and the reason for the title of this piece is of our run up to the final Champions League group game of 2005 against Inter Milan. Luis Figo was interviewed, and amongst other things, he noted that he was impressed by Nacho Novo, but as he was injured the player he found most impressive after him was Namouchi. Figo described him as “very strong and very fast”, and no Rangers fan anywhere could quite believe one of the world’s top players was talking about the same guy we were watching. Even over time, you won’t get any softening of views on Hamed.
Namouchi played over 60 games for Rangers, played in the Champions League for us, was part of a league-winning squad, had a decent career elsewhere in France and Belgium, was capped 20 times for Tunisia, so those of you not familiar with him may wonder why he’s part of this series. The main reason is really down to the type of player he should have been as compared to what he became – someone who had that ability to excite and entertain with technical ability instead chose to be consistent and physical, and you won’t find many fans who appreciated it. He had some quality players around him, and that only exacerbated his inability to keep up with them in the technical sense. Even though our style of play got the most out of him, it was such a negative, ugly style that it made criticism of him even worse, as though it was somehow his fault we were playing that way.
Do you have any specific memories of Namouchi? Can you remember our excitement in the stands as he was put through against Inter Milan, only to hit it straight at the keeper? Or do any of his numerous flick-ons live long in the memory? Tweet us on @rangersnewsuk and let us know!