The new Championship season remains some two months away, but Bolton Wanderers manager Phil Parkinson may already have done some of his shrewdest business of the summer in snapping up former loanee Andrew Taylor.
When discussing this signing on the group chat with fellow LOV writers there was a certain amount of apathy from some quarters, purely given the fact that Taylor is a left-back. The assertion was "no-one cares about left-backs."
From personal experience, I can certainly say that playing at left-back is not a lot of fun. I have haunting memories of playing massively out of position at left-back in a cup final at Edgar Road (the home of Hereford United) as a 14-year-old and getting absolutely terrorised by the best team in our league's right winger and ridiculously good striker. We got hammered and, slightly unfairly given I was a striker playing at left-back, a lot of the blame was portioned at me. Never again. Get me back up front.
These chilling memories got me thinking, does the left-back position really matter, or is there method behind the madness of the old saying 'left-back in the changing room'?
Left back in the changing room
Let's start with the amusing / awful. There have been some truly terrible examples of players occupying the left-back role that fully corroborate that the position is waste of space.
The obvious one that jumps to mind here is the one and only Djimi Traore. When I type the letters 'dj' into YouTube the first thing that jumps up is 'Djimi Traore own goal,' which pretty much tells you everything you know. I'm still certain he should never have been a professional footballer, and his classic own goal for Liverpool against Burnley sums up exactly that.
Left-backs also have a pretty bad rep for being absolute nutcases. Stuart Pearce was a great player, but he was also absolutely terrifying and completely off his nut, hence the nickname 'Psycho.' Then you have the absolute barnpot and walking red card that is Ben Thatcher, the truly terrifying Paul Konchesky and . Want proof? Check out this absolute madness from Thatcher on Portsmouth's Pedro Mendes.
The epitome of left-backs being useless may have to rest with former Leicester man Frank Sinclair. The guy had a passion for own goals, including one so bad that the live TV cameras didn't even pick it up, past former Bolton goalkeeper Ian Walker.
There also has to be an honourable mention to Liverpool's Alberto Moreno, a left-back so bad he got usurped by boring James Milner.
Left back is the future
Thankfully, for every Thatcher or Traore there is the occasional absolute belter of a left-back. A current example would be Real Madrid's Marcelo. The run he made to set up Cristiano Ronaldo's goal against Bayern Munich in the Champions League was superb, he basically plays like a left winger but he can also defend and I love watching him play.
In a similar mould, it's hard to think about left-backs without Roberto Carlos coming to mind. I still remember watching him score the amazing bending free-kick against France in Le Tournoi all those years ago, and his 512 appearances for Real Madrid and 125 caps for Brazil are testament to his unrivalled talents. He also scored an impressive 102 goals through his career.
Talking of great left-backs brings us onto a certain Italian defender who would heavily dispute the argument that his position is "pointless." One-club man Paolo Maldini racked up a massive 902 appearances in 25 seasons at AC Milan and an impressive 126 caps for the great defence of Italy. His 647 Serie A appearances remains a record and his number three was retired by Milan after his playing days were over. He was the blueprint for the perfect defender.
Another guy well worthy of mention among this list is France's World Cup winner Bixente Lizarazu. I have fond memories of watching him for both Bayern Munich and France, and he's another example of what an attacking left-back can bring to a team.
Bolton's new left-back option
Speaking of which, brings us to... Now I'm not saying that Andy Taylor is anywhere near equivalent to Marcelo or Roberto Carlos, but I do think he's an excellent signing for us.
Having been lumbered with the atrocity that is Dean Moxey for the last few seasons, frankly anything is an improvement. But I was impressed with Taylor every time he played last season, he gets forward well, has a good cross on him and can also defend - which is always a bonus.
I'm looking forward to seeing back at the club on a permanent basis, and excited to see whether Parky does deploy him in the much maligned left-back role or in a more advanced position.