I've heard much talk of Dirk Kuyt. Managers love him, but often fans are less impressed, and to be honest before he joined Liverpool I was unsure as to what kind of player he actually was.
It was said that he was a goalscorer, but from what I could see, he wasn't a natural finisher. People told me he was a striker, but he seemed to track back and play in midfield.
"What is this guy?" I asked myself, "what's all the fuss about?"
Then I saw him in a Liverpool shirt. The first thing he ever did on his debut was take a shot with his first touch, miles out from goal. I don't think anything sums him up better than that.
Dirk Kuyt is a grafter. He isn't a striker, a finisher, or even a midfielder. He's one of those rare type of players that were once commonplace in every top side—the honest, hard-working utility player.
There's no doubt in my mind that if injuries left Liverpool without a left-back, Kuyt would volunteer, and work damn hard. If our goalkeeper was sent off after all our subs were used, Kuyt would be the first to put his name in to take the gloves. That's what kind of player he is.
So imagine my surprise when, as I'm sat there thanking the stars to have Dirk in Liverpool's squad, I hear everlasting rumbles from supposed Reds calling for him to be axed and replaced by the quick but lightweight Jermaine Pennant.
Kuyt has the best work-rate I've ever seen in a footballer. So many times he's reminded me of a dog let loose on a park during a football match. No matter how annoying it is for the opposition players, he just wont stop chasing the ball and let them play.
He isn't the most technically gifted player, and he isn't the quickest. But none of that matters when he scores the winner late on after everyone else has got tired or given up, as he did against Everton, Liege, Manchester City, and today, against Wigan.
None of it matters when he shows the resilience and determination to put the fittest players to shame, and provide the work that gives Liverpool so many crucial late points, as he did against Manchester United.
Kuyt has gained a reputation for being a "big game player", but if you actually look at the games he plays in, you'll see that his consistent effort is one of the most important factors in almost every game he's played for Liverpool.
And that determination and honesty extends to his personal life. Never courting celebrity, he works hard for his own charity fund, shuns the limelight, and doesn't move far from his roots. He's proud of the village he was born in, helps out his boyhood team, and yet he loves Liverpool.
For me, Kuyt is a flashback to a bygone era. He isn't a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Robinho: he's not in it for the fame or the cash. He does the things the stereotypical modern footballer would never do, like track back and battle hard until the end, often when no one else has the stomach to run.
For all of those reasons, I think Dirk Kuyt demands respect, and his starting place in Rafa Benitez's team.
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