Premier League Cult Heroes: Rory Delap

The footballer whose legacy is throwing a ball.

The wet windy night at Stoke has become far too cliched in recent years but Rory Delap and co. are the reason this saying was coined. Upon their arrival to the Premier League, under the stewardship of perennial club-cap-wearer Tony Pulis, Stoke were in no mood to make friends. Their style was one that respected no one, regardless of the oppositions, and ruffled many a feather on the way.

Clubs tried everything to combat Delap’s infamous long throws. Denying the player a towel, moving the advertisement boards closer to the pitch so he couldn’t get a run up, warming up in front of him. Clubs would genuinely rather concede a corner than a throw in against the Potters, such was the fear the aerial bombardment had struck in them. Many players lost the game before it had begun against Stoke. They were a throwback of a team. A team of bruisers who had no time for egos. Shawcross, Huth, Whelan, Walters to name just a few. How many clubs consistently brought their centre halves up for a throw in? However, when the throw in was as useful a tool as Stoke made it, Delap was priceless. He could throw the ball from the halfway line to the opposition goal. He could arrow it in like a fizzed cross or loop it high. A variety of deliveries designed to bully the ball into the goal. Of Stoke’s first 13 goals in the Premier League, seven were assisted by Delap, showing just how effective he was.

A crowded box from a throw-in was part and parcel of a Stoke match.

Perhaps the cult hero in this story is Stoke as a club in their early Premier League years, but this era is synonymous with Delap’s throw-ins and the carnage they caused. Not the most talented player, but he found a way to make himself pivotal in a Premier League side and will be remembered for a very long time as a result. Delap had enjoyed previous Premier League spells at Derby County, Southampton and Sunderland but none of these sides tapped into the throwing ability of the man capped 11 times by Ireland, who was a successful javelin thrower in his youth. However, Southampton fans will remember with fondness his incredible bicycle kick goal in a 1-0 win over Tottenham in 2004, with Delap only being replaced as the Saints’ record signing in 2012 despite Delap signing in 2001.

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