DODGY hair and Brazilian flair in the most unlikely of places are what most people recalled when former Middlesbrough midfielder Emerson was announced last week as the figurehead of this summer’s fantasy World Cup contest, but what is really remembered of the 1990s powerhouse on Teesside?
In this fascinating insight, the Still Don’t Know Yet manager recounts life in the smog during those sledgehammer strikes and unusual nightlife habits:
It was 1996. Heady days. Gina G was riding high in the charts, Tony Blair was seen as the potential saviour of the country rather than a warmongering poodle with a taste for Far Eastern women, and, at Middlesbrough’s Rockcliffe Park training complex, Bryan Robson was busy plotting how to build a side which could lose two cup finals and get relegated in a single season.
Already the pieces were beginning to fall into place. In Chris Morris he had the heir to a successful Cornish pasty making dynasty, in Nick Barmby the world’s most unlikely gambling addict, and in Juninho he had signed, pound-for-pound, the best player in the league.
But he needed something more. His Brazilian star playmaker’s problem of not being able to see over the ball and being blown off course by a gust of wind from the wings of a passing butterfly, meant he needed to strengthen his midfield.
Swigging gently from his ninth can of Carling (admittedly it had been a slow day, he had yet to sign Paul Merson) Robson believed he had come up with a solution.
Emerson – a man with all the flair, touch, passing ability, and shooting technique of his diminutive fellow Brazilian, but actually human size. Prizing him away from from his former England manager at Porto should have been an near impossible task if it wasn’t for Bobby Robson’s already advancing dementia, similarities in surname, and the corrupt nature of Iberian administrative staff.
Soon everybody knew that there was a new force on Teesside (except for Bobby Robson, who only found out that Emerson had left two weeks later during a conversation with the kit man about how he’d parked his Seat Leon 10 days ago and had been unable to find it since).
Emerson had the two ingredients necessary to be a foreign star in the Premiership in the 1990s – unlike domestic players he could control the ball in less than three touches and he absolutely despised the club and area where he was contracted to play. But having grown up on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro there was one thing that attracted him to Teesside – the resort town of Redcar.
The similarities may not be obvious, where Rio has Christ the Redeemer, Redcar has one of the world’s largest blast furnaces. While crowds flock to the Brazilian city’s famous beaches, the biggest petrochemical complex in western Europe largely drives away the tourist trade from the Teesside town’s sands.
Emerson, though, had a taste for slightly different delights. He was a creature of the night, and when it came to clubs and pubs Redcar could hold its own with any international rival. You want to see people dancing in cages? Head to Sharky’s. Triple vodka and coke for £1.80? That’ll be Leo’s. Want to try supping your pint whilst starring at the floor because if you look up you’re guaranteed to get punched? It’s The Hyrdo.
But it wasn’t even one of the three corners of Redcar’s legendary ‘Triangle of Death’ that attracted Emerson. He preferred the unique ambiance of Klub Kudos, a sparkling gem of night spot that insisted on the best of everything except for music, hygiene, and effectively checking people’s date of birth at the door.
Emerson loved Kudos so much he had his own special room there, and what went on inside is a matter between him and the members of Operation Yewtree.
That no action was taken at the time is probably down to the long standing incompetence of Cleveland Police and the fact that if you score against Sunderland in back-to-back seasons people on Teesside will forgive most things.
Juninho on the other hand settled for a few drinks at Guisborough Quoit Club (sadly, now a shadow of its former self) and went on to win the World Cup. A salutary lesson perhaps for any budding young footballers.
The 2014 Emerson World Cup is sponsored by Soul Glo: Let Your Soul Shine Through