Farwell Rory Delap

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The world feels a little different after Rory Delap was released by Stoke this morning.  Rog interviewed him back in 2011 to learn how he first discovered he had mighty powers.  Rory’s last line is a thing of beauty: “It is tough to know I will be remembered for my hands rather than my feet but I am the first to admit I am not the greatest player in the world.I suppose it is better to be remembered for something as opposed to nothing at all."  Here is the full piece.

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Sunderland’s Rory Delap is a rare soccer player who contributes more with his hands than his feet.His ability to throw the ball with a fast, low trajectory into the opposition’s goal mouth from an average distance of 125 feet has caused fearful coaches to call him the “Human Sling.”

"My Dad claims that when I was 7 months old, I was forever picking up balls and flinging them around the house.He was a rugby player and a Gaelic hurler, so I guess great arm strength was in my genes.

By the time I was 2 or 3, I had graduated to stones.We lived by a river.My dad would take me down and we would skim stones for hours.I loved the feeling and could not stop chucking stones, even when we were nowhere near the water.Two or three went right through the windows of my home.It is very hard to judge distances at that age, or at least, that was my excuse.

I was addicted to throwing at this point and let stuff fly everywhere.I began to chuck golf balls around the house which did not go down well with the family so they packed me off to the local athletic club with the idea of learning how to throw the javelin.In England, they don’t let you throw a javelin, which is essentially a spear, until you are 12.They start you off with a cricket ball which is basically the same as a baseball.At the age of ten I could fling it as far as the grown men at the club.I remember the day when my Dad realized I could throw it further than him.He was not best pleased.

I was a scrawny kid back then. The smallest in my class. All skin and bone.But I was in control of my limbs.There was a viaduct near my home and all the kids would hang out there and chuck stones at it.Most of them were five or six years older than meand they spent hours trying to clear it.No one could come close.I was a tiny lad.The kind of kid they would not normally want to be seen with.But I went down there and was the first to clear it.The stone soared right over the top.A throw of about 120 feet.The feat got me enough respect that they allowed me to hang out and play football with them.They gave me a bit of a kicking but that toughened me up good and proper.I often think that in many ways, my throwing ability got me ahead in life.

I picked up the javelin at 12.It is a discipline that traditionally requires serious technique – holding the javelin above your head at an angle with a measured run up.I never bothered with that.I had my own way of throwing.I started with the javelin down behind me with the point touching my ear.No run-up.I was self-taught but effective.Once I worked out how to make it stick into the ground I won every competition I was in.

By the time I was 14 or 15, football started to dominate my life and the javelin got pushed out.I held no dreams of being an Olympian.I joined Carlisle United’s youth team.A few games into the season a ball bobbled out for a throw-in about 54 feet outside the of the opposition’s penalty area.I saw our center forward unmarked near the goal and just flung it right onto his head.When he scored, even I was shocked.We started using the play regularly.

Then I went to Derby County and my long-throw did not suit their style.They had no big players and were a technical team who emphasized playing the ball to feet.I moved to Southampton and the manager encouraged me to throw it as high as I could so defenders could not get much distance on their headed clearances, but we only used the play in emergencies.

When I arrived at Stoke City, the gaffer turned to me before my first game and told me he would move up our two biggest guys, the center halves into the box, and that my throw in – long and flat – would be our standard play.It is a tailor-made talent for the squad of tall players he has put together.

I never practice it.Early in my career I trained with medicine balls to see if I could increase my distance.Instead, I developed problems with my neck and head so I ditched the regimen.Throwing the ball as far as I do is a pretty explosive movement.Doing that ten or fifteen times during a game batters your back and shoulders.I take a bit of punishment on gamedays and need my rest.

A lot of people tell me I could have made millions as a MLB pitcher.I always say that’s my Mum and Dad’s fault for not relocating to America once it was clear I could throw.To this day, I have no idea what it is that physically allows me to do it though. I have had teams of scientists study my technique.Some say it is my back.Some my shoulders.Others my wrists.I would be a rich man if I knew.

It is tough to know I will be remembered for my hands rather than my feet but I am the first to admit I am not the greatest player in the world.I suppose it is better to be remembered for something as opposed to nothing at all.”