Thomas Hitzlsperger escapes Liz's pocket just long enough to play a few minutes for West Ham (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Ed: This week's Player In My Pocket comes courtesy of Liz Owen, otherwise known as Lizzlsperger92 on Twitter. Which should make it clear why she chose the subject that she did. Thanks for writing at 7500, Liz, and you're welcome back any time.
I could reel off plenty of footballers that I'd simply love to carry around in my pocket, but one man will always remain top of my list: Thomas Hitzlsperger.
I'm not quite sure when my love for 'Der Hammer' began, but I do know that it's increased gradually over the years. Unfortunately, he left my beloved Aston Villa when I was only 12, prompting a reaction that one might associate more with a 12-year-old finding out their favourite boy band had split up. But after a long five year absence from England, most of which was spent in his home country of Germany with Vfb Stuttgart, he finally returned to the Premier League in the summer...albeit to sign for West Ham United. I'll forgive him, though - at least he picked the right colours to wear.
You can only imagine my indescribable state of joy when the 2010/11 fixtures were announced and I discovered Villa were to play West Ham United at home on the opening day of the season. I was soon to experience the exact opposite when Thomas injured himself during an international friendly in the week commencing the game and was deemed unfit to play. Nevertheless, I turned up at Villa Park that day in my ugly eight-season-old Villa shirt with his name on the back early enough to see both teams arrive on coaches, just in case he had travelled with the squad. But it wasn't to be, and I am now having to wait until April 16th for a second chance to see him. That is, if he's recovered from said injury by then. He has yet to make his debut for West Ham but is expected to return in February, so fingers crossed I'll be watching him on Match of the Day very soon.
It's hard to find a Villa fan who didn't have a soft spot for Hitz. He gave us a good few seasons of reliable service - granted, he didn't exactly set the league alight, but you couldn't ask for a more honest player who, nine times out of ten, gave his all for the team. More importantly, he was always on hand to take set pieces, provide assists, and, of course, score. Every single one of his goals for Villa could be described as ‘spectacular,' or an adjective similar, and there aren't many players you could say that about. I'm pretty sure all but one (the one being his debut goal, ironically) were long-range, left-footed shots which made him into a firm fans' favourite and prompted cries of "SHOOT" every time he had the ball; even if he was about to take a corner. Writing this has also made me aware of how much of a loser I am about him because I can distinctly remember him scoring at least eleven goals for Villa, despite Wikipedia claiming only eight.
So why exactly is he Chief Occupier of my Pocket?
- He's German, so in my books that automatically makes him great. Although if we're being honest he's probably the one who started my love of German footballers.
- Scoring against Blues, Wolves and West Brom (the latter was a last minute winner) is never a bad thing.
- That fabulous German-Brummie accent. How can you not enjoy listening to it?!
- He's a genuinely good guy and one of the most charming, down-to-earth and intelligent footballers I've ever known about. Thomas apparently studied investment strategies during his time in England, has written blogs for websites about issues such as xenophobia and racism, and has visited South Africa to support organisations that help take care of young children suffering from AIDs. Everything I've ever heard or read about him has been positive.
- The blonde hair and blue eyes. That gigantic heart-warming grin. And the little cry of joy he madeafterscoring a last minute winner against Bolton Wanderers in 2004. Thomas Hitzlsperger is adorable. No arguments.
One day I will meet him. Whether I'll have to make my poor family wait behind after West Ham away just for an autograph, or trek to Chadwell Heath training ground by myself, I will meet him. And when I do, I will be the happiest person alive. Until then, placing him in my imaginary pocket and talking about him to anyone who will listen will have to suffice.