THE notion of Argentina lifting the World Cup for a third time may not sit well with Englishmen – but do not expect too much rancour in the red-and-white quarter of Sheffield if that transpires.
The Steel City’s contribution to the beautiful game is finite through the presence of Sheffield FC – the world’s oldest club – and the Sheffield Rules, a code of football which had a major impact on the modern-day game.
On the World Cup stage, a son of Sheffield, in Gordon Banks, was England’s revered last line of defence in their sole triumph in 1966 and their links to this summer’s competition do not start and end with Sheffielder Gary Cahill.
Viewers are also likely to see plenty of a slight figure who endeared himself to Sheffield United fans in the late Seventies in Alex Sabella – and if the cameras are flashing incessantly on him in the Maracana Stadium at the end of a victorious final in a month, do not be too surprised.
If the Argentine coach achieves that, his place in the country’s footballing folklore alongside Maradona, Menotti, Bilardo, Kempes would be Passarella is assured.
Expect his ex-Blades team-mates to raise a glass if that is the case, with the man who acted as his ‘chaperone’ during his days in South Yorkshire, Tony Kenworthy, remembering him fondly.
Ex-Bramall Lane stalwart Kenworthy, who lived close to Sabella in Mosborough, said: “Sometimes in football, there’s people you don’t like who you feel don’t deserve things. But Alex does.
“When he came here, politically it wasn’t the best time for Argentinians, but he was a top lad.
“He was serious about his game and you could see him being a coach or manager one day.
“I just wish him all the best; if anyone deserves it, it is Alex. He was a great pro and you can see why he has ended up where he has.
“It was down to me to take Alex under my wing a bit and show him Sheffield and bed him in.
“But the whole city and Sheffield United crowd took to him and it helped him settle.
“Talking to people, he seems to hold Sheffield United in a high regard still.
“You want England to win the World Cup, which would be nice.
“But if we can’t and someone like Alex could lift it, it would be terrific for him.”
The respect Sabella, who later joined Leeds United, built with his Blades team-mates in a tough working environment less forgiving than it is now, was soon apparent, despite the obvious initial communication difficulties.
Sabella may have been thousands of miles from home, but was made of stern stuff; the right stuff.
Kenworthy added: “To be fair to Alex, he quickly fitted in and became one of the lads.
“A dressing room can be a daunting place as, if people find a weakness, you are in trouble. But Alex was a genuinely lovely bloke and a great footballer and would not isolate himself from anybody.
“He obviously had Danny Bergara who would translate for him in the dressing room, but he quickly picked up dressing room banter and language.
“I lived near Alex, so we’d share a car going into work and I showed him the roads and if he needed anything, he’d just bang my door. I used to take him under my wing in hotels to make sure he was getting the right food.
“Although I once remember lending him my car for a day and he didn’t bring it back for a week and I don’t know where he had gone with it. And it was filthy when he came back.”