Hall of Shame #2: Eric Sabin
Not many player’s careers can bear comparison with Thierry Henry’s, writes Alex Cooke. To do so they would need to be a club-record goal scorer, a World Cup and European Championships winner, an inspirational captain, an ad-man’s dream and, an aesthete. Swindon’s Eric Sabin – entry #2 into the Hall of Shame – was none of these things.
Instead Sabin toiled in France’s third division, sometimes. Sometimes he played as a winger, but usually as a substitute. He scored some goals too, but not very many.
Despite Thierry’s astronomical career at the pinnacle of football, and Eric having spent more time at the bottom of the pyramid than Tutankhamen, it was Eric’s own manager, Andy King, who chose to compare the two.
But then King did say he played defender Antoine Van De Linden as a striker due to him being Dutch, so we can’t be surprised that the fact that Sabin wasn’t a striker, French* or actually any good, getting in the way of King’s hyperbole.
Eric was, however, dreadful. 9 goals in 67 starts for Swindon proves it with numbers and your brain probably confirms it with the winced agony of memory.
Sure, he had a touch of pace, but he had the touch of a radiator. When he shot he didn’t so much pick a corner of the goal, as pick a corner of the ball to try to kick. If Eric could scuff, tap, miskick or waft at a six-yard chance away, he would. His one natural asset was straight-line speed, but he lacked the positional awareness to drift away from his marker or the football schooling to time his runs.
When he had moments of success they were usually the result of other’s excellence, or another’s failure. During most of these brief pauses of productivity, Irish midfielder Keith O’Halloran was the conductor and Sabin galumphed to his tune. With the maestro providing clever side-footed passes between rival centre backs, and the Frenchman applying his acceleration, defenders were often drawn into a clattering challenge. Hopefully before Eric could apply a leaden boot to the ball.
And once the referee peeped his whistle, Sabin’s two seconds of involvement were over as O’Halloran would dispatch the resulting penalty – Eric couldn’t be trusted from that range.
Once injury robbed Swindon of O’Halloran’s talent, and scouting robbed Sabin of the element of surprise, his effectiveness collapsed. He remained an eager and an energetic player, but never became a good one. Instead he played as anyone who was hideously over-promoted would, by trying his little, hopeless, heart out.
Many Swindon fans took to him though too, partly because to lambaste a player so horribly out of his depth would have been cruel. Except when he tainted himself with yellow, then we could all laugh at him. For Sabin, via an inexplicable move to QPR and then Northampton, betrayed that good-will when he went to play for the hated rivals – and Thierry Henry has certainly never done that.
Eric Sabin – Take your place in the Hall of Shame!
* Okay, he is really as his three international caps are for Martinique, which is technically a French overseas department.
View Eric Sabin’s STFC profile at swindon-town-fc.co.uk
PS – Before anyone asks…entry into the Hall of Shame is unordered. The numbering is purely to keep tabs on the total inducted and doesn’t mean Sabin is the second most shameful thing ever at STFC.
I’ll always like him, even if he was crap. Just because he’s the only player I’ve ever seen get someone else sent off after jumping and landing with both feet, studs first in their unmentionables. (Danny Senda for qpr?)
No way should Sabin be in the hall of shame. He was just not very good – very fast, but not very good. He tried hard, though !
If the criteria for getting in the hall is just that you are not a very good player, it is going to get mighty crowded.
Bad selection wasn’t the best goalscorer but can’t fault the effort.
I think the main reason I agree with his inclusion is that we were promised so much from him, yet he gave so little. Maybe that was King’s fault, for hyping him up so much, but still the lack of living up to expectation was really grating, in my opinion.
Still liked him though, and prayed for him to do well, but alas, it was never to be.
Very harsh on Sabiniho to be placed in the hall of shame on the basis that his dipshit of a manager compared him to a great player.
Obviously he wasnt very good, but we’ve had plenty of not very good players over the past 10-15 years many of whom didnt try as hard or earned a shitload more money than he did.
I think you have underestimated his pace also, he was very very quick, easily one of the fastest I’ve seen in a town shirt. I remember 1st seeing him play in a friendly and when he got his 1st chance to put the afterburners on both me and my mate pulled the same “fucking hell!” face at each other
I’d like to nominate Mark Robinson. Paid £600k for him in the 90’s and he was both fat and crap. At least Sabin was free!
Very harsh and unfair to put in him, when you compare him to the likes of jason dresdale and jon shffield etc etc, he was not a bad player all in all, and no way belongs in a hall of shame, I hope you reconsider.
shocking choice god loves a trier and most of us loved Eric in pat on the head sort of way!
This needs a rethink for sure
yep got to go with the others here… sabin always tried hard, even if it wasnt quite up to standard…
good choice he was crap, and as you say the touch of a radiator shocking, shame about O’Halloran, he scored 7 pens that year before he broke his leg
Loved the Sabinho nickname. One away game at Mansfield towards the end of his time with us, we burst into a rendition of: “Eric Sabinho, stick to Subbuteo”.
Then you sent him onto us (QPR) and I remember him being just as bad there. He scored one goal on an away day to Grimsby where the ball hit the post and came out to him from about 3 yards out. He even almost made a hash of it then.
That was about the extent of what he did!
Great Choice, Sabin was totally crap. He was our Ali Dia.
One of the most skilful players I’ve ever seen in training at Northampton – did not transfer on to the pitch though! Can understand your managers comments if he had attended a trial
Harsh decision. He was lightening quick and I must have watched him in 20 games being convinced he would score as he left defenders for dead. Ultimately I realised he was never likely to score (except maybe a lucky bounce from the back of his head) but it still makes me smile about how convinced I was for so long that he would. So many times with just the keeper to beat and the ball would hit the linesman or sail over the Town End roof. Great days!
that is so interesting to read all those comments , so many years after .. all of you guys have a little bit of thruth in what he says , but mine is that i really enjoyed every game i’ve played in UK and to be compared to the all time best French goal scorer didn’t help !! coming from west Indies and being quick is surely not enough to be a big player ! looool au revoir .. Sabs