The King Is Dead, Long Live The Jester

It’ll be a real shame if Chris Maguire misses the game against Peterborough on Saturday. When he headed home his third goal against Wimbledon on Saturday he became the first Sunderland player to score a home league hat-trick in nine years.

The richly deserved plaudits started to gush forth shortly after full time as supporters revelled in the performance of the man they call ‘The King’.

I’m not sure when or how Chris Maguire gained this nickname (although I’m sure others will be happy to tell me) and while it’s certainly intended to be a positive and affectionate moniker, it isn’t really a very appropriate nickname at all. Your average King usually displays qualities such as strong leadership and selflessness at one end of the spectrum, and anxiety, paranoia, and a propensity for violence at the other… all depending where on the tyrannical despot scale they lie.

He’s a pure entertainer, and should be celebrated as such.


Now I don’t know Chris Maguire very well, you could say that I don’t know him at all, but I’d argue that he doesn’t display any of these attributes, either positive or negative. He isn’t a leader, and he doesn’t try to be. He isn’t The King at all. A far more appropriate member of the royal court to compare him to would be The Jester. He’s a pure entertainer, and should be celebrated as such.

For his opener on Saturday, as he bore down on goal, most players would’ve opted for perhaps a side-foot finish or attempted to dribble past the onrushing keeper. But not The Jester… instead Maguire feigned power and delicately lifted the ball over Nathan Trott with a sublime chip, wheeling away as much in celebration of having tricked his opponent as for the opening goal itself.

Finding himself in the spotlight has been a near permanent fixture of Maguire’s career. From a Beckham-esque halfway line screamer whilst playing for Scotland under-21s in 2010, to goading ex-Sunderland keeper Ben Alnwick while at Oxford with an outrageously cheeky post-penalty celebration.

During his time at Sunderland his thirst for the centre-stage arguably reached its peak in the two Play Off games against Portsmouth. In the first, an exquisite volley was the difference between the two sides, and in the second he riled and cajoled his opponents throughout making it nearly impossible for them to achieve any coherence in their play.

And in the current team, his role is perfectly complemented by the likes of Grant Leadbitter, the sage advisor using all his experience for the good of the kingdom; and Max Power as the graceful minstrel, sitting in the middle of the park and delicately strumming his lute.

Against Wimbledon on Saturday of course, another two goals followed Maguire’s majestic opener. But perhaps the best illustration of his joculator persona came immediately after his substitution in the 82nd minute when he took full advantage of a new rule that states players must now leave the pitch by the nearest point on the touchline. For this event, Maguire metaphorically donned his multi-coloured tunic and hood with ears, tied bells to his boots and pranced around the touchline for a lap of honour as his adoring audience gawped and guffawed in delight. For this long suffering fanbase, such sheer showmanship has been absent for too long.

The King is dead… long live The Jester.

Matt Wilson