Danny Ings has recently joined Liverpool on a free transfer from Burnley. The Reds have a number of low numbers free – so many, in fact, that we feel they should try to emulate their classic 1970s and 80s system – but, instead of taking 7, 8 or 9, he has opted for the number 28 shirt.
It’s not that he’s one of those who wants a high number for the sake of it, though. One day, he would like to wear a single digit, but he wants to feel he deserves it:
I stayed away from the low numbers. You have got to take that pressure off yourself as a young lad coming through. That is what I personally think.
I would make sure I am established before taking any of those numbers. It is such a huge club. That was the thinking behind it. I wouldn’t want to go to Liverpool and chuck a shirt on my back like that … it is pressure you don’t need. The expectation at clubs like that is huge. Obviously I am going to work my socks off to earn that number one day. For now I will take a high number and work hard.
It’s interesting to contrast this with, say, Cristiano Ronaldo when he arrived at Manchester United in 2003. He wanted (coincidentally) 28, having worn it at Sporting Lisbon but Sir Alex Ferguson decreed that he should take 7, which was regarded as THE number at United (how accurate that status is discussed here).
When Joe Allen came to Liverpool in 2012, he and Brendan Rodgers discussed what number he might wear, a conversation shown in the Being: Liverpool documentary. Having been compared to Xavi, he had notions on wearing 6 but wasn’t overly forceful in demanding it and when Rodgers dismissed it as “a big centre-half’s number“, Allen had to make do with 24.
The first player to wear 6 at Arsenal after Tony Adams was Philippe Senderos, four years after the legendary captain had retired. In his early displays wearing 20, the Swiss defender had done a lot to suggest that he might become a fitting heir, but he suffered at the hands of Didier Drogba in 2005-06 and then, after getting 6 in the summer of ’06, the arrival of William Gallas – wearing 10 – meant that Senderos was relegated to back-up and he never really rediscovered his form.
Still, though, we’d far prefer to see heroes’ numbers being recycled than retired.