I’ve not yet been able to find any commemorative t-shirts depicting Richarlison showboating against Nottingham Forest. Shame. As Carlisle United fans know, that kind of thing can be a seller.

When the Blues’ supporters’ club London Branch produced a garment marking 50 years since the victory over Roma in the Stadio Olimpico, the hero on the front was not Tot Winstanley, scorer of the winning goal.

It was the bloke who, late in the game, received the ball around the halfway line, flicked it up and did a bit of juggling, before carrying on.

Our Stan, taking the mick in the Eternal City. What could be more iconic than that?

“They got a little bit tetchy,” said Winstanley, years later, on the Roma players’ reaction. “But that was typical of Stan. He had the ability to do that. And the nerve, don’t worry about that.”

What a shame, then, that while one such act was regarded as a lark – a risky one, but still a lark – and gathered legendary status down the years, the response was mainly po-faced when a decorated Brazilian forward did it in the modern era.

Brennan Johnson’s vengeful foul on Richarlison in August 2022 was deemed by most as a natural consequence of teasing an opponent, of bragging with your feet. “I wouldn’t want my players to do that,” moaned the Forest boss Steve Cooper.

“That’s what you get for showboating at this level,” said Sky commentator Martin Tyler, only then adding that Johnson flooring Richarlison was “maybe not right”. “He just winds people up, that lad,” added Jamie Carragher. Yep, that was presumably the idea.

News and Star: Bowles, pictured at Brunton Park, famously performed keepy-uppies against RomaBowles, pictured at Brunton Park, famously performed keepy-uppies against Roma (Image: News & Star)

Considering 50 years separated those incidents, it might be easy to categorise one of one era, and the other another. Football in the 1970s was more off-the-cuff, the rascal or mischief-maker able to operate more freely rather than meet suspicion.

Partly true, partly not. There may be some practises that have not translated through the years, but one of the biggest mistakes we could make when thinking of Bowles, who died last week at 75, is regarding him as a gifted, sideburned relic who could only have flourished at one time.

Naturally, the question of whether he could have shone today is gloriously irrelevant – irresistible to ask, impossible to answer. Mainly it’s best to remember our stars as they were, for what they did when they did it. Bowles delighted and bewitched the many who were lucky enough to watch him, and appeared to have a whale of a time in the process.

That’s always enough. The temptation to caricature players, though, can always be resisted. With Bowles the caricature was strong, and had plenty of supporting evidence. But call such a man a wayward talent and the mind should remember the second word as much as the first.

This is where we need to go in to bat for players who are gradually slipping into a less-seen past. When news of Bowles’ Alzheimer's diagnosis was made public several years ago, I called a couple of his former Carlisle team-mates for a few thoughts.

One of the first things Les O’Neill said was not a funny story about Bowles in the bookies, or of him irritating his manager, or something close to the bone that he got up to on a Saturday night. It was how hard he worked at his game.

News and Star: The London Branch t-shirt featuring Bowles' showboating against RomaThe London Branch t-shirt featuring Bowles' showboating against Roma (Image: News & Star)

“Bowlesy,” said O’Neill, was an impressive trainer. If there were certain winter days when he didn’t feel like getting out of bed, and asked wife Ann to call in sick for him, the many more when he did show up underlined that talent tends not to blossom by chance.

He was, first and foremost, a superbly proficient footballer, one who made himself good. For every piece of ball-juggling or cheekiness there were a thousand runs, a hundred shots and several score dribbles that were the height of seriousness when it came to mastery of the game.

So yes, Bowles probably could have carried himself in the modern sport. He might not have sat easily in the micro-managed academy system but are we seriously saying a star such as he would have been stifled by the sport? In attitude, perhaps, to degrees. But not in the raw material of skill and daring that could be shaped.

And let us not insult anyone’s intelligence by speculating that Bowles’ fancy for a bet would not have survived the present age. Check who remains the title sponsor of the English Football League. Observe the way football has fallen so far into gambling’s embrace that it is now, to an extent, trying to claw its way out. Look at the way some hugely-paid stars continue to bet as if it was next to breathing.

Far from moving on from Bowles-era fluttering, football has legitimised and commodified it. When I found the Richarlison video mentioned above on YouTube, I had to watch a SkyBet advert first. When I revisited it a few minutes later, Paddy Power were trying to tempt me. On this website later there will be an article about this afternoon’s match odds, so no high horses are being mounted here.

Perhaps it’s true to say it’s harder to go all the way as a totally untamed maverick these days. In Bowles’ time, characters such as he were met with establishment distrust. Today, if the necessary ground is not covered, the running data somehow short, the spreadsheet of stats not impressive enough when logged, some manager or analyst will have your number.

Again, though – I reckon someone like Bowles would have been good enough to tick those boxes, to learn and evolve the way he already did to be as great as he was. Passes made, ground covered, shots on target executed, key passes completed…Bowles excelled in all that, long before WyScout came along. His nature might have been unruly but his footballing bottom line was not.

So let us remember that, and cherish the whole, addictive package of him, and anyone else who comes along with a little of his blend: the gifts and the gadaboutery, the tricks and the talent, the light and shade of life, the wit and brass neck of his football and the absolute, unarguable, hard-earned quality of it. The reason he kept the ball up in Rome was because he could.