For the Love of the Game

3The story goes that Paul Madeley was negotiating a new contract at Leeds in the 70’s. Manager Jimmy Armfield had put down a virtually blank piece of paper in front of the versatile one-club man. After being told how much Leeds were offering, he replied that he had no intention of leaving the club and that Armfield may as well fill in the terms himself.   “Well, what do you want, two or three years?” asked Armfield. Madeley replied; “Either way, I’ll leave it to you. I just want to play for Leeds” Sounds reminiscent of Sterling, don’t you think?  Could you imagine, I know it seems crazy, that a player nowadays might want to stay at a club, and not try and hold them to ransom?

I was, like many, generally disappointed with Sterling’s actions to get himself a move. But I was disgusted by the cretin Aidy Ward, Sterling’s agent, who seems to have brainwashed the helpless half-wit into disregarding any loyalty that he may have once had. Or are footballers not born with the trait that would endear a player to a club’s fans for the rest of his life nowadays? And the ‘Oh well that’s the agent’s job’ argument doesn’t wash with me either. There’s a negotiation, and there’s daylight robbery.

I understand football is a short career and you’ve got to get what you can. And we all know that most of our heads would be turned quick-fast if some bloke started throwing eight-figure sums about in front of us. But how much money do we really need a week? £300k a week to keep yourself fit, kick a ball around, run about for 90 minutes at the weekend and then wait until you can hold your employers to ransom in a year or two. Sounds a good little number to me.

And the ‘he’s signed a new contract’ malarkey. What does a contract mean nowadays? They’re worth about as much as the Andrex I massage my jacksie with – It means jack shit. It gives the club hope that they might get a bit of a return on the money they pump into a player. They’re not worth a damn thing when you get agents telling the papers such and such won’t sign a new contract for 900k a week. It’s so easy for a player to force a move that they may as well not have bloody contracts.

I know it’s all hypothetical but if my club offered me terms, I would snap their hands off, just to don the shirt and play at the place I love. Surely that was the dream of every little kid growing up? Play for the team you support and try and play for your country. The pinnacle being captaining your country? Over the years I’ve thought about this. If another team came knocking, doubling, possibly trebling your wages, would I leave my beloved for pastures new? It’s easy for me to say I’d never leave. But look at ‘Once a blue, always a blue’ Rooney. Heads are easily turned.

The previous point opens up another can of worms, which I hadn’t meant to unravel. The honour of playing for your country. We always get the social media guff pumped out of sports news channels before a tournament or game, ‘It’s a great honour to play for your country’ or ‘this means everything to the players’. If this is so, then why do we always play dog-shite when we’ve got the 3 Lions on? Why do they not seem bothered in the slightest? Most of us watching would give our left nut (or boob) to play for our country and we see these overpaid herberts swanning around a European backwater struggling to beat nations that used to make Wales look good, before they became one of the top 10 teams in the world (my arse). I don’t remember the last time I looked at my mate at the end of an England game and said ‘I really enjoyed how we played that proper footballing nation off the park with sexy attacking football and quality defending.’ 

But back to the wages debate. Now I know footballers, in the majority, are not the sharpest tools in the old box. But do they really need their beloved agents to do every little thing for them? Buying fridges, explaining how to turn the heating on, tying laces? Learn to do it yourselves you lazy gibbons. I guess the agents have killed loyalty within football. The whisper in the ear promising more wages somewhere else down the road. Are the days gone of the one club player? The Billy Wright’s, the Tom Finney’s, the Ryan Giggs’, the Gary Neville’s, the Nat Lofthouse’s, the Tony Adams’? The list could go on with a few names, but you get the point.

Do the players even justify the wages they get? The counter-argument I’ve always heard is that they are entertainers, at the end of the day. Look at the money Hollywood actors are paid for the few months’ work that they undertake. In my eyes there has to be a cap. It is getting more and more ridiculous. In a few years’ time players will be demanding £5 million a week to play and some foreign owners will be more than happy to pay it. Because we all know that the only reason they buy up our historical clubs is because they were bought up in Kuwait as die hard Forest fans, or that the Glazer’s followed United home and away from New York. They would never think of using teams as a business.

But I could go on and on. A list of the players who have happily turned thousands of adoring fans against them in the pursuit of the mighty pound. The Winston Bogarde’s, the Cashley Cole’s, the Nasri’s. There are so many that I won’t even bother. We all know them and we all have reasons to hate one more than the other. We all know that in today’s game loyalty is dead. Long live the money king.

Tom Deamer