Player Power

[Originally featured in Liquid Football Magazine Issue One – January 2016]

Do the lunatics now run the asylum? Liam Hill believes that footballers are given too much power in the modern game

None of us envisioned that Jose Mourinho would not be in charge of Chelsea Football Club at this moment in time. Certainly, no one knew that the champions would be languishing near the bottom of the table. The bookies must be rubbing their hands together. Let’s get something straight; I’m not a Chelsea fan. I hate Chelsea. And as for Mourinho… well, let’s just say he’s not my favourite person in football. But I don’t have to like someone to know that they should be respected. How can you not, when he’s achieved what he has in football?

But respect is not something that the modern, overpaid footballer displays very often. Because it’s the players who run the show. And that was always going to happen, it was unavoidable. It’s been twenty years since the Bosman ruling was brought in and, as time has gone on, player contracts have very little meaning. The younger players coming through now have that etched in their minds. No longer do they need to show respect, and if they don’t have to, why would they? ​

But when a group of players have now managed to get, probably the best manager in the world the sack, you know it has got out of hand. So, where do we draw the line? It really doesn’t sit well with me that these lads have the world at their feet, yet they can’t just concentrate on playing the game. There is no excuse not to give it your all when you’re earning that sort of money, especially when there’s thousands of people who have spent their hard-earned to see a good performance.

No one knows for sure, outside of Chelsea, why the players turned on Jose. Of course, we all have a theory (the theory) but with footballers these days, it could have been something extremely minor. It doesn’t take much to set off a footballer’s sulk mode. But everyone says that, if it was anyone else, they’d have been sacked well before now. But the fact is, if it was someone else in the dugout, that team wouldn’t be in such poor form. Those players consciously decided to put themselves in a relegation battle for their own selfish reasons.

It’s especially selfish to force out a manager who is particularly loved by the club’s supporters. We saw the same thing at Nottingham Forest last year; some of the players were, allegedly, unhappy at being left out of the side for a televised league cup game and decided to begin a revolt. Surely that can’t be true though – A modern footballer throwing a wobbly because he can’t act the big one on live TV? Perish the thought!

At the time, Forest were top of the league, and were many pundits’ favourites for promotion. So how much do you have to dislike the manager that you would purposely ruin your own chances of success? It’s just cutting your nose off to spite your face.

But, of course, it’s much easier to sack one man, than it is to remove multiple members of the playing staff. And the players are fully aware of that fact. Modern football, players are assets. Very expensive assets. They cost so much money in transfer fees, agent fees and in wages that it’s simply impossible to cut ties without getting a return. And they are fully aware of that as well. They can practically behave in any way that they please. They know that if it was to backfire, and they got kicked out of the club, they’ll just find a new one. As long as they pay the same, it doesn’t make a difference to them who they play for.

So now, it’s the club and the manager who have to work hard for the player. Unless they let them have it all their way, they’ll just refuse to perform to their ability. There is not a lot that can be done about it. The only way to hurt a footballer is by issuing them fines, but how could that even be governed? It’s easy to see when a player has not played to their best, but it’s completely impossible to prove that it was on purpose.

As I say, I don’t like Chelsea. But I’ve got a new found respect for their fans. Other club’s supporters in the same situation have been known to ignore that some players have purposely damaged their club, and will still show utmost admiration for them. It doesn’t matter to them how they have behaved in the past, as long as they start to make the effort at some point. But at the first post-Mourinho fixture, against Sunderland, the Chelsea fans let their feelings known to the, alleged, bad apples in the side. And rightly so, why should they be admired for acting like a bunch petulant children? Are people supposed to be impressed at the fact that they’ve finally tried to win a game of football. And not for the club, but because they have now managed to get their own way?

They’ve received the message; the supporters are certainly not impressed. Although in reality, it matters very little to them what the fans think, as long as they’re being paid. This is modern football, and with clubs bending over backwards to wrap the players in cotton wool, it’s unlikely to change any time soon – the lunatics now run the asylum.