Monday, 23 July 2012

Players Only Loyalty is to the Game

Loyalty does not exist in football.

And nor should it.

Yet the topic of players and disloyalty rears it’s ugly head in the transfer window as frequently as players move club.

The problem with loyalty is simple.

The subject matter is always broached from a supporters point of view.

But supporters aren’t in football.

They are always only the support that allows football to live.

Football supporters can be the embodiment of loyalty.

Some will tell you they haven’t missed a games in 30 years.

Others have tattoos of crests twice the size of their heart.

But it is because of this almost blind loyalty that supporters believe their players will feel the same way about their club.

After all, these players are getting to live the dream of so many of these supporters.

They must love the club to do so.

must therefore be loyal.

After all, every supporter would be - if given the chance to play for their club.

Or so some supporters would believe.

Wayne Rooney grew up joining his boyhood heros Everton.

They gave him Premier League football.

Yet Wayne wanted more.

As loyal as he was to the blue half of Merseyside, he wanted to win major honours.

He joined Manchester United.

He won major honours.

Jamie Carragher has now spent his entire career at Liverpool.

The biggest rival to Everton, whom like Wayne, he also supported.

Jamie would never have won the Champions League with the Toffees.

‘Loyal’ to the reds.

Yet I use the word loyal loosely.

True, Jamie and also Steven Gerard have stayed at the one club their entire careers.

Through thick an thin, supporters might argue.

But the reality is, they both stayed because they were getting something in return.

Their careers were benefitting from playing for a club who regularly qualified for the Champions League.

Who won the Champions league.

Along with numerous other cups.

But even after capturing the biggest club prize of all, Steven’s head was being turned by another team.

Liverpool supporters will say he was loyal in the end when he opted against the switch.

But if winning the Champions League was almost not enough to keep the player who joined them at the age of 10 - imagine what finishing mid-table would have done?

Or getting relegated?

Like the Leeds United team of 2003.

A great team that had taken a gamble on Champions League glory and when success on the pitch wasn’t achieved - the wheels came off rapidly.

A player exodus commenced.

Amongst them was a young Alan Smith.

A Leeds man through and through.

Made up of equal measures of love for his club and hatred for
his rivals.

No bigger rival to
his team of course was Manchester United.

The team he joined 3 weeks after Leeds left the Premier League.

No championship for Alan.

No, straight to the Champions League for this loyal supporters favourite.

Even those who stayed with the sunken ship cannot claim loyalty.

Gary Kelly hung around for 3 more seasons in the Championship.

Unlikely he could have found another big club at his age.

And he was the third highest paid full back in England after all.

Manchester United have their loyal bunch too.

Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs to name a few.

All loyal one club men.

All achieving every ambition imaginable in the game at one of the biggest clubs in the world.

No sign of the championship for them.

There are of course players who remain ‘loyal’ to their smaller clubs.

Matt Le Tissier perhaps the most overt.

Regularly coveted by larger, more successful clubs.

It would have been easy for him to move on.

But he was the star man at Southampton.

The center of everything.

And he was guaranteed Premier league football.

Finishing his career at Southampton was great to see.

Loyal to the team that gave him his break.

Yet Matt grew up in Guernsey - hardly a haven for Southampton supporters.

Supporters adorn some of the aforementioned players.

They see them as ‘loyal’ servants to the cause as they have remained at their beloved club.

The truth is, the ‘loyal’ ones always made sure it suited them to stay.

This was their career after all.

They don’t support their clubs.

Their clubs support them.

‘There’s no loyalty in the game anymore’ is heard up and down every terrace come transfer window season.

Could it just be that is heard during the period since the Bosman ruling came to fruition?

No longer could the clubs decide where and when the player would go.

Instead the player inherited the power.

The power to remain loyal.

Loyal to the club.

Or loyal to their career...

Monday, 9 July 2012

Ireland’s Performances Are Not the Peak of the Problem

Ireland’s performance at the European Championships in Poland was a harsh reality.

But a review of the players decline in the squad brings forth a reality even harsher.

Talk of retirements usually surface after era ending markers such as this.

The big 5 getting a constant mention at the moment.

Shay Given in goal had an extremely poor tournament by his own highest of standards.

Always considered one of the top keepers in the English Premier League, if never the top, his decline in form has coincided with father time and his inability to recover sufficiently from ever increasing injuries.

The first signs came when Shay finally landed himself at a big club only to find after 1 season, he was demoted to the reserves to allow the returning Joe Hart claim first choice.

His decline cemented when he sealed his transfer to Aston Villa a year later.

While Manchester City were being crowned champions of England last month - Shay had to look back on a season that saw his new team finish 16th.

The same team of course, in which Richard Dunne played.

Similar to Shay, when Man City started getting big, they realised they could afford to bring in whoever they wanted.

Despite 4 player of the season awards at the Ethiad in a row, it wasn’t long before Richard was replaced with players the calibre of Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure.

Much like Ireland in Poland - he never stood a chance.

Damian Duff was once a diamond in Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea dynasty.

Valued as high as €17 at one stage - it wasn’t long before he took a step down too.

The dizzying heights of Champions League football and Premier League titles were replaced with relegation involving Newcastle and his current spell at the never threatening Fulham.

John O’Shea spent 12 seasons at one of the biggest clubs in the world.

11 major honours in total - including the Champions League.

Only 3 Irish players have ever won more.

Yet last summer it was pastures new for John and the not so dizzying heights of the Stadium of Light.

And of course, our Captain and talisman, Robbie Keane.

After finding his home at White Hart Lane, one last big money move looked on the cards when Liverpool came calling.

But after only 4 months at Anfield, it was back to Tottenham and soon a drop further to West Ham on loan in double quick time.

For the amount of goals Robbie has got in the Premier League over the years, it’s tough to think our greatest goal threat is spending his early 30’s in the less than impressive Major League.

Outside the senior 5 there are plenty of examples of decline in the Irish squad too.

With the exception of Aiden McGeady, most of the squad are in worse shape than they were when Giovanni took over.

Kevin Doyle, Stephen Hunt and Stephen Ward will all begin next season in the Championship with Wolves.

Kevin had been linked with Arsenal not so long ago.

Sean St. Ledger has gone from promising young defender on the cusp of the Premier League to a Championship regular.

Keith Andrews has had a lot of ups and downs in the past 3 seasons culminating in him currently being without a club.

And the reserves don’t fare off much better either.

Kieron Westwood has gone from being in the Championship team of the year 2 seasons in a row to warming the bench of Sunderland.

Paul McShane has dropped out of the top flight.

Darren O’Dea and Paul Green are both unattached.

And Darron Gibson followed John out the Old Trafford door.

It could be argued that Shane Long, Glen Whelan and Jon Walters have improved.

But in truth, their talents have - their club status has remained the same.

That just leaves us with the young James McClean, who could do nothing but rise if he was to make the squad.

And it is with this youth that the next campaign may lye.

So many of this squads are no longer heading skyward - with this summers Championships seen as one of their peaks.

2 years from now when Brazil comes around, it’s hard to see many of the squad being in a better position.

But perhaps it is this reason alone that Giovanni should look for new blood.

The next generation are already looking better off than they were when Giovanni took over.

James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman, Ciaran Clark to name a few.

Indeed Brazil in 2014 might be a peak for some of these players.

Let’s just hope it’s not their highest peak...