I remember reading about Nobby Stiles crying as he announced that he was selling his World Cup winner’s medal from 1966. To leave his sons an inheritance he was willing to give up a World Cup final medal along with the medal he got when the Babes won the European Cup in 1968. Keep that in mind whilst you consider whether today’s footballers will have to make that same sacrifice when in their golden years.
It’s not going to happen of course. Footballers today have the benefit of knowing that if they retired from playing tomorrow there are plenty of TV channels willing to pay out plenty of £’s to have an ex footballer on their show. Never mind that most of them know nothing about the game beyond having the ability to kick a ball. Those who haven’t spent all their money on escorts and cars bound for the scrap yard may even find they’re able to retire completely. Football has increasingly become a game ruled by money and some players earn more in a year than most do in a lifetime. It really is no wonder that we’re saying a goodbye to any hopes of loyalty, and a bittersweet hello to yet another aspect ruining the game.
Football fans have the uncanny ability to selectively forget or ignore any negative occasion when it involves a player on their team. Every time Manchester United play Liverpool we remind their fans that their beloved Steven Gerrard may have kissed that scary looking bird on his chest, but he still handed in a transfer request in 2005 (and supposedly another two since). He wanted a move away from his “beloved” Liverpool and onto the greener, more financially able, fields of Stamford Bridge. Liverpool fans, of course, still adore Stevie Me as if he was the second coming of Christ, although I doubt it the (supposed) son of God would punch a DJ. John Terry never handed in a transfer request, but a couple of years ago he was in talks with his advisors about leaving Chelsea for Manchester City. Although a set of fans who boo Wayne Bridge for having the audacity to let the mother of his child sleep with a married John Terry, probably do not much care whether Mr Chelsea himself was considering the temptations of the new richest play pen.
I admit that not much surprises me when it comes to footballers. Sleeping with escorts, cheating on their wives, doing their little soft porn tapes and accusations of being rapists at times takes up more column space than the actual football news. When United signed Wayne Rooney from Everton in 2004 I was absolutely ecstatic, the new golden boy of English football and he wanted to come play for us? Yes please. He didn’t let us down either and no one can argue, however much they may hate him, that when on form he is a world class player. Of course there’s been the odd controversy, what with his (now improved) temper, sleeping with grannies and cheating on his wife whilst she was pregnant (I don’t care who you are, that’s just dirty, and not in a good way). However, we’ve always stood by him.
I was gobsmacked when Wayne handed in a transfer request in October last year. When he kissed the badge I actually thought it was because he loved the club, not because of the millions of pounds we have thrown at him over the years. With the memories of players ranging from Paul Ince to David Beckham leaving the club on less than favourable terms, I was convinced that Sir Alex wouldn’t stand for it. To be honest I was expecting him to send the boy packing to some lower league Uzbekistani side that no one had ever heard of. I was wrong of course and Fergie even defended Wayne, saying he had received some “bad advice”. I didn’t understand how Rooney could stay at United, nor could I see the fans ever forgiving him. As it turned out I was wrong, and being proven wrong makes me feel about as good as Charlie Sheen will when he finally gets off his high.
I would never boo a Manchester United player, that’s not me. I’m not spending thousands of pounds a season on travelling and tickets so I can stand there and boo someone who wears the shirt I love. Admittedly I wanted to punch Wayne Rooney out cold, but boo him, not a chance. Other fans did though. They booed him loudly, and two weeks later they were singing about the White Pele as if nothing had ever happened. I bet Colleen wasn’t that quick to forgive him. Some fans have forgiven him and moved on; some have said they can’t forgive him for disrespecting the club. If truth be told, I think perhaps I’m angrier with myself for being naïve about his loyalties more so than anything else. I will never feel the same way about him again, and it has nothing to do with him earning a new contract that could pay for even the most expensive of brothel habits. If United fans are so forgiving about Rooney’s mid season transfer request, surely they should no longer be taunting Liverpool fans about a six year old Steven Gerrard saga? Just because a player wears our badge on his chest, it doesn’t make him exempt to the way in which you judge any other player.
Now I’m trying to look at this a bit more neutral than what my feelings for Rooney are, and I still do not think he is worth the money. However, I don’t believe any player is worth a minimum salary of £160k a week, in fact I’m a big supporter of bringing back performance based pay. If the money for their expensive clothes, fancy cars and ladies of the night depended on it, would players not be more likely to put on more consistent performances? Rooney did hand in a transfer request in the middle of the season, and he did hold the club to ransom. Although he should not be booed for this, he shouldn’t be so quickly forgiven either. If everyone in his life are constantly ignoring his mistakes, how is he supposed to learn from them? It seems he could nuke a medium sized country and people would still turn up at his door begging him to sign any severed limbs that they may have found. Can you even imagine how much an ankle blown up by Wayne Rooney would go for on EBay?
Football is changing, hardly for the better, and I suppose fans should change with it. Perhaps it’s time that we accept the fact that players are only there to do a job. A majority of them don’t care if they’re doing it in England, the US of A or Saudi Arabia as long as they get paid handsomely. However, as the saying goes, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. After the big fu**ing stones we’ve been throwing around, I wouldn’t even consider walking around without big, fat construction boots.