My first reaction when I read about Shola Ameobi and his admission that talks over a new contract had stalled was decidedly ‘meh’.
However, as is usually the case with me it eventually spurred a thought process on inside my head, which was helped by driving up miles and miles of empty motorway to be fair and suffering the boredom as a result. Anyway I digress… There really is no room for movement or sentiment in the clubs new stance on contracts is there?
Like others before him, Shola Ameobi has just one year left on his contract, and like others he is nudging the dreaded 30 mark (in fact by the time his contract runs out next summer he will closer to 31) which appears to be the cut off point where the club stop offering longer deals to players.
This causes a problem in my opinion. Naturally a player will want a bit of security when he reaches the twilight of his career. He’ll want to know that he has a few years of earning the big money before retiring or dropping down the leagues or whatever ends up happening. On the flipside the club don’t want to be lumbered with players who are in decline, which is also understandable.
It’s pretty clear what Ameobi wants, but if you’re not sure then take a look at what he told the Sunday Sun yesterday:
“I want to get it sorted out, but obviously the two parties have to meet somewhere and that hasn’t been the case yet,” said Shola.
“As a player, you want to feel secure. You want to know what’s going to happen for the next few years but I don’t at the moment.”
“It’s something I’m trying to get sorted but at the moment I’ve got one year left. A year can go very quickly and things change, as we have seen.”
Now the very last thing I want this to do is for it to turn into the whole Ameobi debate. It’s been raging for over a decade now and will continue as long as Shola is at St James’ Park and in that time I think everything has pretty much been said about Shola’s career at the Toon.
What it does show (or Sho I guess!) is that this stance on contracts is very rigid. The message is simple to me. Once you get to around the 30 mark you will not get an offer of a longer contract at Newcastle. It’s not that they won’t offer you a contract, but you can bet your bottom dollar that of you want another one then you must be prepared to work for it and show you are up to it.
In my view we’ve seen both good and bad come from this contract stance already. Good in the fact that the club will seemingly no longer be a museum for older players who use us as a retirement fund and may struggle to retain a first-team place in the near future, like Kevin Nolan, or even Ameobi to an extent. Bad in the fact that there appears to be no exceptions to the rule, like Joey Barton, who could continue to play at the top for a few more years yet.
The fact is that a lot of players reaching 30 can go on for a good few years and I worry that this rigid approach is something that can come back to haunt us. What happens to our new Captain when his contract gets into his last year? Will they overlook the fact that his reading of the game sometimes means that his need for physical attributes such as pace are not needed as much? Hmm….
There just appears to be little room for manoeuvre when it comes to retaining our current players. It’s all well and good saying that players should earn their contracts, but that is is an ideal world where sometimes our passion for the club can cloud a judgement.
Tell me something, you are close to retiring and your employer attaches strings to your contract whereby your continuous employment hinges on hitting targets. Another employer offers you the same job, same money, no strings. What are you going to do? I best most of us would take the guaranteed option, right?
So why should a football player be any different? The key thing is recognising who is floundering in the Premier League water as a professional footballer and recognising who is still swimming strongly.
Will the club be able to do that? Or will it be a case of ‘you’re dirty at 30’ regardless?