As the transfer window slams shut for yet another summer we finally know who is in, who is out and who, and despite all of the press speculation, will now have to slum it in the second tier of English Football, at least for the next few months.
As Toon fans, we expect our players to give their all without question and commit to a lifetime of servitude at the club. They are expected to put their limbs on the line almost daily, and when those limbs are broken, questions will be asked if the applied bandage isn’t stained with Black and White blood.
We expect effort and we expect loyalty. Fall short in either of these two areas and there’s no point in wasting the money on the “Larn Yersel’ Geordie” books unless you think it will help in negotiating a discount from the taxi driver on the way back to Newcastle Airport.
We think we know all about loyalty. We have turned up every week, come rain or more rain, and been force fed a diet of apathy and ineptitude that would make Victor Meldrew go on hunger strike; cheering a front line that between them couldn’t finish off a packet of Chocolate Hobnobs; witnessed the tactical genius of a five year old playing Snap – and we still come back for more!
But what about loyalty from the players?
The average professional footballer’s first priority, just like a normal human being, has to be money in the bank, and from that point of view I suspect that every professional footballer would privately admit that they are completely mercenary.
Would you turn down the chance to go do the same job across the road for an extra two hundred and fifty quid a week out of a sense of loyalty? Yeah, right!
Professional footballers are the same but the benefits more tangible. Wijnaldum’s pay rise for moving to Liverpool was enough to buy him 2 Range Rovers a month.
In my younger playing days as a goalkeeper I changed Sunday league teams once because the new team’s pitch was nearer the pub. It’s all about priorities!
Personally, I don’t blame them. Professional footballers have an earning career that spans no more than maybe fifteen years, after which a limited few get into football related jobs such as coaching or punditry, but for 98% of them it’s back to reality with no real world qualifications.
They don’t have long to fill up that bank account – so can we blame them for trying to milk it?
The other driving force for a select few is their desire to play for their country. Or depending on their skill level and passport, maybe their grandmother’s country.
OK – so 2 different blogs are reporting that you are in with a chance of a call up for the national team, and a couple of decent performances should do it. Then it all goes pear shaped and your team gets relegated.
Next season your competition for that last available midfield squad spot gets to showcase his skills against the likes of Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar on global TV beamed to billions, while you can look forward to getting your name in the local paper, proving yourself against hordes of freshly promoted plumbers, bakers and car mechanics who still believe that Vinnie Jones is the epitome of grace, style and sophistication.
So, Championship or EPL? A bit of a no brainer really.
One thing I’ve never understood about loyalty is the one-way nature of the concept.
A couple that I drink with met a few years ago at a business lunch. Both were married, but following a brief lust filled tour of the local hotel circuit they moved in together.
Oh dear, says I. That doesn’t bode well for the future, does it? If history has shown us anything it has to be that neither of you can be trusted to commit to a long term relationship, with each as likely as the other to run off with the next best thing that comes along. Sound familiar?
It’s all fine and dandy for a player to leave his club to come to ours, which according to our fanatical standards demonstrates no loyalty whatsoever to the previous club, but we do expect an immediate improvement in behaviour once he walks through the gates at SJP.
A little hopeful maybe? A little unrealistic? A little one-sided?
The other thing, of course, is that we only require loyalty from good, dedicated players. I suspect there would have been a sea of Black and White clad fans waiting to assist Sissoko in his quest for betterment. “White Hart Lane? Can’t miss it mate, follow me!”
Whether it’s the occasional bout of fisticuffs with the visiting fans, or less than charitable chants about Wayne Rooney sexual exploits it seems a little bizarre that we should expect such high standards from our players when we could never come close to achieving those levels of ethical perfection ourselves.
At the moment we are a stepping stone, and that’s how we get our best players. On their way up. If we are lucky and Rafa lives up to the hype, in a couple of years we might even be able to hang onto a few.
It was interesting to hear Steven Gerrard say recently that Rafa was the best tactician that he ever worked with. I found this rather odd – surely Gerrard played for England when McClaren was in charge?