For what it’s worth, here is my brief take on what has annoyed and frustrated me in the world of football since the end of last season.
As an Everton fan, the John Stones saga (although it seems to have ended, at the time of writing – albeit before the transfer deadline has arrived) is something which did at first irk me, to the point of writing this actual piece. However, now that the club whom the 21-year-old England international is contracted to have actually shown some balls and told the oligarch (Roman Abramovich) and his plaything (Chelsea Football Club) to go forth and multiply, is refreshing.
Too many times we see a supposedly bigger club (or rather just one with more money in the current era) bullying an apparently smaller club (one who isn’t achieving as much at the time their player is wanted) and obviously doing everything it can to force the latter into selling the individual in question. This includes *allegedly* having conversations with the player’s agent/advisers/family, in some cases, try to convince the player that his immediate future lies with them.
Most of the time, the deals that do go through are the ones where the player has been publicly courted by the buying club, doing a lot of work in the media and press releases from agents and player management companies to perpetuate the growing rumours this player is wanting a move. In this instance, it all led to Stones putting in a transfer request with Everton and telling them that he would like to move to the current Premier League champions, at Stamford Bridge.
The Toffees manager, Roberto Martinez, didn’t take too kindly to this and said so very strongly when asked at pre and post-match press conferences, by media outlets. He was certain that this deal was not a mutual one between the two football clubs and that now was not the right time for such a young player – with less than 50 top-flight appearances under his belt and England caps in single figures – to depart for a much more magnified role.
It is the popular opinion that it’s when Stones leaves Everton, rather than if. The reason for that is a simple one: John Stones has the potential to be one of England’s greatest-ever players. He is NOT an Everton fan, neither has he ever professed to be one. There is a difference in being employed by a business to perform a role and be paid very well for that and supporting the same outfit all of your life; indeed paying for the privilege to do so.
My personal inkling is that Stones will leave next summer unless there is a significant amount of investment into Everton Football Club – that much is certain, for me. I won’t be getting into the board agendas which surfaced some time ago, this isn’t what I wanted to talk about. Mine is one which cares for football on a wider-scale.
Has anyone stopped for a moment to think about Barnsley Football Club’s role in all this?
In hindsight, before David Moyes jumped ship to take up one of the least-envied positions in football – picking up the managerial reins from Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United in July 2013 – his parting gift was a certain John Stones. The promising youngster was a £3m signing from the South Yorkshire club and although the Tykes were in receipt of such a handsome transfer fee (second only to the £4.5m Blackburn gave them for striker Ashley Ward, in December 1998), they had lost a player to have come through their ranks.
Such is the nature of tribalism in football, supporters of their own club rarely part with their insular views. They don’t care about other clubs, higher or lower than them in the ranks of the game in their country. Those who indeed hold such beliefs will point to the 15% sell-on clause in the Stones deal, as a sweetener – meaning that Barnsley will receive this very percentage of any deal which takes the player from Everton to pastures new.
What they are forgetting is that money cannot wear a shirt and represent a club on the pitch. Unless that money is spent well, you will not see a return. Therefore, Chelsea are doing to Everton, what Everton did to Barnsley – just on a larger scale. Why is it any different? Because it matters to the club and its fans at that time.
However, my point is that players who leave in a hurry at a young age, don’t always make the impact that seemed to be intended for them. Take Wayne Rooney as a case in point. In August 2004, he made the same short move up the M62 as David Moyes would do nine years later and although his medal-count, as well as his haul of international caps and goals, can prove otherwise, the general consensus is that he has under-achieved.
He was arguably afforded one of the greatest mentors of his generation in world sport, in Sir Alex Ferguson, but despite being the third-highest Premier League goalscorer of all-time and set to break the long-standing goal-record of another Old Trafford legend, Sir Bobby Charlton, for England, he receives constant barracking of his contribution to the game.
Maybe this is a bad point to make, because he was vilified by the same Everton fans who are desperate for the transfer window to close before Jose Mourinho can rip out their hearts and all because they wanted to see the Croxteth-born player achieve for his and their boyhood club. Also, Everton were in dire financial straits at the time and Ferguson and co came in with a bid of good-timing.
Rooney just wanted to win things and he saw Manchester United as the best way of doing so. He will point to all the trophies won in the last 11 years at the Red Devils as some way of vindicating this decision to move and also accepting Duncan Ferguson’s testimonial invitation to come back to Goodison Park and play in a royal blue Everton shirt, as demonstration of his love for the club.
I may be wide of the mark, but I think Wayne has had his head turned in a way and knows what it feels like to wear the Everton shirt once again. It may have seeped into his veins – one can only hope this is the reason. Having said that, Rooney hasn’t been seen to have been performing consistently for more than just this calendar year; I may yet be proved wrong!
The title of this article is what I really want to talk about, though and using Wayne Rooney as a slight piece of evidence, I wanted to discuss why England and its individuals may be under-achieving.
Far too much is expected of young players, regardless of how much they are paid. Clubs will only pay what they feel they have to, irrespective of agents or demands from players. So, the recipient of a huge salary cannot be totally blamed for this. They don’t steal the money from the football club, they sign a contractual agreement. Both parties agree that this player is worth what the contract states. I don’t understand how the club gets away with this all of the time – it makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.
When a youngster makes a big move, the spotlight is immediately thrust upon him. It’s the duty of care of the club who holds his contract, that they look after this human being the best they can. If a player is mollycoddled, he will soon bemoan the manager’s treatment of him and yearn for a new home (although the club and other sources will conspire to create rumours of him wanting a bigger wage). Again, the club comes out on top.
If the club don’t look after their star performer, he gets himself into trouble, commits some kind of misdemeanour and becomes a national disgrace. Yes, of course he is a mature adult and should be able to behave in the correct manner. But we are not talking about ‘normal’ adults, here. We are talking about boys with LOTS of money. Lots and lots of the stuff. They can have a lot of temptations and a club employs a player liaison to look after their basic needs such as shopping, utilities and other stuff that me or you have to do ourselves.
So, they take things that we consider as chores, for granted so that they are able to concentrate on their job in hand – playing football.
Whilst I’m at it, there are loads of young men who DON’T get paid a king’s ransom and act like absolute idiots. What is their excuse?
Then, you have ex-professionals acting in the least professional way.
Take Robbie Savage who had a piece in the Daily Mirror over the weekend letting Stones and West Bromwich Albion striker, Saido Berahino know he would do if he was in their shoes/boots.
The piece (because there’s no way that below-average intelligence showpony wrote it; rather he just sat down cracking Uncle Knobhead jokes and chatting absolute bollocks – as you will know find out, if you missed his top-level musings) – told us that during his playing days, Savage would act up in training and kick up a fuss until he was granted his transfer request.
What a childish, sub-human individual. The only thing Savage has in common with those two players is that he (unfortunately) has working lungs and he can breathe. Saido and Stones will do well to ignore Savage’s ‘advice’ and would be much better listening to Prince Philip’s wistful thoughts on foreign policy.
Young players who go to play for clubs more in the limelight expecting to progress are rarely rewarded. Scott Sinclair must have thought all his Christmases has come at once when he was signed by mega-rich, Manchester City. He should have realised his mistake having previously made only five appearances in five seasons at Chelsea. He featured a grand total of 13 times in three years at the Etihad.
It has taken him until now, at the relatively old age of 26 to try and get his career back on track at Aston Villa. Former Everton loanee, Aaron Lennon is another. After bursting onto the scene as a quick and exciting youngster at Leeds United in 2003, at the ripe old age of 16 against Tottenham, he decided that he liked White Hart Lane much more than Elland Road and moved to Spurs just two years later for £1m.
He did play over 250 games for the North London side, but only played nine times since 2014 and was given a short-term loan to Goodison last season. Manager Mauricio Pochettinho has told Lennon that he is not in his plans for the future and at the age of 28, is now going to have to find a new club.
Savage’s main point for suggesting the moves for the two young players was that there is no loyalty in football. Now, the way I am coming across would seem to echo that opinion. However, that is not the case. It’s all about making decisions at the right time – which is what life in general is all about. Many players have chased a dream move or have at least listened to their agent talk the move up. The agent is there for a few reasons, but one main one is to make as much money for himself and his client as possible.
Players who are good enough very rarely have to force a move in order to achieve success in the game. Of course, some circumstances which lead to players transferring clubs may never be made public, but in essence, good players stay at good clubs until there is an agreement that it is best for both parties that he move on. There are not too many ‘mercenaries’ which is why we can name them or we would just point the finger at every player.
One huge final gripe I have is with BSkyB. They perpetuate the money merry-go-round and lead the way for the rest of the media (some also part of Rupert Murdoch’s empire) in bumping up the ‘warchest’ – I dislike this phrase more than any in football transfer column-inches, however it only seems to materialise in the January window – headlines and other sensationalist nonsense.
Jim White can disappear for all I care and making the day about him and the millions of pounds spent without any irony whatsoever, while this supposedly first-world country has food banks, is abhorrent in every way. Sky is all what’s wrong with modern football, ticket prices soar, footballer’s wages soar, club’s incomes soar, whilst the working class populace has to keep down their number vices and hobbies just to keep their lives from seeming mundane.
It’s as if they live in a different time zone, in a different galaxy and besides those without financial uncertainties and the plainly selfish or idiotic people who don’t count anyway…PEOPLE ARE SICK OF THE PATRONISATION.
ARE YOU LISTENING, SKY?
I SAID: ARE YOU LIS…
Oh, forget it.
Paul Dargon is a published author and blogger