Thursday, 23 December 2010

The problem with football

Le Tiss: loved, and loved by, his club
Contracts don't seem to mean anything in football these days. Managers are hired and fired at an alarming rate and players are signed to lengthy contracts that they rarely intend to stick to. In the last 10 years I can think of only a handful of people, both managers and players, who have been with one club for a long time. Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have been at Manchester United and Arsenal for 24 years and 14 years respectively. Francesco Totti (AS Roma), Ryan Giggs (Manchester United) and Matthew Le Tissier (Southampton) are three players who committed their entire careers to one club. There aren't too many more to tell you about, at least not in the last 20 years, which is both a shame and a sign of what football has become today.

Footballers are becoming more and more like mercenaries, playing for whoever will pay them the most money, and managers are under increasing pressure to bring instant success to their clubs and are cast aside if results go against them. Whereas in the past the leagues in any one country would be full of native players, today there are many foreigners who play alongside them. This is the especially the case in the Premier league, which attracts the best players from all over the world. The main problem I have with this is that all the new players coming in to the country have no affinity for any club. They don't support any team and therefore have no ties or love for that team. There is nothing to stop them from leaving when the going gets rough.

Modern players are only out for success. If they don't get it at one club, they will move to another, and another until they do. Call me old fashioned, but I believe you should play primarily for the love of the game and the love of your team. Any trophies or success should be secondary to that. Players like Matthew Le Tissier at Southampton and Alan Shearer at Newcastle United have attained an almost god-like status with their fans but have never won any major honours at those respective clubs. Success was secondary to them and they are loved because of it. The game desperately needs more characters like them.

Also, I have a problem with the frequency with which managers are being fired these days. To expect one man to come in and deliver instant success to any club is utter madness. Sure, the manager plays a big part and a great manager can do great things, but success is also down to the players, the staff behind the scenes and, of course, the Chairman. The reason for managers being fired so often is simple: there are more and more non-footballing people getting involved in football.

We have a lot of loaded businessmen who are buying football clubs these days who have too much say concerning how the club is run at the football level. There are also a lot of chairmen around who also don't know football. These people don't realise it takes time to build a trophy-winning squad and short term success is not always attainable. 

Alex Ferguson
Look at Alex Ferguson. His first three years at Manchester United were pretty naff. It is also claimed that he was on the verge of being fired before he was fortunate enough to win the FA Cup in the 1989/90 season. Following this, Manchester United stayed with him and are now on the verge of becoming the most successful English club in history.

There is a lot wrong with football these days and unfortunately it is all down to money. Football is a business, the players are the assets and we are the customers. Rant over.

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