Players going on strike? Shankly would turn in his grave
August 26, 2010
I just had to comment on the big story of the week so far. Javier Mascherano, the captain of Argentina and an integral part of the Liverpool midfield decided he ‘didn’t want to play’ against Manchester City on Monday night. He decided that the club who pay his wages, his team mates, and the fans that idolised him weren’t worth his time and effort. What an utter disgrace.
I had liked Mascherano since he moved to England. He is ideal for the Premier League, strong in the tackle, fairly quick, and above all, he has ability on the ball. Yes, he can be a bit of a hothead, but all the best players have that ‘nasty’ streak (with the exception of Gianfranco Zola, clearly. I’m thinking Bergkamp, Cantona, Keane, Viera, Scholes etc).
However, he had seemed to learn from his red card at Old Trafford against Manchester United in 2008, and was one of Liverpool’s better players in a poor year last season. But all respect I had for him has gone following his show of complete disrespect to all around him. Firstly, he is disrespecting his fellow professionals. Players like Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, Liverpool boys who have dedicated their career to the one club.
Now normally, I’m not overly concerned about players being disrespected. I don’t care too much when we see the Press criticising players for their actions (or lack of) both on the field and off. However, these circumstances are entirely different.
Secondly, he is disrespecting the club. That same club who has given him the platform to play at the highest level, in the Champions League, and in the upper echelons of the Premier League. The club that pay him millions of pounds a year to do something that many of us would do for nothing.
And thirdly, he has disrespected the people who matter most to the game, without whom, football wouldn’t exist. Of course, I’m talking about the fans. Football managers of the past would regularly talk about the privilege of the players, reminding their players that supporters, especially in traditional working-class areas such as Liverpool, had worked hard all week in order to be able to go to football, and that the players had a duty to entertain them. Supporters deserved to see their teams give every ounce of effort they could muster, and if players weren’t prepared to do that, they should accept their fate in the reserves for weeks to come.
Can you imagine then what a Shankly, Stein, Busby or Clough would say to Mascherano? In excess of £50,000 a week, a good portion of that coming out of the pocket of the fans through their tickets, yet he has decided against playing for them? I think the first thing Shankly would have said would be “Tommy, break his legs” towards the legendary Liverpool skipper Tommy Smith the moment Mascherano walked back into training.
And of course, Mascherano is not on his own. Charles N’Zogbia is trying to force a move from Wigan through to Birmingham, and Asmir Begovic (who?) is another who refused to play for his club. This is just utterly wrong. To me, it’s like putting in a miserly bid for a house which is rejected, and then camping on their lawn until they accept the same miserly offer. It’s just not on.
Cesc Fabregas was in a similar position. He clearly wanted to leave Arsenal to return to his boyhood idols, Barcelona. However, he also understood that in order for him to do that, the two clubs had to agree a fee. As the two clubs couldn’t agree on a price, he had to stay at Arsenal. Did he go on strike and throw his toys from the pram? No, he has buckled down, worked hard, and prepared for the new season.
I hope that the managers of Liverpool, Wigan and Stoke are successful in acquiring players who actually want to play for their clubs rather than these mercenaries, but if not, I’d love to see all of them simply rot in the reserves for an entire season. Cases like this have to make Jimmy Hill wonder if forcing the game to end the ‘Maximum Wage’ law was really a good idea after all.
Of course, you have to ask how and why this can happen, and the answer is simple: the players have been ‘tapped up’. Now we all know that tapping up is against FIFA’s laws, so why are clubs who do it not brought to justice? Why are contracts not worth the paper they’re written on? We are going to see more and more strikes until FIFA take action to put the power back in the hands of the clubs.
Where’s a Bill Shankly when you need one?