Monday 27 February 2017

Opinions of the masses hold little sway in dressing room

Footballers are the same as the rest of us. They can dislike those they work with, they can fall out with them, and they can act in ways which do nothing to serve the greater good. So forget about bemoaning their lack of loyalty, their wealth, their morals or their lifestyles. And forget holding them to a higher moral standard just because you would like their job. They can behave like idiots too.

Eleven years ago, I chatted with a team-mate about the idea of one day going into football management. He was keen to, while I dismissed the idea out of hand. I just couldn't see myself ever being able to cope with the behaviour which was beginning to become acceptable for players at that time.

We could both see how the money, the egos and the attitudes were becoming more and more of an issue, even back then. Management never interested me at all for those reasons, but it was the challenge of working with all that which greatly appealed to him.

Carlos Tevez did nothing out of the ordinary last week. Not in the context of professional football anyway. Feeling as if he was being unfairly treated, he acted in what he thought were his own best interests and decided to disregard how it may appear to those on the outside. Obviously, it looked petulant and childish and clearly undermined his manager.

However, absolutely none of it can come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the player's situation at Manchester City. In fact, it shouldn't have surprised anyone with any idea of how things really work.

The reaction from the majority of football fans was one of disgust, yet again, at what was seen as another example of the vulgarity and brashness which is embedded in the game today. But this is not a recent occurrence, and can't be blamed on exorbitant wages. Players refusing to play when selected has been happening for years, despite the sensationalist reporting of last week's events. How best to deal with it is all part of a manager's job.

Paul Scholes and John Giles admitted last week they had both acted similarly to Tevez during their playing careers. In doing so, they challenged the view that only the most unprofessional of players would ever act in this way, but also served to highlight again how little the public learn about what actually goes on within a dressing room. Obviously, Tevez wasn't the first player to refuse to play for his club, it's just that most before him did so with greater discretion.

I once saw the same thing happen at first hand. While I was on international duty with the under 18s, one of the substitutes blanked the manager's instruction to warm up because there was so little time left to play.

He thought it wasn't worth the hassle for what would only be a couple of minutes of action. He also believed he was being mistreated, so felt fully justified in doing what he did. The rest of us just thought he was a clown.

Once again, footballers' responsibilities as role models was brought up. This makes those who did so look more out of touch than Tevez himself is accused of being. Players are not consumed by the need to show children how best to behave, nor will they ever be. Graeme Souness spoke about the reaction of the "man on the street" on Sky television, but that man no

longer figures in the equation for those in the dressing room. Whether you accept that or disagree with it is entirely up to you. You can choose to take offence by it if you like, but it is the reality in professional football today.

I loved the job I had but didn't always like those I worked with, and I'm sure Tevez would say the same. His desire to leave the club is well known, but so too are his reactions when things aren't going his way.

It may not have escaped your attention last week that while many managers condemned his behaviour, very few said they would not welcome him in their squad. Even by Friday afternoon, West Ham United made an attempt to sign him on loan.

And if he was affordable, I'd say most fans would welcome him at their club too.

That former team-mate of mine is now in charge at Watford. He's got his own way of handling the egos and the tantrums by now. And moralising rarely has anything to do with it.

rsadlier@independent.ie

Sunday Indo Sport

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