Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Owen and Co out of Touch with Fans Reality

The Manchester derby at the weekend was a great spectacle. The blue side of Manchester riding on a wave of optimism and wealth seemed ready to begin the re balance of power within the city. With seconds remaining a former Liverpool hero scored the winning goal, thereby thwarting City's former United strikers Hughes and Tevez who now play for, and manage City respectively. Confused? These days if you were away over the summer transfer window you would be shocked at how the football landscape had shifted.

Players and clubs are busy doing business and the people being forgotten are the fans. The issue that needs attention here is whether we can blame the players and clubs for betraying their fans? For a fan the beautiful game can be part of their lives but for the most part it is not their entire life or career. For a player or club boss the opposite is true. Players in particular have given everything to get to the top of the game. For every one of them that makes it, to the six figures a week world of the premiership, there are hundreds more that don't. Can we really blame them then for trying to get as much out of the game as possible during their short and injury prone careers.

The man who provided the inspiration for this rant was Michael Owen. Having been a Liverpool hero, he was forgiven by fans for moving to Real Madrid, and was even understood when he moved to 'crazy spending' Newcastle. To move to Manchester United though, Liverpool's most loathed and hated enemies, has pushed Liverpool fans to disown a player that they once viewed as something of a legend. Owen has so much money that he didn't need to move to United, so what were his reasons for moving? First he wanted to make the world cup squad. Second he wanted a Premiership medal. He may well accomplish the latter but I still doubt that he will make the world cup squad.

Will a premiership medal earn't from the bench really cement Owen in footballing history. I don't think so. United fans have already had the best substitute in history in Solskjaer. Even if Owen does score a few big goals this season and win the league, United have won the league so many times that their fans will hardly remember Owens small contribution. This is the point that Owen has missed. What the fans think is what ultimately matters. It is they who will talk about the history of the game to their kids and their kids kids.

If Owen had gone to a smaller Premiership club for less money per week he could have become a hero in one season. If he had scored 20+ goals playing 90 minutes a week he may also have scraped into the World Cup squad and had the chance at obtaining true sporting immortality. By choosing United he has destroyed the legacy he fought so hard to create at Liverpool and he has also in my opinion hindered himself from creating a new legacy in the final years of his career.

Players need to realise that there comes a time when you have enough money and that what matters after that is what mark you as a player have left on the game. I do not blame young players for making big money moves. They don't know what lies ahead for them and need to make their money whilst they can. Experienced and already rich players however need to take a step back before signing big money contracts and look at whether what they are doing will secure their short term futures or (much better) their long term futures.

At the time of me writing this, one such example of a player ruining his legacy is that of Sol Campbell. A former England International and Premier League regular, Campbell shocked the footballing world when he moved to lowly Notts County on a £40,000 a week over 5 years contract. Just one week later and he has left the club. The reason for him leaving according to Notts County Chairman Peter Trembling is that he has "one eye on the 2010 World Cup Squad". Surely now that isn't a possibility for a man who clearly put money above his ambition to play for England. If he had moved to another premiership club the World Cup may well have been a possibility.

Who else losses out from this bad decision though? The fans at Notts County of course. A promise had been made to them and now its been broken in record time. To sum up; fans need to realise that the sport is a business now, and that players are professionals within that business, and therefore unsavoury transfers will be made. However players also need to spend more time considering their options. They must make sure they make the best move for themselves (which isn't always the best paid one) which in turn will usually be the best move for their long term future and their fans.

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