No More Heroes Any More

In Football on February 5, 2011 at 8:17 pm

The Sporting Eye has made its view on the action in the January transfer window quite clear… Players it seems are now driven by big money moves rather than ones based on opportunity or prestige. The days of the club hero are dead and this transfer window activity underlined it with all the brutality of a nanny shaking a baby until its brain disconnects.


The first chief offender was of course Darren Bent, who casually turned his back on a team that had taken him on when he had been marginalised by another and had given him a platform to play himself into England contention. His reward to his fans and teammates was to manufacture a transfer to a club that is – or at least was – battling against relegation and was one place above the drop zone. Even if his quotes about them being in a false position (as if such a thing ever exists in league football) turn out to be prophetic, his move was as cynical and unambitious as they come.

Still, it was hard to take Steve Bruce’s sermonising about his lack of loyalty when he himself had proven what a mercenary he could be when he took the reigns at Wigan for just 8 games before defecting to Crystal Palace, before doing the same to them 18 games later when he moved to Birmingham. It’s also a certainty that it is Bruce’s interaction with Bent that caused him to have one eye on the door, an example of which was when he publicly lambasted the striker for allowing his struggling team-mate Kenwyn Jones to take a penalty in a game Sunderland won at a canter. It wasn’t the only time he was critical of his players in public and indeed it seems he learned nothing from his old boss over at Man Utd, given his eagerness to shift blame onto players when results weren’t going his way.

The Fernando Torres situation was a lot more obvious and it’s clear that despite the Liverpool fans wanting to make him another one of their striker heroes, he was always passing through that club. His love affair with Liverpool ended round about the time a flailing Rafa Benitez insisted on playing him injured and delaying surgery, something that contributed to a lack of form and meant he was a bystander as his nation won the world cup. While he may have kissed the badge, he would have taken a move anywhere that could have offered him an improved chance of winning trophies, which right now even extends as far as Birmingham City.

Torres was never the hero type… If you’re not convinced ask any Atletico Madrid fan who had to see the player, who was named the club captain at just 19 years of age, turn his back on them for a big money move to Liverpool after just six years at his “boyhood” club. Until then they had been on an upward trajectory, having achieved their highest finish since being promoted in 2001/2002. The club weren’t even properly compensated, the fee having not been disclosed but was in the region of £15 million. He will be well suited to Chelsea and they will get good mileage out of him for two or three years before he decides to return to Spain. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him pull on the white of Real in one final career affront to fans that want to believe.

The really shocking move had to be that of Andy Carroll, a player who had enjoyed a fairly average career up until Newcastle returned to the Premier League. The club had stuck by a player that had made little impact in the reserves, who had been deemed surplus to requirements by key members of the coaching staff and who had failed to deliver on his promise as a youth. However, he was a local lad, Gateshead born, and it was felt that his heart would always be in the club. When his contract was renewed it was hardly a great cause for celebration as the player then went on to be involved in a series of disciplinary issues, including breaking a team-mates jaw and then being arrested and bailed for assault twice, the first time for a nightclub incident and the most recent supposedly to do with his partner. Having to live with the club captain, the club stood by him and continued to play him and never once criticised him publicly for his questionable lifestyle. He did give his all on the pitch and his performances, only possible due to the loyalty shown by the club he’d been at all his life, earned him his first international cap.

Then on transfer deadline day, despite his insistence earlier in the season that he wanted to become a Newcastle legend in the same manner of Alan Shearer and Jackie Milburn, he was suddenly flying to Liverpool in a helicopter after submitting a transfer request. He can text all the local press he wants, but the fact of the matter is – as much as I or any Newcastle fan would like to believe to the contrary – he went because he wanted to. Mike Ashley knows St. James is a powederkeg and having £35 million he can’t spend is no comfort to the tenuous hold he has over the club after a string of lies and ineptitude. Selling Carroll on transfer deadline day could have easily lead to scenes akin to the Bastille.

Naturally he didn’t want the move to affect his already rocky personal life but the facts are he simply cannot expect to retain the love of the fans and play for another club. It doesn’t work like that unless you leave under some pretty exceptional circumstances and Carroll, like most footballers these days, had not put in enough time for those to come to pass. Maybe he’ll do that at Liverpool but it won’t mean as much as it would had he stayed.

But this is the face of the modern game. Players like Raul, Del Piero, Shearer, Scholes, Giggs, Le Tissier, Maldini, Strand, Harazi, Totti… These are a dying breed and they were rare to begin with in the first place. Now everyone follows the David Beckham model… You get the big moves, you do the big business, you think of profile, image rights and signing on fees before a legacy. That is the nature of the beast and it’s only going to get worse.
Newcastle fans might not even know it but they actually do have a hero at the club. They may never sing his name, they might not even care for him when he plays, yet for sixteen years – with huge periods of that being on the bench – he has remained faithful to the club and continues to do so. Steve Harper will never command a £35 million transfer fee but its players like him that the fans should be talking about rather than those who see you as a differently coloured stepping stone to a bigger bank balance.



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