Anthony Brown: Players entitled to seize opportunities

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THE January transfer window is looming large and with it will come the usual army of moral-highground merchants who love to brand players a “mercenary” or a “Judas” when they move on to bigger things.

The likes of Darren Bent, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Kevin Thomson, Andy Webster, Ian Murray, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Alan Smith, Fernando Torres, Ashley Cole and Michael Owen are just a few in a long lost of players who have been vilified for moving to a bigger club in the same league and they are likely to be joined by another batch next month.

It’s easy to see why fans feel jilted when a player they idolised moves on to a rival club. But regardless of how undignified some of these moves are carried out, the bottom line is that football is such a short career that players need to seize every opportunity to better themselves, both financially and in terms of ambition.

The romantics will argue that loyalty to a club should be high on a player’s list of priorities, but a player’s loyalty is to their family. While a football club is a fan’s passion – their weekend escape, if you like – for players, a club is an employer first and foremost. Regardless of how much players love playing football – and some don’t, they just happen to be good at it – they are in it to earn a living.

With that in mind, they can hardly be blamed for doing everything possible to make as much money and win as many trophies as they can during a career that only lasts – if they are lucky – between ten and 20 years. Loyalty is all well and good if it works both ways but we all know that clubs are quick enough to sack managers or get rid of players if it suits them.

Players generally only stay at a club for a long period if it’s in their own interests, not necessarily because of some in-built passion for the club. For example, it’s doubtful whether Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes would have spent their entire careers at Old Trafford if Man United weren’t consistently challenging for trophies.

Hamilton manager Billy Reid showed loyalty to snub Swansea’s advances last season – he is now toiling in the First Division, while Swansea are in the richest league in the world. By contrast, Alex McLeish showed disloyalty to move from Hibs to Rangers and then Birmingham to Aston Villa – he is now in the English Premier League.

Players and managers need to seize opportunities when they arise. If they can do so without upsetting people, then all the better, but often they agitate for moves as they fret that it may be the only chance they get to better themselves. After all, a player is only ever a form dip or injury away from being a ‘has-been’.

Bent was savaged after leaving Sunderland for Villa. But the player wanted to move closer to his family in the south, earn a bit more money and boost his chances of an England call-up. Sunderland took in £16.5 million. I fail to see the problem.

Likewise, Adebayor is hated by Arsenal fans for opting for the money and ambition of Man City a few years ago, but, as he said in a recent interview: “I am not obliged to die at Arsenal.”

Players wanting to leave while under contract always riles fans, but the “jilted” club will usually be soothed by a big transfer fee. While some players do themselves few favours in terms of how they deal with their transfers – Cole’s comments about nearly crashing his car when he saw Arsenal’s contract offer spring to mind – it should be remembered that, for a player to be in demand, they must have previously performed well for the club they are about to leave. In essence, they have earned the right to a move.

The monetary rewards on offer to top-level modern-day footballers are quite ridiculous, but the public bitterness whenever a player takes what they view as a life-and-career- enhancing move is tedious. The truth is, if ever lucky enough to be in such a position, most people would do the same.

Derby rip-off could prompt a tit-for-tat

THIRTY-FOUR pounds to watch an SPL game between two teams who are, let’s say, at a low ebb.

Admittedly, it’s the Edinburgh derby, which always gets the juices going regardless of the respective predicaments of these Capital foes, but there is something horribly wrong here – regardless of which club is to blame – about Hearts fans having to pay £34 for the Easter Road derby on January 2.

Hibs have, understandably, taken full control of ticket sales for the match in the fear that their cash-strapped rivals won’t pay up, but that doesn’t justify charging the Hearts fans a ridiculous amount at a time when many are up against it financially. The basic £28 ticket fee is bad enough, but at least it is consistent with prices for Category A SPL games. However, the fact the Easter Road club have insisted Hearts fans pay an additional £6 for special delivery is preposterous.

This is another case of fans being absolutely fleeced and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that it could develop into a tit-for-tat where Hibs fans end up being similarly ripped off for the next game at Tynecastle.

Hibs could have still held control of ticket sales and then invited fans to collect them from their ticket office at no extra charge, or, if they weren’t comfortable with that, had them transported across to Tynecastle – one man in a van could have done this, easily. If Hibs felt they had no option but to send them out special delivery, with such an exorbitant ticket price in the first place, they could have absorbed some of the cost themselves to ensure the Edinburgh derby – one of the few SPL games that still generates a great atmosphere – gets the turnout it deserves.

With situations like this, is it any wonder fans are turning their backs on the SPL?

So-called fans should try going unpaid

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this unpaid wages scandal at Hearts is that some supposed supporters are trying to infer that the players don’t deserve to be paid as a result of their recent results. Utter rubbish.

Before this issue became a full-blown crisis in late October, Hearts had racked up four wins in a row at Tynecastle and were even being touted as potential top-two contenders after back-to-back wins over Dunfermline and Celtic. In short, they deserved to be paid.

The recent slump is merely the entirely understandable result of what happens when everyone at the club is disillusioned and concerned over where their next pay-cheque is coming from. The players deserve support, not scorn. Anyone who thinks otherwise should be made to go without pay for a month.

Hats off to . . .

. . . Robin van Persie. The Arsenal striker is revelling in being the captain and main man.

Not a fan of . . .

. . . How things have gone for Raith boss John McGlynn. He’s under fire with his team bottom.

Tweet street

A SNAPSHOT of what those in the football world have been tweeting over the past week..

“Just been pulled over by police. £30 fine for using a bus lane.” – Partick’s on-loan Jambo Conrad Balatoni.

“Remember both teams to score, your bet will be up by half-time.” – Rangers keeper Allan McGregor gets his Real Madrid-Barca prediction spot-on.