Thursday, 28 February 2008

Blaming Nev

Personally I blame Gary Neville. I blame him for a lot things in fairness – wispy beards on United fans, the first Gulf War, polio, but mainly I blame him for the rise of player power in English football. It was Citizen Nev, as one particular site calls him, that went a bit loo-la a few years ago after his mate Rio Ferdinand went to buy curtains instead of taking a drugs test, and threatened that the England players would go on strike unless the duck-billed Rio had the threat of an eight month ban dropped.

Thankfully, the FA didn’t listen to him (and Rio would thank him for his efforts many years later in peculiar style) but nonetheless that English squad and the ones that followed have contained the most egotistical bunch of players known to man. Seriously, is there any other country with such uppity gimps as the English squad? Sure, one or two of the Italians have idea above the station, and no one is as arrogant as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but as a squad no one can touch them, let’s look at the evidence.

Since Neville’s petulant stand we’ve had…

- Steven Gerrard playing footsie with Chelsea two years on the trot because his club ‘didn’t match my ambition’. Insert fat new contract and hello loyalty.
- Ashley Cole holding Arsenal to ransom because the Daily Mirror and other assorted rags (and everyone at ITV and Sky Sports) deemed he was the best left back in the world. He never was. His crossing is shit, he jumps out of tackles and the less said about his actual personality the better. Though there are clues here.
- David Beckham trying to hold Fabio Capello and Real Madrid to ransom last season only to be told to piss off. David Beckham trying to tell Fabio Capello to pick him this season for England only to be told to piss off.

Then we come to the big two, the prototype arrogant English footballers. John ‘JT’ Terry and Fat Frank Lampard. In comparison to these guys, Cole, Gerrard, Beckham and even Neville have a thing or two to learn about player power gone mad and the dangers of an inflated sense of self belief. Both have in their time stalled on new contracts for such good reasons as (in Terry’s case) not being guaranteed to become Chelsea manager when he leaves and (in Lamps’ case) the old favourite – not being given enough money.

Lamps was of course famously was upset that he was not on the same wages as Michael Ballack. The German is not only a great player, proven at every level (unlike England ‘hero’ Lamps) but also had no transfer fee attached when he came to Chelsea, therefore the club had more to spend on his wages to attract him there. But try and talk sense to Lamps and those toys are coming out of the pram before you can say spit roast.

Lamps and Terry got parity with Ballack and the admittedly less important figure of Andriy Shevchenko, and all seemed to be happy at Chelsea. But when parity was restored off field, it seems that the natural order of things on field must be decided by these two gimps as well. With Lampard having been out for several weeks and still not back to full fitness and Michael Ballack often carrying the side, it was expected that the German would start Sunday’s League Cup final. Instead Lamps had a ‘quiet word’ with Avram Grant and lo and behold the Fat One was back in the side, making poorly timed runs and generally being ineffective.

The ‘untouchable’ status that his former manager bestowed upon him, he obviously believes, still applies.

Meanwhile Terry decided he’s throw his weight around before the final itself by having a row with Henk Ten Cate on the club’s training field that, according to the Dutchman, got a bit sweary. Now, both Terry and Ten Cate are grown men and possibly not overly bright ones either so when a row happens it’s more likely that there’ll be more ‘fucks’ than an Ayia Napa video from everyone’s favourite Ferdinand. But the fact that Ten Cate didn’t immediately show Terry just who was (assistant) boss by dropping him for the final the next day showed a weak will as well.

Grant showed even less backbone though by not dropping the arrogant Lampard and keeping the in-form Ballack. If ever he wanted to stamp his authority on the side, he had the chance on Sunday, if he’s lucky he’ll have a few more chances in the league and Champions League to get it right, but should he win neither, what with Fat Frank and JT not his biggest fans he’ll be out the door come the summer. Fat new contract or no fat new contract. Do you think Roman Abramovich cares about financing a severance package for an old mate? Hardly.

Lampard and Terry are both good players, no one would argue with that, but both show a disgraceful air of arrogance around whether they should be selected for a team or not. The former of course used to specialise in as many media appearances as possible whenever rumours surfaced that he would be dropped by Sven Goran Eriksson.

Both though won’t learn their lesson and Chelsea’s brutal, ugly image will continue to be dictated by the pair until a manager comes in who shows them who’s boss and tells the midfielder especially that his place isn’t always guaranteed. Good luck with that Roman. They do say empires crumble from within.

Later, JJ

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