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Loyalty - A Virtue Lost in Football?

Friday 1st July 2011
Every football fan will have at some point or another voiced their displeasure at the departure of their team's talismanic figure. For ‘small clubs‘ this is all too familiar, as reputable clubs constantly prey on their most prized players. But are footballers obliged to be loyal to their club? After all, it's only a job, you and I would have no qualms with swapping our jobs, moving on for pastures green and inevitably a bigger bank balance.

As a fan, if given the choice I would choose to play for the club I've supported all my life over a trophy cabinet full of medals, won playing for the Barcelona‘s and Man United‘s of this world. Easy. But the key element of that sentence was ‘As a fan‘ - football is a job for players.

As a professional, rejecting lucrative overtures from a bigger club would be seen as senseless and we cannot rule out the small fact that they may actually want to better their chances of silverware and success. Players like Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Delpiero, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, all of whom came through the youth system of their respective clubs will forever be held in high regard for the loyal service they've provided. But each of the players mentioned have graced Europe's elite competitions almost year in, year out.

It's no coincidence that Manchester United have been home to some of the premier league's most loyal players, they've been competing for trophies annually for just under twenty years. Surely it wouldn't have been the same for Ryan Giggs, had he been at Cardiff or Scholes at Oldham. If only loyalty was not lost in Giggsy's private life…(apologies for the jibe - it‘s my last). Could investing more money in club's youth academies instead of throwing thousands in wages at talented foreigners instil a little more loyalty in the English game? Not according to Phil Jones, Jordan Henderson and Connor Wickham.

Or should the influx of foreign stars in the premier league be expected to stay totally loyal should a bigger club come knocking? Players are always going to use ‘smaller clubs' as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. But fans demand respect, a move to a rival team and the perpetrator will endure a backlash. Twice, Spaniard Fernando Torres reiterated his commitment to his Anfield faithful, amid rumours of a Chelsea switch but was quick to jump ship in favour of Roman's Russian Roubles. Left with a sour taste, it's easy for us Liverpool fans to brand Torres disloyal but at the end of the day he didn't grow up supporting the club. Torres has never won a major honour in his club career and his intentions were probably pure. Just don't go telling us you're committed to the club and it's fans first, Fernando. After a torrid first 6 months, I wonder whether Torres will live to lament his disloyalty, ponder what could have been under Dalglish. If he wins titles then probably not, but legend status was surely within his grasp had he stayed at Anfield.

Loyalty far from exists as an absolute, but there are still glimpses. Just as Alex McCleish causes a stir by joining Villa, just one month after relegating city rivals Birmingham, Robert Martinez proves there is still a little left in the game by committing his future (albeit probably short term) future to Wigan Athletic. However, let's note that Martinez left Swansea City, the club which gave him his chance in management, for Wigan after preaching the importance of loyalty in his programme notes each week .

We are now in an age, where footballers and their agents are more powerful than their club and contracts mean nothing, thus loyalty is seldom seen. Fans will continue to bemoan the lack of respect shown by professionals, but at the end of the day it's their career. I'm taking the pragmatic approach, but yet when Torres left Liverpool for example, I was as angry as anyone else. Money talks, whether we as fans like it or not.

Craig Hannan

Follow me on Twitter@Craiglfc7

Or have a look at my blog - http://craig-hannan.blogspot.com/
Craig Hannan

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