A footballer receives little sympathy from the general public when suffering hardship in the workplace. A manager can speak openly to the press stating how an individual has suddenly become surplus to requirements and the common fan won’t bat an eyelid. A player can be singled out for undeserved criticism, despite the fact they train hard all week and are always available for selection, because the majority believe it is just a small price to pay for the handsome wage cheque which arrives in their bank accounts on a regular basis. The common thought of the masses is that football is different to normal employment and that the love and desire for the game should be put before everything else.
Many fail to understand that to a large proportion of footballers it is just a job. These people have just been fortunate enough to develop a skill set which allows them to follow a lucrative career path. Even those who have a great relationship with a certain club will always put the welfare of their family first and foremost. Should we expect a man to decline a contract offer which more than doubles their weekly salary because of a loyalty to their fan base? Should we expect a man to demand a move and take a huge financial hit because they are not in the team on a regular basis? Personally I would change employment tomorrow if I was offered the opportunity to double my income from a rival company and I would certainly be surprised If I returned to the premises of my former employer to hear chants of ‘You’re just a fat greedy bastard’ from every corner of the room.
Those fortunate enough to make a living in the professional game will argue that they are doing so because they deserve to be there. Statistics show that only 10% of a football club’s highest rated youngsters will carve out a career in the game and even then only the minority will play in the Premier Division. The hard work and dedication to the sport is quickly forgotten about when a player is deemed to be happy earning a living sitting on the substitute’s bench or described as a money grabber for having an unlucky history with injuries. It has become part of the game for the fans to dish dog’s abuse out to an individual judged to have disrespected their favourite club. I have been guilty of this myself in the case of Mark Viduka where upon his return to the Riverside Stadium with Newcastle United I found myself filled with anger at the fact he had dared to leave the club for a better contract offer from our north-east neighbours.
Like the majority of the fans in the stands, a footballer has a family to look out for. Nobody can blame a player for accepting a contract which offers their family financial security. Even once it is made clear they have no future in the first team it is a difficult decision to relocate their family to unfamiliar surroundings and it is down to the club to honour the contract which was put on the table. It is hard for the working man to sympathise with somebody they assume to be a millionaire however somebody involved in the game often has huge financial burdens of their own. ‘The Secret Footballer’, a regular feature in the Guardian newspaper, recently revealed his mortgage payments come to extraordinary £18,000 a month which would almost certainly see him lose his family home in the face of financial adversity. The game also holds huge risks for the playing staff and should a club be liquidated a player’s contract becomes effectively worthless. In fact when Plymouth Argyle entered administration many of the footballers at the club went upto 8 months without wages.