The GoatyGav Column

To What Extent Do Clubs Owe A Duty Of Care To Players?

He may not be flavour of the month at West Ham but, at the risk of flying in the face of popular opinion, I had some admiration for Jurgen Klopp last week. The reason I had for seeing the positive in the German manager was his handling of one of his young players – Nathaniel Clyne.

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There can be absolutely no doubt that the Liverpool manager has acted in the best interests of the young player and not himself and/or the club. Putting the welfare of others ahead of oneself is one of the most admirable human traits. I wouldn’t describe myself as a religious man, by any stretch, but there’s a great deal that can be learned from the teachings of the various religious texts – and selflessness is the one that stands above all for me. Treating others as you’d like to be treated yourself encapsulates so many virtues it’s not surprising that it was voted the most important of the 10 commandments a few years back. So when loaning Clyne out, to Premier League AFC Bournemouth, Klopp ran the risk of leaving his own back line short on numbers. And so it came to pass that injuries depleted Liverpool’s back line however, rather than disrupt Clyne, and Bournemouth, the loanee was allowed to stay at the club where he’s learning and flourishing. Fair play to the German manager I say.

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It’s not always the case that clubs operate in the way that Liverpool have in the case of Clyne’s loan. Casting my mind to one of our own club’s youth prospects I wonder if the same can be said. I don’t pretend to know what goes on behind the closed doors of West Ham, so I may be wrong, but it would appear that the club’s onwers have ‘hedged their bets’ in the case of Reece Oxford. When he burst on to the scene at 16, becoming the youngest player to play for the club in a league game following his debut against FC Luscitanos, he turned a great many heads in the press. The season ‘15-’16 opener, and first game in charge for Slaven Bilic, was one that West Ham were not expected to come away with anything from . After a terrific performance, and a creditable one nil win, at the Emirates Stadium many in the media were talking about how Oxford ran the midfield. Sadly Slaven Bilic withdrew Reece from the squad, after a couple more appearances, not giving the youngster a sustained crack at the whip. When compared with Declan Rice, who made similar errors to Oxford, it would seem that West Ham, perhaps, learned a lesson.

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Reece enjoyed his time on loan to German Club, Borussia Mönchengladbach, and seemed to want to remain there. Having worked hard to get in to the first team an initial bid, reportedly for £15M, from Borussia was turned down by the club and the player recalled before, eventually, being loaned back to the German club again. It was reported that another bid came in for Reece after he, once again, broke in to the first team at Mönchengladbach but, once again, he was recalled. It seemd that West Ham neither wanted Oxford to establish himself in Germany or sell him. Once again I don’t profess to know what goes on behind closed doors, and it could be that Reece Oxford wanted to return to West Ham to fight for a first team squad place, but, on the face of it, it does seem that he’s been made to feel extremely unsettled and, to a degree, left in limbo following a further loan to Augsburg FC. In Oxford’s two games for Augsburg, one in Midfield and one at Center Back, the fortunes of the team seem to have taken a turn for the better with two consecutive victories before a loss against an on form Werder Bremen.

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What now for the talented Oxford? At twenty years old he’s still developing and is, seemingly, in the best place to do so but will West Ham finally allow the player to move on?
Ultimately football is a business and players are assets. Anyone who thinks differently is, probably, being naïve. That said, and with the benefit of hindsight, it would have been sensible for West Ham to have taken the first offer that came in for Reece. As things now stand his contract runs out this June and, with that knowledge, it’s very unlikely that West Ham will receive any money for the twenty year old.

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Many other clubs, especially those with large budgets at the top end of the Premier League, seem very keen to retain the services of as many young players as possible when the majority of them stand little chance of breaking in to the first teams. Jordan Sancho, while at Manchester City, was given the option of signing for another Bundesliga club, Borussia Dortmund, who sit proudly atop the German top tier. Having made thirty three first team appearances for Dortmund, scoring eight goals, his development is coming along nicely. That was great for Manchester City and great for the player but, sometimes, the club will want to keep hold of their ‘asset’. Take Phil Foden, for example, who looks like he may have a bright future under Pep Guardiola. I’m not suggesting that Manchester City, or Liverpool, are perfect in their dealings with youth players however they do seem to have some guiding principles when it comes to their best interests.

It’s not just about youth players. A duty of care, of course, should extend to those at the start, the middle and end of player’s careers. There are countless examples of good and bad treatment of playing staff by clubs which I’m sure you’ll use to make your points on this subject.

In many cases, like the song by Sting goes, ‘Set Them Free’, rather than stifling players in the reserves until they become a free agent, is the best way to a win/win scenario. It’s incredibly hard to make it in Professional Football so why make it harder for all concerned?

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

Your Footballing Analogies Please

This morning’s article is a brief invitation to indulge in a bit of footy fun.

This season it seems that the, self created, analogy is very much en vogue. Primarily provided by foreign coaches and managers we’ve had some, shall we say, creative ones that have not escaped the notice of the various forms of football media in this country. I’ve outlined some of these great pearls of wisdom below but I’d love you to share the ones you’ve heard down the years. Be they from the mouths of professional, amateur, kids or Sunday League football it really doesn’t matter – like I said, it’s just for fun really. The ‘mixier’ the metaphor the better.

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I’m not 100% certain who was first to go with the metaphor to describe a team’s, or a club’s, situation but, if you go back to Eric Cantona’s comments of 1995, there’s a great example. Describing media reporters EC likened their persistence to that of Seagulls following a trawler because they think that Sardines will be thrown in to the water for them. Off the wall you think? Well get a load of Jose Mourinho.

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During interviews the ‘Special One’ has really stretched the imagination beyond the realms of reality. Deciding that you don’t like Oranges at the top of the tree because they’re out of reach, despite the fact they’re the juiciest, and picking the lower ones had most of those listening scratching their heads. Before then there was the ‘Little Horse’ who needs ‘milk and work’ to help it learn to jump – hopefully getting to the point where you have two big Horses and a nice Horse if you’re lucky? No? Well, maybe, try getting your head around the various class of eggs on offer in the supermarket and their influence on the quality of the resultant omelette.

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Mr Mourhinho’s ‘House’ aphorism was a more recent one that didn’t quite come off either. According to Jose apparently it’s not just about buying new furniture. Oh no. The ex-Manchester United gaffer went off on one about the point at which you are ready to buy the said furniture, in relation to building the house in the first place, so that you’re then ready to live in an amazing house?

Confused? You will be. Gary Neville attempted to describe the task that Unai Emery had when he took over at Arsenal. Like his ex team-mate Neville went all Nautical. In his metaphor GN assigned Emery the role of the ship’s Captain. He went on to suggest that the new Arsenal manager needed to decide who was to disembark when the ship went in to port before allowing certain passengers on ahead of sailing back out to shore? Hmmm – permission to come aboard sir? Definitely not granted!

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I don’t want to steal your thunder so I’ll leave it there with my examples and look forward to hearing yours for a good giggle. Doesn’t have to be anyone famous. Could just be a mate, a stranger who shouted something out in the crowd on a match day or anyone at all.

Cheers
Gav.


The GoatyGav Column

When Teams Think They Only Have To Turn Up!

Call it overconfidence, cockiness or disrespect to your opponent, sporting history is littered with cases where teams have thought that all they needed to do was show up and they’d breeze through.

Saturday evening was one of the lowest experiences that I’ve had as a West Ham fan. The chants from the faithful who attended the cup tie at Kingsmeadow said it all. “This is embarrassing!” repeatedly sung from the stands must have hurt to hear but, frankly, was a song that the players deserved.

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Don’t get me wrong – it’s, almost certainly, hurting the players as much as it hurts us fans. Take Mark Noble, for example, and his chances of ever winning a major trophy with West Ham. He doesn’t have that many years left to his playing career so, if he’s ever going to achieve that, he’s going to need to do so very soon. I’ve used Mark Noble as an example because we all know how much he cares about the club. He must have been absolutely gutted after the final whistle went at AFC Wimbledon this weekend. Not only have so many of Nobes’ team-mates let us down – they’ve let each other down too. Not a single player among them can claim to have put everything in to the match. If they do think this then a good, long, cold and hard look needs to be taken in.

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So how much of the historic loss is down to the players’ attitude. Wimbledon got off to an absolute flyer? Our players looked like they couldn’t quite believe what was happening as they were getting outworked, out-passed, out-tackled and, generally, outplayed by a team sitting fifty-eight places below them in English league football tier. For me the lion’s share of the blame has to fall on the shoulders of the team. You could, arguably, suggest that the team wasn’t prepared properly for the match and that should be placed at the manager’s door. Ultimately the boss will always be culpable but can anyone seriously argue that the team put out at the League 1 basement club shouldn’t have won? This is not a comparable embarrassment as that suffered in the Cup five years ago when Mr Allardyce exposed an inexperienced team to defeat like ‘lambs to the slaughter’. That particular occasion was almost the polar opposite of what happened two evenings ago, as I write, where the manager was almost completely to blame. This time, as the cameras switched to the West Ham bench, you could see the frustration on Manuel Pellegrini’s face. In an effort to turn the half time deficit around the gaffer made a triple substitution. Despite my position on fault-finding for the loss I found myself questioning the three simultaneous subs. During the period of time the team was adjusting to the changes we went three goals down – no co-incidence IMO. Truth is, however, that virtually all the damage was done in the first half.

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The various reasons for the loss have been discussed at great length on this site and we’ll be talking about this black mark on our club’s history for decades to come. In my humble opinion I believe that an arrogant attitude is to blame more than any other single reason. For a few clubs the F.A. Cup is something of a holy grail. The majority of fans of clubs like Newcastle and West Ham place huge importance on the game’s oldest competition – and so they should. Unlike the League Cup the winners of the F.A. Cup are guaranteed automatic entry to the group stages of the Europa League. Criticise Europe’s second tier competition all you like but it has served as a form of progression towards the Champion’s League for teams – most notably that lot from N17. I know that all is not lost and, quite conceivably, the boys could qualify for Europe with a seventh placed finish but it’s not quite as exciting as winning a cup is it?

Sitting here writing I can hear the ‘One Show’ in the background. Very shortly the draw for the 5th round will be made. With Liverpool, Arsenal, Spuds and other Premier League teams out of the picture this year’s F.A. Cup is opening up nicely. So who would we have drawn (clearly you already know who we would have drawn) – here it comes……. and it is……… a home tie to…… Milwall! To top that one off Chelski are home to Manyoo – knocking out another of the remaining three of the top six!

All the best of luck to Wimbledon. If we were to go out to a lower league club then it could, certainly, have been worse.
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So onwards we go. Let’s hope we can get some, much needed, cheer against Wolves next. Sooner we put the debacle of the cup exit behind us the better.

COYI! West Ham 4 Seventh Place! ;)


The GoatyGav Column

Physically Robust Teams Prove Tough Opponents

Realistically there seems to be four leagues in the EPL at present. There’s the top 2 sides battling for the title. Then there’s the next four battling for the remaining two Champion’s League places. The next seven seem to be the ones chasing seventh place and the outside chance of Europa League qualification. Then the bottom seven are all struggling to avoid relegation.

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In the third tier, mini-league, there is a very interesting mix. The likes of Brighton and Watford have been extremely successful at establishing themselves in the Premier League. All credit to Chris Houghton who, for my money, has done an excellent job in all of his managerial appointments to date. When at Newcastle Mike Ashley made an error in judgement when he replaced Houghton with Alan Pardew. Houghton had steadied the ship, got them promoted by winning the Championship and had Newcastle well on their way to safety, but was always viewed as an interim option. Brighton, to their credit, have made no such mistake. Whilst not the prettiest of football but, at the same time, certainly not the worst Houghton has his side extremely well organised and more than capable of handling the physical side of the game. Both of the teams mentioned in this paragraph, as well as providing a tough test in terms of physicality, are well versed in the ‘dark arts’ or are, ‘streetwise’ if you prefer. As the squad at West Ham continues to improve it’s my hope that they start to compete with these teams by getting on the front foot more, and are dictated to less, and pick up more points against the ‘battlers’ of the Premier League.

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So are West Ham back to the bad old days of having a ‘soft underbelly’? Are opposition managers thinking that old Dad’s Army phrase “They don’t like it up ‘em?” Two thing there for me. Firstly the game has moved on since the turn of the century. Gradually the more successful sides are those who get the ball down and play. Secondly I think that we do have some players who can put themselves about. Admittedly one of them, who plays up front, may well be moving on. On that subject should we be looking to replace him with a striker who has a physical presence? In the summer another ‘beast’ of a player, who got up and down, was moved on to Crystal Palace.

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Overall performances like that at Southampton are what’s required to overcome the Brightons and Watfords. It was a high tempo, quick closing, hard working performance which allowed the boys to play their stuff. The old expression “Earning Your Right To Play,” could have been written for our fixture at St Mary’s. Interestingly the energy levels at Southampton were of a very high level. In the subsequent fixture that game’s high tempo seemed to take it’s toll at Turf Moor where we, disappointingly, went down 2-0 to Sean Dyche’s Burnley. Now that the congested Christmas period is over are we going to be witnessing more of the Southampton performances and less of the Burnley’s? Wolves will be a great test of that.

Lastly I’d like to express how much I want to see a good cup run this year. It’s our only realistic chance of some silverware and I want to see us go all out to try and get to the latter stages. A couple more wins and we’re within touching distance of a final. How good would a day out at Wembley be? So I hope to see a strong side put out at Wimbledon on Saturday night.

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COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

Show Me The Money!

Jerry Maguire is one of my favourite films. Being in sales myself I guess that I identify with the main character of the same name as the title. For those who haven’t seen it I’d describe the movie as a good insight in to the ups and downs of a sales professional. Maguire, himself, is a sports agent. I love the film for it’s humour and honest depiction of how those who appear super confident use a front to transmit a self-assuredness as well as how those in sales can go from hero to zero in a single moment. Very much like sports people in that respect – one minute they can be on top of their game and the next they consider themselves as a ‘Cautionary Tale’.

For those who might think that you’ve accidentally logged on to a film review site – fear not. There are many parallels between our very own Marko Aranautovic, and his brother, to some characters in Jerry Maguire. Cuba Gooding’s character, Rod Tidwell, coins the phrase “Show me the money” during a phone conversation with Jerry Maguire in which he ends up confirming that he is going to remain Jerry’s client when all his others are leaving him to sign with the firm that have just fired Maguire. In fact “Show me the money,” and “You had me at hello,” have become two of hollywood’s best known film lines since the picture’s release.

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Maguire is later described by Tidwell as “hanging on by a very thin thread.” Recent comments to the press about West Ham paying peanuts could be seen in the same light. Earlier in the same scene Maguire encourages Tidwell to “get back to the guy who first started playing this game,” before continuing “remember – way back when, when you were a kid, it wasn’t just about the money was it? – was it?” I don’t think there’s much doubt about Marko’s reasons for wanting to go to China and it doesn’t have anything to do with achieving things in the game or playing for the joy of it.

Another interesting dynamic of Tidwell’s situation during the film is that he is exposed to a high risk of losing his livelihood if he gets injured before the end of the season. Admittedly this is a risk that is driving MA to making his ‘big money’ move. He appears to have been playing while carrying an injury in recent weeks anyway. Who is to say that our striker won’t break down at some point before the end of this season. At the end of Jerry Maguire Tidwell gets his life changing contract. It’s my guess that MA will get his however the difference, in Arnautovic’s case, is that he’d be off to a, comparatively, uncompetitive league to achieve his ‘earner’.

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Other parallels exist. Tidwell is a moody, uncompromising player who proves challenging to his head coach. He’s also trying to secure his family’s financial security by signing a money-spinning deal. Two dynamics that exist, or, at least, have existed, during Arnie’s time at West Ham.

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The plot of the movie centres around a ‘mission statement’ that Maguire shares with all of his colleagues at his sports agency company. In this document an ethical approach to ‘the future of our business’ is mapped out and a ‘less is more’, sustainable, MO should be adopted by agents. For me the current business practices of many player’s agents is unsustainable and the millions that end up in the pockets of those agents simply can’t continue. On this occasion, however, it looks like the agent will get his way and we’ll lose our player to a league where once great players go for their final pay off.

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All boiled down none of us want another Payet situation. It’s hard to believe that Marko’s brother is his ‘Ambassador of Kwan’. I guess you have to respect that Marko can earn far more money, in China, than West Ham are currently able to pay . Best the owners get as much out of the deal as possible and re-invest in a good, new striker. Let’s hope it ends up working in our favour.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


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