Talking Point

Incredible to contemplate isn’t it. Is it possible ‘player power’ now extends to taking team management decisions in to player’s own hands? Where will this end? How is it that we’ve got to a situation where a player can take or leave a manager’s call during a match? The contributing factors to this are many and varied.

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The first, and probably biggest, of the reasons for the increase is the amount that players earn. When Jimmy Hill pushed to give players more security I wonder if he’d have imagined that things would progress to a point where there was such a role reversal. Clubs and managers have, almost, come to the point where they’re at the mercy of playing staff. During this transfer window a certain player, under contract at West Ham, indirectly, through a family member, unsettled the team by ‘demanding’ a move abroad. There have been other cases in our club’s history where this has occurred however, thankfully, not to the extent where a player has refused to leave the pitch when his number has been shown on the substitute’s board.

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In the moment that Kepa Arrizabalaga, the Chelsea keeper, told Maurizio Sarri that he was not coming off, when the Chelsea boss subbed him for Willy Cabalerro in the dying seconds of extra time on Sunday, he crossed a line. Sarri, whatever you think about his methods, is a man already under considerable pressure. The disrespect, for his gaffer, team-mates and the game in general was unforgiveable. However the situation is now being handled it’s another in a very long line of events that have eroded the status and authority of the position of football management.

Many fans will recall the bizarre match at Upton Park against Bradford City, in Feb 2000, when the opposite situation to Sunday’s final occurred. After having two nailed on, and one debatable, penalty decisions go against him Paulo Di Canio walked over to Harry Redknapp demanding to be substituted. On that occasion it was the manager who made the refusal which, ultimately, resulted in West Ham coming from 4-2 down to win the match 5-4. A very different situation which the manager gained credibility, not loss of authority, from.

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Like him or loathe him Jose Mourinho appears to be one of a dying breed. Looking back at some of the great managers of the past the likes of Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough would never have had to face such acts of defiance from their players. The likes of Paul Ince and David Beckham learned, to their detriment, there was only ever going to be one winner in the Manchester United team of the ‘90’s and naughties when it came down to player demands and that wasn’t the players.

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After showing solidarity with Dimitri Payet our own manager, Slaven Bilic, eventually lost in his battle to retain the player. Slaven’s style was nothing like the Fergusons of this world, a criticism that was oft levelled against him, and the situation with the France International from Reunion took it’s toll on our Croatian manager. When a player downs tools, nowadays, there’s usually only one winner.

Saido Berahino, following his attempt to force a move, refused to play for his team, West Brom, again. In that situation it wasn’t a case of there only being one winner. There were no winners in that lose/lose position at all. Player, club and fans all ended up at a disadvantage which didn’t end well. Personally I admired the club for digging their heels in. Not just because the chairman, Jeremy Peace, expected the player to stick to the contractual obligations of the player, but also because of his refusal to give in to a ‘bigger club’ trying to use it’s power to manoeuvre West Brom in to a weak negotiating position.

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And so what of the future? How is a team boss expected to organise players if they do whatever they please? Is this heading towards an anarchic state of affairs? If players continue to have less respect and discipline will manager’s positions become untenable?

How much of the petulance and immaturity displayed by players nowadays is indicative of modern society I wonder? I know this is getting in to different areas but there seems to be far less respect today compared with previous decades. Is the brattish behaviour of players just a reflection of what’s going on in the world generally? What other contributing factors are there? I’ve no doubt that greedy agents are certainly playing their part but what about how professional footballers are treated in their formative years? Should their education play a bigger part during their teens when they’re dedicating almost all of their time to training?

I’m sure that you all have your own ideas on this and that there are many other factors to consider. So how do you see this developing and what are the main issues to be addressed?

Back on the pitch I’m looking forward to our match against Man City tomorrow night. It’s what’s become known as a ‘free hit’ and I’m confident that Manuel Pellegrini will set the team up to go and give the Champions a proper go with an attack minded approach. Win or lose if the lads can do that then I’ll be a Happy Hammer.