The hypocrisy in football never ceases to amaze me. I mean seriously, we all do it at some point and it’s laughable most of the time but then occasionally, it starts to grate a bit.
I’ve lost count of the arguments I’ve had over the years with opposition supporters who’ve claimed some of our players have thought they were bigger than the club, or that they’ve ‘brought shame’ on the club and still been held in such esteemed positions by our fans. Of course I’m alluding to players given the ‘Mr Chelsea’ tag and the suggestions that certain players have too much power as a result of the blind support they’re given.
Take John Terry as an example (since he seems to be held responsible for just about anything from third world poverty to the poor vocal quality of this year’s X Factor), how many times have we heard he thinks he’s bigger than Chelsea? How many times has his supposed influence at the club been blamed when managers have been shown the door? And yet, what is it he’s actually done to warrant those accusations? Is it because he’s always (literally) put himself on the line for the club in every game? Because he’ll get himself out on the pitch, playing through the pain barrier if necessary rather than sit out half a season through injury? Or maybe because he’s had the odd word to say to refs over the years in defence of his team? I know, criminal isn’t it?
Well of course it’s not, because who wouldn’t want their captain to do all of that throughout their career? I mean, he could be an average defender who decides, as his performances go into decline, to take the focus off his game with off-field arguments. Or he could publicly disrespect his manager to keep himself in the headlines – maybe that’s more acceptable? You see, this weekend, that’s exactly what seemed to happen elsewhere and I have to say the reaction amazed me more than the incident itself.
Unless you spent the weekend in the outer Hebrides, completely shutting yourself off from the outside world (in which case you’ll have missed another pretty stunning performance from us by the way), Rio Ferdinand openly embarrassed Sir Alex Ferguson – and the response he received for it was jaw-dropping. After Fergie had made a clear statement on Friday in response to the news that Reading’s Jason Roberts would not be wearing a Kick It Out T-shirt, saying “I have to disagree with Jason Roberts, he is making the wrong point. Everyone should be united, all the players in the country wearing the top, the warm-up tops. I do not know what point he is trying to make or trying to put himself on a different pedestal to everyone else. He really should be supporting all the rest of the players who are doing something. If you are doing something then everyone who believes in it should do it together, we should not have sheep walking off. He is making the wrong message.
Yes, all my players will wear it. I think all the players will be wearing it. I only heard that Jason Roberts is different. He is very different, he plays his game and is in the studio 20 minutes after it, it’s a great privilege”, Rio decided to go against that statement and not wear it.
Clearly he’d fogotten to mention it to his manager (we know he’s forgetful though) and Fergie’s response to that defiance was to suggest “I am disappointed. I said yesterday that the players would be wearing it in support of the PFA and that every player should adhere to it. And he goes and lets us down. We will deal with it, don’t worry. It is embarrassing for me. He will be dealt with, no doubt about that.”
Now far be it for me to start agreeing with anything the United manager has to say but I’m afraid on this occasion I totally did. We all know he’s never been a manager willing to allow his players to get themselves in the headlines for the wrong reasons, he’s a disciplinarian who demands anyone under his management accepts they’re at the club to play football, not to use it as a vehicle for advertising themselves. So, what he was saying about Roberts was that his very public stance is driven by a desire for media attention and that’s not a direction he wants his own players to go in.
Ferdinand however, has been so driven by what’s become an obsessional need for an acceptable form of ‘justice’ over the past year, that no court verdict, no FA or club sanction and no step-down from an England position was ever going to suffice. In fact, this doesn’t even seem to be about racism across the board anymore – it’s a personal crusade. And not only is it shocking that he thinks he and this personal vendetta of his are bigger than the club but his bizarre behavior is actually being backed. United supporters are not only putting up with it, they’re actually condoning it and as for the press, I’m not sure I’ve ever read such sycophantic nuzzling of a player’s backside without Steven Gerrard’s name being associated with it before. All that for an average defender disrespecting a manager without whom, he’d probably be playing for the likes of QPR by now.
Maybe worse still though was some of the comments directed at Fergie as a result of his reaction. A manager who has given an incredible amount to the club both in terms of years of service and success, was being derided by the very supporters who’ve previously held his demand for disciplined players up as an example to all of how things should be done.
Fergie’s right, it’s embarrassing.