Rob Green will leave West Ham this summer and will, in all probability, more than double his money by signing for someone else. And good luck to him. Yes, generally goalkeepers last longer than a jar of reduced fat mayonnaise in Yakubu’s fridge, but they can’t keep playing forever. Green is 32 and this will surely be his last gigantic deal before he enters a world of rolling-contracts and pay-as-you-play. Why shouldn’t he cash in? I just hope that when he does, he’s honest enough to admit it.
Fans aren’t stupid. Well, not all of them anyway. Most are fluent enough in football speak to know when they’re being told fibs. For example, when a player speaks of ‘relishing a new challenge’, what he actually means is that he’s ‘relishing the new money.’ When they say they want to broaden their horizons, it means they want to broaden their wallet. But, you know what? I’m ok with that. If the New York Times call me this morning and offer £2 a word for a daily opinion column, this article will end early with a clumsily typed, “that’s all I have to say about that,” and there’ll be an Iain-shaped hole in the wall. We all know how this game is played.
Back in 2008, Gareth Barry claimed that he was desperate to leave Aston Villa because he wanted to play in the Champions League. A year later, he joined Manchester City, who weren’t even in the UEFA Cup at the time. The most exotic trip they could have hoped for was Plymouth away in the League Cup. We know now that Barry’s lifelong dream was eventually fulfilled in 2011 when City finished third in their qualifying group behind Bayern Munich and Napoli, but we didn’t know it then and neither did he. Would he have been so keen on ‘the project’ if he wasn’t earning famine-ending sums of money every month? I doubt it. Why wasn’t he honest? Why didn’t he just say, “To hell with the Champions League! On these wages, I could buy New Zealand in six months!”
West Ham fans, even the terrifying ones who have sticky-out veins on their foreheads and shout at passing clouds, would struggle to find fault with Green. He was largely blameless for their relegation but stuck around long enough to repair the damage, even at the expense of his international ambitions. He hasn’t criticised anyone, he hasn’t hitched his skirts up at every passing scout and the last thing he did in a West Ham shirt was to help keep Blackpool at bay at Wembley.
He’s perfect for testdriving a new, more open mentality. When he signs for his new club, I want him to say, “You know what? People are tripping over themselves to pay me money now, but in 10 years time, I’ll be lucky to get a seat on a sofa in a TV studio, helpfully pointing out that a winger ran very fast or that it only takes a second to score a goal. I don’t want to be a manager, I don’t want to be a coach and I do NOT want to end up like Neil Webb, traipsing up and down the street delivering your bills. I’ve got a wife and I’ve got kids and I want to make sure they’ve got everything they need for the rest of their lives. I had to put up with the entire nation calling me a butter-fingered twatbag in 2010, so I don’t owe anyone anything. I love West Ham, I’ll always love West Ham, but Mr Fernandes here wants to pay me £80,000 a week to catch a ball every now and then and that’s fine by me.”
If he put it like that, though maybe exactly like that, I defy any one of you to blame him even for a moment. This could be a new era in honesty. Rob? It’s over to you.