When it comes to their prize assets, clubs, managers and fans are a pretty forgiving bunch. Providing a star man is doing the business for them, most transgressions will be pardoned. Everton’s delicate handling of John Stones (post-transfer request) has proved that in the last fortnight.
By getting on with his job, the England international has also effectively shamed every player that’s ever tried to worm their way out of a club by way of protest, the feigning of injury, or claiming they’re ‘not in the right frame of mind’ to play.
If a 21-year-old that’s being pursued by the reigning champions is able to handle the disappointment of his dream move being quashed in a professional manner, then there’s no excuse for anybody else.
Footballers by their very nature are mentally tough creatures that can block out distractions. So it’s time for Saido Berahino, Victor Wanyama and David de Gea to stop sulking, man up, and follow suit. For if there’s one thing the game doesn’t tolerate, ever, it’s a player that refuses to play.
You just can’t do it, and you’ll never win.
It doesn’t matter how nastily you feel you might have been treated, or how much you despise the chairman or the manager; if you’re picked to play you have to do it to their best of your ability.
Sympathy evaporates the moment you down tools and say you won’t be selected. Non-triers are vilified. Your character is stained. And as the likes of Carlos Tevez and Pierre van Hooijdonk also found to their cost, going on strike can be a futile and costly exercise too.
I had several reasons to throw toys out of the pram as a player. During my semi-pro days I played for a club that didn’t pay our wages for months on end, but I still turned out for them on a Saturday. I also played for two managers that tried to force me out by unfair means, but on the rare occasions they picked me, I gritted my teeth and tried hard to perform.
Read: Miguel Delaney on how United and Real ended up looking foolish over De Gea
If I’m being brutally honest, deep down I didn’t want us to win for those managers (defeat would have pushed them closer to the sack) but I would never have tried to sabotage a result. Failure to give your all, and even worse, refusal to play, is unacceptable behaviour.
You might not want to give your boss 100%, but if they’re paying you, you have to.
Once the dust settles, I hope that Berahino, Wanyama and De Gea realise this, and that blame shouldn’t solely be reserved for their current clubs.
If a suitor wants a player badly enough, they’ll always find a way to stump up the money and strike a deal, without the need for unnecessary histrionics from the player himself. When situations get messy, it’s usually a sign of desperation on the buyer or agents’ part.
In effect these three players were hung out to dry by those in charge of transfers at Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid.
Read: Aaron Cox on where the failure to sign Berahino leaves Spurs
If you’re going to turn a players’ head, you should at least have the decency to back up that interest by putting down the money they’re worth. By waiting until the very last moment, trying to bully their way to a bargain, it feels as if they had more interest in winning their own private egotistical battles than they did in owning the players themselves.
I’d feel incredibly let down by that. The prospect of joining those teams further down the line would now be tainted.
As disappointed as they were with their attitudes, Tony Pulis, Ronald Koeman and Louis van Gaal have no choice but to try and build bridges with the star turns that have stayed. In a professional capacity it’s what they have to do, and because they’re good players it will be easy for them.
I hope Berahino, Wanyama and De Gea are responsive.
Not every Premier League footballer is a spoilt brat that sits in the corner whenever things don’t go their way. It’s an opportunity to prove they’re men of honour and character. In the long run that will make them even more marketable.
If these three knuckle down and give their best from now on, they’ll get their moves in the end.
Read more from Adrian Clarke