Debate: Is Loyalty In Football ‘Dead’?

You’ve been hearing from almost every Arsenal fan for the past week or so that loyalty ‘is dead’. But the truth is, we’re in a new age of football – Player power. The new Sky-sponsored Premier League has got as much to do with this supposed lack of loyalty in modern football as Jean-Marc Bosman’s predicament.

English football may not want to admit it, but its players are bigger than the clubs they represent. And bigger even than the national sides they are picked for. But the question is, does this problem originate solely from football? Or is it bigger than that? Is this a problem more so with modern society? Are people dropping their morals as more and more of us reject religion? But that’s another question for another time.

It’s all well and good if a player is winning trophies, but as soon as that success stops, or is not achieved in a certain amount of time, the player will always want to move (Matt Le Tissier, Steve Bull and Lloyd Doyley aside). And we’ve seen this with Robin Van Persie. It’s been 7 years since Arsenal last won a trophy of any kind. 7 years! The reason he’s moving isn’t financial, although he won’t be too unhappy with his reported £200,000-a-week wages.

The reason he’s moving is the same reason Fernando Torres moved to Chelsea, and countless others over the last few years. He can see the end of his career rapidly approaching, and at 29 this is his last chance to move to a club that will be challenging for silverware.

Arsenal will challenge for silverware, but not for a few more years, and Van Persie clearly sees that as time he doesn’t have. And it will leave a bitter taste in the mouth for Arsenal fans that they stuck with him despite his injuries for the previous eight years, but such is life. Things change. People move.

Last January, I witnessed an interesting case of how loyalty is still very much alive in football. We have to go to the fourth tier of English football, and to a club that play at the Kassam Stadium. Oxford United. My club. Anyone who knows a little about Football League rivalries will know the feeling of hatred between Oxford United and Swindon Town. The inventively named ‘A420 derby’.

James Constable, Oxford’s number 9, is a modern icon at the Kassam Stadium after his goalscoring feats of the last four years. In fact his goalscoring feats are not too dissimilar to a certain former-Arsenal player. And it was these goals that attracted Swindon Town and Paolo Di Canio, who were sat at the top of League 2, to place a bid.

A reported £300,000 was accepted by the Oxford United board. When a football club accept a bid for a player, there is usually only one potential outcome – that player is leaving. But, Constable had other ideas. Not only did he reject Swindon’s contract that would have tripled his wages, but he didn’t even travel up to Swindon to discuss the move.

So loyalty. Dead in football? Only at the top level, it seems.


Written by Youcef El Barhadi

Follow me on Twitter @yelbarhadi

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