Another excellent, thought-provoking mailbox. Send your views to email@example.com
Pogba = Di Maria?
My biggest fear about Pogba moving to United has nothing to do with the size of his transfer fee or him fitting in.
My biggest worry is that United don’t seem his first choice. Barca and Real Madrid seem to be clearly his first choice as is expected for any galactico. This reeks of the Di Maria situation.
I bet his agent probably says – Let’s move to United and then hop on to something bigger in a couple of years. Anybody else worried that he will be off next year or couple of years down the line?
If so, then United should stop being nice and slap a higher fee so that at least that is not used as a carrot by slimy agents to their players to move to us.
Sudarsan Ravi (Don’t get me started on Januzaj)
…If Pogba really wants the Real Madrid move why are Man U chasing him? Cop the f*ck on Utd.
This has Di Maria written all over it. Insanely overpriced player who’s agitating for a move elsewhere.
It’s a waste of money and will only delay the team getting back into Champions League.
I haven’t seen a lot of Pogba play but in the few games I’ve see in the last year he’s done very little to show he’s worth anywhere near 100million anythings.
Just dropping Rooney would get Utd back in top four.
I said Utd should’ve snapped up the money from Chelsea when they offered, he had been rubbish for a while even then.
He’s a chunky angry shadow of his former self.
Sun headline if he’s dropped: Roo-tired?
Why Chilwell will go through…
I would like to think the Chilwell move will happen for very big Brad Smith-shaped reason.
Left-back was probably the biggest issue for Liverpool this last year, with Moreno a key weakness along with Mignolet in the team.
This summer it looks like that spot has actually become even more of a problem, whilst lots of money has been spent on the team. Brad Smith looks set to be off in a deal that benefits everyone (I mean if Bournemouth are happy to pay £6m, they must be happy with the deal). Liverpool get a tidy sum for a player that hasn’t done much for the first team, and didn’t quite look to be the standard of left-back we need just yet. I think he’ll improve and hopefully prove the buy-back clause shrewd. However, with Gomez out again (still?), and Flanagan being given the opportunity to grow as a first-team player, Liverpool now have just Moreno. If he was bad before imagine him knackered.
I reckon Chilwell will fancy his chances of usurping him over the course of a season more than a solid if unspectacular Fuchs.
The only issue is Liverpool classically dithering over (relatively) small transfer fees. Just take whatever you get for Smith and put it together with the previous offer. Why teams spend ages negotiating for £2m on smaller transfers yet don’t care for an extra £5m on the bigger ones baffles me. One player a team does not make.
KC (if only Flanagan never got that injury)
What is match fitness? An expert is needed…
After the City v Utd friendly in China was cancelled a number of City fans have said they are concerned that the payers won’t have enough match fitness having played only 3 pre-season games.
My question is what exactly is match fitness and why can’t it be generated through training alone?
Praise for Johnny on transfer fees
Best ever article on the subject.
And best sensible, mature article I have ever read on this site.
…John’s article is a real wake-up call. I am a child of the 90s and PlayStation is my thing. I think video games is also a factor amongst
many which has helped dulled our sensitivities to the serious unbalance in our human existence. I have bid up to 120million Euros trying to sign Messi from Barcelona in my master league. l have spent over 200million Euros in 8 seasons since I reached the Premiership. Hearing these figures in real life mean nothing to me. It’s just a game. I have been desensitised. Have I even earned up to a £100000 in my life? No kidding. These figures are insane. No transfer should be worth more than any human life is. Thanks for removing the scales from my eyes, John.
Jeffrey, Gunner in Nigeria
Transfer money to charity?
I just wanted to say I entirely agree with John Nicholson’s article this morning. Last week I was thinking about the potential deal for Pogba’s move to United and was trying to digest the numbers being thrown around. It got me thinking about the obscene amounts of money in football these days and what that money could do in the real world. This led me to an idea.
What if the Premier League made a rule where a percentage of any transfer fee for a player would have to be paid to charity? Even if the amount were only 1%, the clubs would never miss the money and it would make an enormous impact on any charity that operates in the real world. In each of the last two summer transfer windows, Premier League clubs have spent more than £1 billion on transfers. Take 1% of that and you’ve got over £10million that could be put to good use somewhere else in society each year. I’m sure if United are willing to pay £100 million for Pogba, they wouldn’t walk away from the deal if asked to pay £101 million, where £1 million goes to charity. Similarly, I think Chelsea would’ve been happy to pay £30.3 million to complete their deal for Kante as well.
This could possibly be extended even further and maybe adopted throughout Europe. If clubs were feeling especially generous, they could push themselves to donate a mammoth 2% instead of just the 1. Anyway, the details of the idea are more or less irrelevant. I just thought it might be time for football to start paying back a bit more to the societies that fund them in the first place. I’m interested to see if anyone else has any ideas on how football clubs could start contributing a bit more.
Nice perspective…but too far removed?
I’ve just read Johnny’s excellent bit of stats research and context and cannot agree with him more. Well maybe I can disagree on his assertion that Paul Pogba would rather have the fee spent on poverty relief. Call me a cynic, but I really don’t think Pogba or any of us think in these terms when we spend money.
And that, I believe, is the problem with Johnny’s analysis. Yes, the majority of the world’s population lives off less than $1.25 a day and the fact that we just accept the ludicrous fees bandied about these days is insane. The problem, though, is that someone starving right on our doorstep doesn’t elicit much sympathy let alone action. I live in Johannesburg, particularly one of the wealthier suburbs in the North. I see abject poverty every single day on my daily commute, but when I go out and buy that luxury cappuccino each morning I don’t think that maybe that money should go the nearest charity. This kind of poverty is far too removed from my daily existence for me to comprehend.
This in no way dismisses Johnny’s point or the very real problems of poverty around the world, but I just don’t think that your average person can personalise these stats. So maybe the more apt comparison should be, what would the transfer fee for xxxx actually do for the average supporter of that club? Someone, when railing against Arsenal’s lack of spending, in the mailbox asked why can’t they spend that money on reducing the cost of tickets. Following on from that, why can’t the teams paying these insane amounts, spend that money on investing in facilities for the greater community? Maybe sponsoring some school coaches to get their qualifications? Better yet why not spend it on local youth teams, sponsor them and enable them to reach a wider audience and talent pool? Surely that sort of investment would benefit the team as they invested in developing local talent. For a more direct fan investment, why not subsidise travel and ticket costs for fans whose annual income is below a certain threshold, your basic means test. That brings your fans closer to your club and think about the positive PR that will generate! These sort of calculations and ideas will make people sit up and take notice and start asking their clubs the hard questions.
We all know that as long as one club somewhere refuses to change the above will never happen, the financial stakes in football are far too high, but it is nice to dream.
So Johnny Nic is mad as hell and he’s not gonna take it anymore. He wants us to express disgust at the obscene amounts of money spend within football rather than on saving children.
Fair point. So I assume that he has cancelled all of his TV subscriptions and will be donating that money to UNICEF?
Please provide confirmation of this – is he leading from the front, or another Russell Brand shouting that all rich people are c#nts who shouldn’t be allowed to keep their money unless they’re called Russell Brand.
I can already guess the outraged responses to Thayden’s provocative but necessary email. So just in case anyone gets the wrong idea, I was recently in a meeting with Twitter and others about online abuse, and it was revealed that black Premiership footballers were subjected to 130,000 racist tweets last year. Just mull on that for a moment. It’s a real thing. And you can bet your life that Sterling received more than most.
Sport is not an equaliser…
The emails this morning condense in my mind one of the biggest struggles for young black players in football and wider sport which thadyn touched on; that their head isn’t in the game or they don’t understand it.
I’ve spent the last 10 years getting frustrated with the Theo Walcott ‘doesn’t have a footballing brain’ rhetoric, or the ‘far too flash’ abuse Sterling is getting now. Throw in Aaron Lennon (oh he can’t hit a regular cross, so he must not understand) and SWP before, and you have an absolute swathe of young, black players getter utter sh*t about their mindset despite rising above their peers both for talent and end product.
Is football the ultimate level playing field? No, not really. How many black coaches do we have in the 92 clubs. How many black chairmen or directors of football?
This is where I may lose people, but I draw a strong comparison to the issues in American Football. The proportion of black players in AF is much higher than football, especially in the skill/splash play positions like wide reciever, running back and corner back.
These guys are shown as flash, and some are. They are constantly criticised for mentality even though the obstacles they have to overcome are disproportionately higher. At the QB position, the cerebral place, black QBs still have to struggle that much more despite there being two of the best black QBs of all time now in the league. And guess the race of the QB who gets sh*t for dancing when he scores a TD? And even in a sport with around 80% of participants being black how many black head coaches there are there too.
Sport is not an ‘equaliser’ or a level playing field. It’s an environment where white folks’ privilege is challenged by more physical, more talented and equally intelligent and engaged athletes of other races.
In sports, you see more clearly the last resort by some of restoring some kind of authority/superiority by focusing on the mind, where white social norms that still pervade sport can label, box and denigrate behaviour by black/Asian/hispanic athletes (this is more apparent in the more racially diverse American sports than football in the UK).
I don’t mean to invoke that any of you having a go at StErling for buying a fancy house, or Sturridge for not sprinting that one time are racist. But I would ask whether their behaviour is in any way uncommon for players in the Premier League regardless of race (it isn’t) and whether these notions are also being pressed by those white, old cretins in the tabloids that ruin the coverage of our sport on a daily basis (they are).
Don’t side with Martin Samuel guys. He’s a d*ck.
Tom (put the p-word in there, let angry comments come to it like moths to a flame’), West Hampstead
Not all racism is overt
There have been some very interesting points raised in recent mailboxes regarding the perception of black footballers in England, and I’m glad it’s been brought up because it can be a very difficult subject to breach. No one wants to be the one to make it a ‘race thing’ but I think if we all had some very frank conversations with ourselves and asked why Raheem Sterling drew such ire after the Euros, we would be faced with some uncomfortable truths.
The comparatives between race relations in the UK and the US was an interesting one and there are points with which I’d largely agree. I think in the US, racism is so overt and in your face it’s impossible to miss, and as such it makes you think that it’s not so bad in the UK. I agree that as a black man in Britain, there’s a significantly reduced chance of me losing my life in an encounter with the police but the racialised element of society is still there in just a more covert form. I’ve witnessed my friends with African surnames put in two applications for jobs using their last name and their mother’s ‘English’ sounding maiden name with the former rejected and the latter invited to interviews. It’s not uncommon for me to sit next to a lady on my commute to or from work and notice her instinctively clutch her handbag a little tighter.
In terms of football, I think the same also applies. Obviously there are high-profile incidents such as John Terry and Suarez, as well as the Twitter reaction when Ashleys Young and Cole missed in the Euro 2012 shootout vs Italy, but generally the maltreatment tends to be more insidious. An incident that really sticks out for me is Wilfried Zaha’s transfer to Man U. In his days at Palace, Zaha won many plaudits for playing extremely well and was only ever in the papers for his impressive performances. Then when he moved to Man U and became more widely known in the mainstream, the tone changed. Suddenly the emphasis changed to his personal life, and although Zaha was squeaky clean, the media decided to run a narrative about his brother and alleged gang links. Then when he actually moved to Man Utd, then came the completely unfounded rumours about him and David Moyes’ daughter. I find myself wondering why Nick Powell did not receive the same treatment as a youngster who moved to Man U from the lower leagues and getting very little game time.
It could just be paranoia but I see it quite frequently. I don’t think Memphis Depay’s car collection would be such a topic of debate if he was white, and while Raheem Sterling was roundly castigated and demonised for being tired/taking laughing gas/buying a house for his mother, similar transgressions by Jack Grealish/Wilshere have been treated with more of a “boys will be boys/we just want you to reach your potential” angle. Four years ago when Sterling was our great hope at the last Euros, him being a young father was used to suggest how he had matured, but now it is used as ammunition against his character. The frequency with which his name is prefixed by ‘Jamaican-born’ has increased massively and I struggle to believe it’s all a coincidence.
It’s a difficult problem to solve because it can be so internalised that realising you even have these views can be a battle. You have to ask yourself why commonly accepted views such as black goalies and centre midfielders having great athleticism but questions over their technique are prevalent, or why despite the fact that British Asians make up about 6% of the population (double the amount of Black British) that they are so poorly represented in British professional leagues (I understand there are cultural factors to consider but beyond Zesh Reman, Michael Chopra and Neil Taylor I am struggling to name any pros of Asian descent). We are very quick to condemn the monkey noises when a black player gets a touch of the ball kind of racism, but I think there are some inherent biases that we all suffer from. I always wonder if we’ll ever reach a point where the black players of the next generation will decide enough is enough and elect to play for the countries of their parents/grandparents’ origin rather than England. It seemed farfetched but at this rate who knows?
…I’m really pleased to see unconscious racism is becoming a talking point here. I will obviously caveat the following with the statement that, as I am a white man, you should probably seek out the opinion of actual POC to broaden your views. But given as two of the prominent players being discussed plied their trade at Liverpool, I thought I would write in.
Daniel Sturridge doesn’t have a song. He has been at the club for 3 ½ years and has shown himself to be the best striker at the club. His goals-to-games ratio is phenomenal. He does work in the community and is clearly very happy to be a Liverpool player. Yet, Daniel Sturridge doesn’t have a song.
There were rumours going around that Sturridge sometimes was reluctant to play with even the slightest of knocks. Nothing confirmed just some tattle on twitter. The amount of people I saw jump on this with the tired lines (LFC and otherwise to be clear) of ‘his attitude stinks’ and ‘he’s lazy’, lines which only ever get trotted out when you’re talking about black players, was ludicrous to be honest. Please look at Sturridge’s performance and celebration in the Europa semi and tell me he’s lazy and doesn’t give a sh*t.
When Raheem Sterling wanted to leave Liverpool for City, how quickly did the ‘arrogant young black man’ narrative come into play? He has a barber shop in his house and never goes out. He thinks he’s better than you. He’s got a chip on his shoulder. If you haven’t said it I’m sure you’ve heard someone saying it.
Going outside of those two, we just signed Wijnaldum and one of the 1st things I heard was that Newcastle fans question his attitude and that he didn’t try hard enough. You know who has a terrible attitude? Mitrovic. Is way too aggressive, is a liability and is likely to pick up a few bans a season but we praise that as passion and fire. Would the same be afforded to a black player?
Fact is, unconcious racism (and sexism for that matter) is a thing in society and not just football. It can be uncomfortable to address it as, by and large, we are all guilty of it at times but we really need to start talking about our perceptions honestly and what we think drives them.
Kris, LFC, Manchester
PS. Mario Balotelli getting a song before a ball was kicked shows that Liverpool fans like foreign players more than English ones, further compounding Sturridge’s situation.
…Did G Thomas just pull the mailbox equivalent of ‘I can’t be racist, I’ve got black mates’ by saying that it’s not racism because the U 19’s fielded a lot of black players?
And that’s great that he thinks that Sturridge is selfish, but how come when Rooney or Gerrard plays the same way they’re showing passion, or taking the game ‘by the scruff of the neck’ when shots struck 40 yards out are flying into row Z?
I’d like to think that it is not racist, but to dismiss it out of fact so casually is also dangerous. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. Ask yourself why was Sterling scapegoated to such an extent but excuses made for Kane? I think Mediawatch did a good job after the euros in highlight some of the baseless attacks that he got, and before anyone says it’s because of how about he went about his transfer, maybe look at the racial abuse he suffered on social media before making those claims. I have no doubt that some fans rightfully criticise Sterling or Sturridge, but when doing so promotes an echo chamber for racists to latch onto, it creates an awful situation, case in point the Adam Goodes saga here in Australia.
Martin Todoroski, MCFC
Is a white player ever a ‘beast’?
A really thought-provoking mail from Thayden this morning, it reminded me of a point I heard someone make years ago which stuck with me.
The vocabulary used to describe black and white players who perform similar roles often differs. How often do you hear players like Drogba and Lukaku described as ‘a unit’ or even a ‘beast’. Functionally similar players like Giroud or Pelle are decribed as ‘a big man’ or ‘aerial threat’.
Food for thought. You certainly wouldn’t class those who use that language as ‘racist’, but there is an ingrained difference when discussing black and white players.
Matthew: Right point, wrong platform
I love this topic.
I don’t have any issue with his observations he made; it is true that racism plays a big part in the loaded commentary that the media uses when talking about particular POC sportsmen/women, but it is the nature of the sport that plays a significant part to this. Serena Williams and Lewis Hamilton are taking part in a sport that, to this day, has a majority white population that take part in and are invested in the sport.
Football has always been a sport where the majority of fans will acknowledge player ability above anything else. Yes, football fans, much like any other sport fans, may host some sort of unconscious or conscious bias that may lead them to prejudge a player, but actions speak louder than words and footballing ability is the highest commodity in this sport. That’s the funny thing about football, and team sports in general; you’ll find that, for some, the love of a team will override any other biases that may play a part in someone’s lives in terms of the company that they keep.
The media may use language that can be construed and lead those with a racist mindset to cast their ignorant aspersions on black players in football; however, the majority of football fans will always put ability first, no matter the race of the individual. So Matthew, you’re right, race could play a part in the language surrounding Sturridge, as well as the perception of black players in general. However, I feel a majority of fans who actually watch football know that anybody taking part in the sport at the elite level know that he is not inherently ‘lazy’ or ‘entitled’ due to the colour of his skin.
J.D (these discussions are important, good to have them even if we don’t all agree), Nairobi
Racism on the wane in England?
In response to some of the emails about racism, I did some looking into the exit polls from the Brexit a couple of weeks ago. Hidden amongst it is a quite clear question that checks if you’re a racist or not “Is multiculturalism a force for good or ill?”.
The good news is that each generation is getting less racist and in a big way.
The bad news as far as I see it, is that sexism still definitely exists and as long as that exists then racism will exist.
Is it about race or class?
Reading some of the Sturridge/racism comments with interest, I would like to offer a slightly different perspective.
I do not think it is particularly racism that is the problem here, but more a dose of good, old-fashioned ‘know-your-place, anti-working-class-kid-getting-rich’ class prejudice. The press (and it is almost solely our foul national newspapers), are more than happy to hype up a Sturridge or a Sterling, a Wilshire or a Vardy or a Lewis Hamilton when it suits, but as soon as they step out of line or fall flat on their faces, there comes – from very well paid, middle-class journos – the cry of ‘see, we told you he wasn’t worth it, who does this kid think he is?’ The cars are questioned, the lifestyle questioned, the commitment questioned. The inference being, the kid doesn’t deserve the £100,000 a week pay packet, he doesn’t know how to cope with all that money, he is too thick to appreciate all he has been given, too stupid to know how to deal with it. He is not grateful enough, he doesn’t show enough due deference to society, to the journos’ middle-class sense of what is ‘right’ and ‘proper’. The kid is too brash, too cocky, he needs putting back in his place.
This kind of sneering superiority is reserved almost exclusively for footballers, simply because they are working-class kids making more money than most can dream of. In my opinion, pure class jealousy is at the root of it, not racism per se.
Sturridge criticism is because of selfishness
Sturridge undoubtedly has produced a ‘statistically significant’ body of work, and the conclusions one can draw can happily reinforce the idea that he’s either extremely injury prone, or has a heightened sense of self-preservation and won’t play through niggles, or both. In three and a half seasons at Liverpool, he has started 69 games, and scored 43 goals. Particularly given the limited number of games he has played, the frequency of his injuries, and the teams he has played in, a 2 in 3 scoring record is impressive. But it can’t disguise that Sturridge has started barely 50% of the 133 league games Liverpool have played since he joined.
However good his scoring record (and, in the age of Messi and Ronaldo, it isn’t outstanding), Sturridge’s fitness record will undoubtedly frustrate, particularly given his injuries tend to minor. Were Sturridge to have suffered similar injuries to Wilshere, Walcott and Welbeck, it would be easier to explain away his fitness record, but a litany of muscle strains, tears and delayed returns are harder to sympathise with.
Suspicion around application and effort levels tends to attach itself to any player with a long and significant history of minor injuries. Darren Anderton, Owen Hargreaves, Arjen Robben, RvP, Marc Overmars, Louis Saha etc. were all subject to the same suspicion with which Sturridge is viewed, and only one of those is black. There’s a good argument that football wrongly praises players for playing through injuries young in their careers, and burns players out early (see Ronaldo v.1, Rooney, Kluijvert etc.), whereas many of the above ‘sicknotes’ played into their mid-30s at a high level, and in the case of Robben, seem to have become quicker and sharper as they’ve aged.
‘Football’ is undoubtedly suspicious of players who seem to prioritise personal fitness over playing for the team, and probably wrongly (none of the above could hope for entry to the PFM club, and a fair few have a suspicion of middle class about them). Rooney, Milner etc., players who sit more easily with football’s collective morals, have all played through injuries, in numerous positions, and harmed their own careers by doing so. If Rooney had shown more of Sturridge’s selfishness, he might not be a physical ruin at 30.
But to ascribe criticism of Sturridge’s attitude to race misidentifies the problem. He is, in a neutral sense, selfish. His priority is own body and career, and a sport whose collective values celebrate subordinating the individual to the team, and which lionises the ‘team player’ above anything else, will never reconcile itself to such a player.
Is it just because they’re d***s?
Like most people in this country, I find racism abhorrent.
I also find it abhorrent to suggest the reason we (at least the majority of us) dislike that arrogant dancing idiot Sturridge or that greedy deluded muppet Sterling is the colour of their skin. We dislike them because they continually act, talk and play like complete d***heads.
I can still appreciate these players when they play well, but am quick to criticise when they don’t. This is because I don’t actually like them as people (or more accurately my perception of them as people). They get no slack at all. Same applies to white players like ‘on the’ Wayne Rooney and Joey Barton.
For further evidence that my dislike is not racially motivated, see Wes Morgan. See Ashley Williams. See Marcus Rashford. I genuinely like what I see of these players, all heart, guts, determination and humility. Not to mention being damn good footballers.
If Sturridge and Stirling persist with current levels of dick head-ery, then only playing like Ronaldo or Suarez can make them popular with the mainstream. Whiting up would make no difference at all.
…Thayden I don’t think people hate Sturridge because of his skin colour, but because he’s a d***.
People love and praise Welbeck because of his infectious attitude and hard work rate (and his flailing Bambi-style limbs). People hate Sturridge because he arrogantly celebrates scoring goals by doing a ridiculous dance against lower-league opposition in the FA cup. Two people of the same colour, but two very different public opinions.
Toby ‘CTFC’ Hudson
Let’s end with an underrated goal
This cracker from Diego Forlan vs Rangers was always one of my favourite goals
The movement to generate the space is impressive, but that finish is genuinely brilliant. This from a much derided player (at the time) brought me no great amount of satisfaction, which may or may not have had anything to do with the United shirt I bought and wisely decided to get ‘Forlan 21’ added to the back…
Conrad Wiacek, MUFC