Bobby Moore, West Ham’s greatest footballer and England’s World Cup winning captain was a professional, loyal and hard-working player. He played for the love of the game, down the road from where he grew up and at a club where he had spent years, mopping up the academy changing rooms and cleaning the managers’ boots. Moore pledged himself to a career in football and to a club, where he learnt his trade with precision, support and care.
Nowadays, footballers come and go. They move around from club to club, league to league and country to country. Football is a business. Money is a draw as well as a set-back. The most successful clubs in the world can spend money to attract the best footballers in the world. On the other end of the spectrum, there are clubs who struggle to compete financially. They can’t attract stars and therefore the divide between the top clubs and the bottom, becomes even wider.
But one of the biggest changes in modern football is the lack of loyalty shown by so many players. They don’t have to pledge themselves to one club anymore – money has changed that. Clubs are always offloading and replacing. Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Ryan Giggs and John Terry are the last of a breed of modern footballers who dedicated themselves to one club. The stars of last season, are rarely the stars of the next three for your club.
Robin Van Persie showed disrespect to former club Arsenal this week when he told an interviewer he was looking forward to returning “home” to play against Manchester United. The former Gunners’ captain played over 100 games more for Arsenal during an eight year career with them. For most Londoners, it was a young boys’ dream career; to play regularly under Arsene Wenger alongside stars like Cesc Fabregas and Theirry Henry. Van Persie was the top dog – the fans’ saviour, the team’s leader and the club’s hero in the big moments. But he wasn’t happy. He’d played in a World Cup final but was yet to win a domestic trophy.
He could be forgiven in the long run for leaving Arsenal in search of silverware. But he joined Premier League rivals, Manchester United, and almost single-handedly won them the title in his first season during 2012-13. It was a dagger to the heart for most Arsenal fans and Van Persie seemed to never look back over his shoulder. It was disrespectful then, when he disregarded the club he spent the most part of his career with and refer to a club that gave him a season of success followed by two years of disruptive and unflattering management under David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, as his home.
Van Persie was not the first footballer to forget his roots though. Many footballers have abandoned a sense of loyalty in the modern era. And can they be criticised or blamed? Fans would always say yes. To them, representing their club is the ultimate dream. To wear the crest of their club, you owe it your upper most respect and undying desire to do right by it. But the fact is modern football has changed the sport. The fans are no longer the priority, as game times and venues are dictated by TV rights. Ticket sales are on the rise as a form of revenue and footballers are paid based on sponsorship and pedigree just as much as effort and success.
Therefore, it’s no wonder so many players have lost their sense of loyalty. Their career is intertwined with money now because that’s what football has become centred around.