The potential return of Andros Townsend to the club has divided a lot of Newcastle fans.
Well judging by twitter anyway, which admittedly may not the best medium to do so. It’s hard not to miss a comment with the attitude of ‘he had the chance to stay and left so bugger him’.
This is a clear case of cutting off our nose to spite the face. Andros Townsend would greatly improve our squad, surely no one can doubt that? Particularly our quality in the final third, he would be a near guarantee of both goals and assists at championship level. This cannot be in doubt, however, because he wanted to remain a Premier League player last summer, some individuals think we should not even consider re-signing him. So what?
There has been a lot of talk about loyalty in football recently, with the Payet and Costa sagas dominating the January transfer news.
Of course you’ve now got pundits and journalists queuing up to tell you that loyalty is gone in football, dead as a dodo, and that this would never happen in the past when only loyal local boys played for top flight teams but now money has ruined football. Blah Blah Blah. It’s just noise really.
The fact is that football and in turn, transfers, have always been driven by money. The only thing that has changed is the amount of money involved. As the cash has risen, a large percentage have now decided it has got too much, and that the ‘modern day footballer’ has only one motivational factor – money. What a load of nonsense.
You only have to look at the past to see how actually not much has changed in the world of players moving clubs.
In the 1959-60 season our own player, George Eastham, went on strike to force through his move to Arsenal from Newcastle.
Although under a different transfer system, there are similarities to Payet, trying to engineer his move to Marseille. Both were happy to play for club A for a period, then wanted to relocate to Club B. A big deal? Not really.
Whilst it is not great to hear stories of players refusing to play, at times the situation is not irreparable. Remember when Yohan Cabaye apparently went on strike, at the start of the 2013-14 season. He didn’t move to Arsenal and ended up having a brilliant half a season at the club, taking us to the verge of the Champions League places. It’s a shame though that he then left for PSG in the January window, with the season collapsing afterwards!
The point is that while he was playing he was contributing. I don’t believe any footballer who reaches the highest level of a sport that has millions of players around the world, can do so without being a hugely competitive person. As a result, I would doubt there are many if any professional footballers (and I include Payet and Sissoko in this) who would not want to play, but then walk out in front of tens of thousands of people and think ‘I don’t care if I embarrass myself and my team and play crap here’. It just wouldn’t happen. These people would always care about personal pride at least, even if they didn’t about the fans/manager/club as a whole.
The recent stories tell me that loyalty has become nothing more than a buzzword, transfers are as much of the part the game as they always were. As it’s easier for players to move, it’s only natural more of them, for whatever reason, choose to do so.
Let’s take another example, a certain Mr A.Shearer.
He is often cited as our most loyal player. He turned down Manchester United and Barcelona to return to his club, the club he supported as a boy, and stayed till retirement. You can’t fail to love the romance of the story, even if you’re not a Newcastle fan. But it certainly helped that at the time we were one of the biggest and richest clubs in the world, seriously challenging for the Premier League title.
I am not saying that money was a decisive factor in this case, of course not, but equally are we saying Big Al would have still come home if we were fighting relegation at the wrong end of the table, and struggling to pay his wage? He himself would say probably not. Paul Scholes, in my opinion the most gifted English player of his generation, is another often cited as an example of the ‘dying breed’ of fiercely loyal footballers.
He was helped by the fact Manchester United won a trophy virtually every season of his astonishing career. He never really had a decision to make. He has admitted this himself in a post-retirement interview.
It all comes back to the fact that loyalty in football has only ever existed when it suits everyone, that’s life. If you are happy with your career why would you change? Equally if you have a problem in your professional life, it’s human nature to try and address it.
To go back to the Andros Townsend situation, I hold nothing against him for making a difficult decision last summer and deciding to remain in the Premier League. He could have chosen a better club and things have clearly not worked out for him. However, he worked hard, and showed a real commitment to our relegation battle when he was here. We were already deep in trouble when he signed and he was one of the reasons we actually got relatively close to staying up. For me he earned the right to make the decision to leave more than another of our midfielders who headed for the capital.
With the deadline fast approaching, the prospect of Townsend actually returning to the Tyne are looking increasingly remote. If there was any way the deal could be done, I would be the first to welcome him back to the club with open arms.
Finally, I will just leave you with two other players who had second spells with us. Peter Beardsley and Nolberto Solano anyone?
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