Annoyances are never too greatly separated from football. They linger and latch onto that discontented football fan that exists within every single one of us. You know, that football fan. The inner demon. The one that is a hairs breadth – and a dodgy Howard Webb decision – away from blowing a gasket, plunging their fingernails into their eye sockets and easily drifting through a well-articulated rant about the lucrative player deals in the game, the chants, the lackadaisical footballers…even the maudlin, pretentiously gentle voice of Gary Lineker on Match Of The Day.
I’m afraid to say my inner demon – or Damon – has awakened from a pretty damn short slumber. Here I sit on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, shifting through some online articles and one stares up at me, almost cheekily; inviting some bile to be spew from my mouth. It is a player who has been linked with many a-club over the last year or so; a player who now admits that his future would have to be ‘talked about’ (wink-wink, nod-nod) if the club he currently plays for does not finish the campaign with the knowledge that they will be playing in Europe’s top club competition next year.
Indeed, there may not be a brighter young star plying his trade in grand old Blighty than the youthful Welshman that is Gareth Bale. Brilliant performances in the league and memorably one against Inter Milan in Milan have kept the English media’s eye strained and focused on the full-back-cum-winger. Rumours circulate that wild amounts of money will be splashed on Bale, particularly Barcelona of La Liga and the two Manchester clubs of the Premier League. The reports are practically endless, with the Bale attention the product of a young man who is in essence a wonderful young talent, yet whose meteoric rise and wildly extra ordinate estimated price-tags are also the product of ceaseless Media attention and overhyping. Make no mistake – Bale is a fine talent. But it is not the talent of Bale which I am choosing to question; it is his mindset. Or at least, the mindset that the Welshman – whose Spurs contract runs until 2015 – appears to present in the following words on his future:
‘I think everybody always wants to test themselves against the best players in the world. We have to wait and see what happens.
‘Obviously if we don’t [qualify for the Champions League], we’ll have to sit down and discuss it. I had a taste of it last season and I enjoyed it thoroughly.’
The clue is in the word ‘we’ Gareth. I simply cannot/shall not understand this conceited, watery, plastic mentality. One factor as to why Tottenham are in the position of fifth after a storming first half to the season in which they apparently had third place buckled down is because of star players such as Bale who have failed to perform, amongst Redknapp’s squad rotation failings and tactical naivety. Gareth Bale is a contributing factor to the torrid slump Tottenham are set in; is it not his and the squads duty as Spurs players to lift the team from their plight? Bale is playing for the club; he, amongst others, can directly influence the team’s hopes of attaining Champions League. Therefore, what right does he have to walk having failed in his duty? Bale is a large part of the system which is failing in their job. He is a player who is contributing to Tottenham’s Europe push for Christ sake; the results are down to him, the staff and the other 10 men Redknapp fields.
It is somewhat of an insulting contradiction – an irony – for a player who has the power to make sure Tottenham are playing European football next year to emerge and cast doubt over his future if they do not play European football. Well, sorry Gareth, but it’s your job to dispel any doubt over Tottenham’s ambitions – not to jump ship when they fail and especially not to jump ship when, hilariously, you are a larger factor in their failing.
Bale wants to play Champions League football. So instead of aligning himself to the wrong mentality and casting doubt to his own future, does he not think it would be more appropriate to focus on the job in hand and make sure there are no doubts over Champions League football; to make sure he has absolutely no reason for leaving? Or is it just a flimsy excuse for a player who has already made up his mind? Whatever the reason, allowing those quotes to float through the media will hinder rather than help the ambitions Spurs still possess. It is such a cowardly, defeatist mentality: ‘oh, well if we fail I might just leave anyway’. Good Lord. There should be no doubt; there should be no ‘maybes’. Why even contemplate defeat? It helps the cause not one bit. You and your teammates must attain fourth. Or bust a gut trying. It really is as simple as that.
The sense of entitlement players seem to hold – even in failure they have some divine right to play elsewhere even though they were a crucial factor in that failure. What a loose mindset that truly is. Bale should certainly not be eeking routes out when the job in hand is still far from over. In fact, this is the perfect time for Bale to shine; if he thinks he should be playing Champions League football, then prove it by turning Spurs fortunes around and instead of joining a club whose European birthright existed before you joined. So come on Gareth: lace up, hold up your head and perform with the gumption and adroitness Spurs need rather than arrogantly and contradictorily aiming for a move away, citing failings that you yourself are a part of. The clue really is in the word ‘we’.