I’ve started three times on this subject already and stopped. I don’t want it to be a rant against players who did, for the most part, fantastically last season. Equally I don’t want it to be a potentially libelous meandering about the nature and role of football agents in the modern game. The one thing it won’t be is a tirade against the administration of the club, I wouldn’t trust them to organise my daughter’s birthday party but they are working within constraints and they don’t decide how much people get paid. Of the two people who do decide, one pays out of his own pocket the other has to directly manage the individuals concerned, should we, can we even, be critical of them if they don’t want to play a player over the odds?
The murky world of football finances means that most of the time we’re guessing when we talk about players’ wages, but let’s try a little exercise. You’re holding the purse strings at a certain football club; the manager comes to you to discuss his intentions in the transfer market in the summer. He’s after a couple of strikers, “what about the two we’ve got up front already?” you ask, the response is that to move the club on, the manager thinks that he needs to improve on at least one of those strikers and that the best they should expect is to be squad players from now on.
The next day you are both deciding on the contract offer for one of those strikers, one who is in the last year of his contract. Do you?
A) Offer him a big salary (let’s say 30k), he’s proved himself and deserves his reward
B) Recognise that he could play a role in the coming years by upping his salary a little bit, but offering good bonuses
C) Look to sell him – if he’s not guaranteed a first team place, he’s not good enough
It’s time to face facts, Roberts has been an important player over the last couple of years, he was arguably the final piece in the Jigsaw that saw us get promoted, he’s a leader in the dressing room and some of the time on the pitch. He’s not a player you’d be happy about losing, but equally he’s not a player that you’d break the bank for. 8 goals in a season is a reasonable return for a striker at a lower ranked top flight club, but if goals win games then it’s not enough to push the club forwards.
You can ask how we can be prepared to offer Johnson or Heskey £40k per week, but not Roberts. The fact is Roberts turned this contract down before either of those players was mentioned. Maybe not so much with the Johnson situation but it is easy to take the view that the only reason we’re looking at Heskey is that Roberts think too much of himself. To pay him to £40k would be to give in to a player who is trying it on with you; dressing rooms have been lost over less.
We’ve almost definitely got another Ellington situation on our hands here. The player/agent are trying to play games to get what they want, even if what one of them wants is to get another player a transfer, and the club aren’t interested. The way this whole thing has happened goes something like “Here you go Jase 10 bob a week plus 3 and 6 for a goal”, “no way Jose”… and that’s it. The silence is deafening and it would seem that both sides are equally guilty in not breaking it, there’s certainly no suggestion that the club aren’t willing to negotiate, in fact it seems that that decision has come from Roberts, yet it’s the club that gets the blame.
Does he want to stay? Only he really knows, but if he does then talking about wanting to play for other clubs isn’t the right way to go about it. Contrast what we have heard from the Roberts camp to the noises we heard from Matt Jackson a couple of months back. You can express a desire to stay without claiming an unfailing love for the club. You can be respectful to fans without lying to them and “I’m the reason you’re still in the Prem, pay me loads or else I’m off to Turkey” isn’t the way to go about it.
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