Put up or shut up

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I don’t know about you but I’m getting a little sick of reading syndicated news sites stating that Wigan Athletic are DEMANDING £10m for Victor Moses. Well, how dare they eh, the cheeky Northern upstarts!

How dare they put a price tag on a player roughly equivalent to his fair value or maybe even a touch higher? Don’t they know that insignificant tinpot impoverish clubs like Wigan are supposed to be flattered that top clubs are interested in signing a player that they have given an opportunity to. A player that they have nurtured, fed and watered, tolerated his inexperience and mistakes and watched him grow and develop into a top prospect by giving him a platform on which to shine in the BarclaysPremierLeague.

Yes I know it was Palace who brought him through and they deserve a lot of the credit (and sell-on percentage if they have anything about them) but isn’t this just a typical example of the way modern football has gone since some Belgian plodder exercised his right to get another job.

For all the stick I’ve given Whelan and the admin staff at Wigan Athletic over the years, I am immensely proud of the way they have operated in the last few seasons, treating players like assets (as indeed they are these days) and using them to give us a modicum of financial stability.

The days of accepting £35,000 for Joe Parkinson off Bournemouth by the horrible tribunal system only for them to flog him to Everton for £800,000 a year or so later are long gone. Sadly, the days of getting a decent signing on fee and a wage increase which would make a real, tangible difference in a footballer’s career are also long gone. But if that doesn’t make sense, let me position what I’ve just said:

I’ve no idea what Wigan Athletic pay these days. By doing some quick sums off the wage bill, we can ascertain/speculate that most senior players are on somewhere between £10-25k per week. The trouble is that even the clubs around us in the table are paying £40-60k a week.

By contrast, a couple of decades back players like Joe Parkinson, Peter Atherton, Mike Newell were lucky if they were earning £100-150 a week whilst at Latics in the late 80’s/early 90’s and if they hit the heady heights of the top flight and got their wages up to £500 or even £1,000 a week they probably felt it was a small fortune and it literally changed their lives.

And let’s get this right most of us would love to earn £50,000 a year but it’s hardly a fortune and not too distant from the man on the street. It doesn’t buy you a Lamborghini or anything more than a garden shed in Alderley Edge. Now we have footballers earning five times that much EVERY SINGLE WEEK OF THEIR LIVES and come on, who on earth needs that sort of money?

“I’ve not yet seen young Vic at the Farmfoods at the bottom of Beech Hill exchanging his 10% off own brand chicken burgers vouchers just yet”

I can understand Victor Moses’ agent talking him up in the press day after day, as arguably he is an asset to his agent as well as Wigan Athletic and he wants to market the player either to get a new deal at Wigan Athletic, or preferably double or triple his earnings elsewhere. In which case Mr Finnegan gets a nice cut of the signing on fee and also doubles or trebles his commission payable for young Victor. It might not make pleasant reading but if your job was to make as much money as you can for a client that is exactly the way you would go about it.

But let’s face it, I’ve not yet seen young Vic at the Farmfoods at the bottom of Beech Hill exchanging his 10% off own brand chicken burgers vouchers just yet. What the hell does a young man need so much money for? He doesn’t. He only needs it because he can get it and because other teams are paying it, he can get it. Someone out there will pay it so why make do with less, even when “less” is an astronomical fortune compared with what your average Wiganer fortunate enough to have a job takes home each week.

We have had exactly the same situation with Momo Diame. Does Momo care that West Ham won the World Cup or they have a famous academy of football? Does he b*llocks! He cares about that 100% rise in his pay packet. And possibly the fact there is more to do in London, it’s not as cold and the women aren’t as ugly. HIS WORDS NOT MINE LADIES (“mis-translated” from French of course)

During his time at Wigan Athletic, he has been utter gash in parts and absolutely brilliant, gone from being an unknown quantity in the Premier League to a competent midfielder and sadly £50-60k a week is the going rate for competent midfielders and Wigan Athletic are absolutely right not to pay it. The trouble is that someone else will and it’s not a Big Four or a European chasing side, it’s a team who will be ‘in the mixer’ in and around us next season. The QPR’s, the West Hams, the Stoke’s, the Sunderland’s, the Villa’s are all prepared to cough up especially in the case of Diame with no transfer fee attached.

Why don’t we pay the going rate then? At this point I can hear some moaning broad accented Wiganer saying “not going no moore, bluddy Latics, always selling their best players”. These people just don’t get it – it’s not us, it’s the market. At the moment there’s probably only four clubs in the world who can keep hold of their best players: two are Spanish and the other two are brewstered and are current custodians of the two biggest prizes in the game.

It’s this horrible capitalist society we live in and nowhere is it more evident than in football 2012 style. Yes some players have special talents. Nowhere was that more evident than our first ever game in the Premier League when we fought tooth and nail for 94 minutes against Chelsea only for a £100k a week footballer in the grotesque form of Hernan Crespo to pop up and sallywang one in the top corner and break our hearts. It’s been happening ever since.

Sure they are good that top bracket of players and I’ve got to say that the way the wage structure works in football would be pretty bob on if it wasn’t so distorted, save for the odd freakish screw up like Wayne Bridge or one legged Kieron Dyer earning £90,000 a week. If the wage span of Premier League footballers was £1,000 per week rising to £25,000 per week then I could just about handle that. These precocious little lambs have special talents which us mere accounts assistants and warehouse operatives could never possess. They bring pleasure to millions who fork out cash each month to see them perform; I can kind of understand the pressure that comes with slotting home a penalty from 12 yards in front of millions of people, although you could argue that it’s still no comparison to feeding a family and trying to keep up the mortgage repayments when you’ve just had a 20% pay cut. I’m rambling though – the point is that say if the best footballers in the world earned a million a year I could just about cope with that – but some of them earn a million a MONTH and that wage inflation has spiralled way out of control to such an extent that Wigan Athletic and every other club bar a few mega rich ones can never ever hope to compete on a level playing field ever again unless something dramatic changes.

The agents who represent footballers have got it sewn up and if a player is perceived as earning less than they should, then they let it be known – as with Moses. Yet strangely never when one of their players is earning a lot more than they should. When that scenario occurs well just call me Monk Willie McKay, shave us a bald patch and throw a brown cloak on me.

Maybe we should pay the going rate, and attempt to keep hold of Moses, offer him a new contract perhaps – double his money? Again, maybe a few years’ ago I might have gone down the road of “Spend some money Whelan you tightfisted old goat” but now I see it differently. He’s 74, he’s not going to be around forever and we need to be sustainable in the long term. A key part of that sustainability is developing young players and selling them on for a premium.

“Of course we could re-invest some of our extra money in paying bigger wages in the race to the top but as Wigan Athletic earn so little else in revenue from gate money, merchandising, commercial revenue and sponsorship, to do so would fly in the face of sustainability”

 

But what about the extra TV money, we could use that to retain an asset instead of flogging him on? As many are aware, the TV deals have been re-negotiated and what it will mean is an extra £10-15m revenue for a team like ours. For some clubs, that will go straight out the other end like a pooh-ing police horse and land squarely in the vacuumous pockets of players and agents. This means the £50-60k a week the Stokes, the Villas, the West Hams are all paying could soon become £70-80k per week with us left upping our payscales from a “measly” £20k per week to £25k a week.

Of course we could re-invest some of our extra money in paying bigger wages in the race to the top but as Wigan Athletic earn so little else in revenue from gate money, merchandising, commercial revenue and sponsorship, to do so would fly in the face of sustainability. Essentially, strip away the income and outgoings of being a Premier League club and we are a lower Championship club as best, no shame in that as Wigan is a small town with a considerable number of people who love to tell us how they would rather support someone else.

Those of us who do follow Wigan Athletic need to get a common understand in our heads though that the model we are pursuing is the correct one and we DO have to sell a player each summer to get close to breakeven, and this extra TV money that may be coming our way would be so much better invested anywhere else other than paying some even more inflated player’s wages.

Sure it’s frustrating if you have kids and their heroes head for the door every three years: oh for the Steve Bulls and Matt Le Tissiers of old – or even the David Lowe’s and Roberto Martinez’s in our case but it’s an unfortunate fact of life the way that modern football is structured.

We lose £10m a year on running the business, and by selling a player we can reduce that to nil. The long game of reducing the wage bill and it’s ratio proportional to income will also help. That is why the club should hold out for as much as possible for Victor Moses – that is indeed if any offers have actually been forthcoming or this is just media bulls**tters making up stories again, helped by the continual talking up of Mr Finnegan.

Why do they talk like we are being the greedy ones? Liverpool and Chelsea are very rich football clubs, they turn over hundreds of millions in revenue and are backed by very rich net worth individuals. (And I only single out those two as they are the clubs who have been linked with Moses) There are hundreds, nay thousands of football clubs up and down the country from Under 5’s and Sunday League teams to Manchester City currently top of the tree and owned by Arabs.

What gives the top six or so clubs the right to hoard all the money football generates? Sneery toffs coming out with comments like “nobody wants to watch Bolton do they” seems to be their only justification. The people of Bolton want to watch Bolton and most of them did before television started getting beamed en masse into their homes 30 – 40 years ago and they started to get introduced to other teams they could watch in the pub who were infinitely better than their local heroes and this scenario plays out in towns and cities across the country. The richer clubs get richer, the small fry try desperately to keep up and only find financial difficulty if they pursue their soul destroying attempts to keep up with the rest.

The chance of a team coming through the pack from the lower leagues like Derby or Forest or Ipswich buoyed only by team spirit and desire are nigh on impossible in the BarclaysPremierLeague nowadays because of the wealth inequality and because the all seeing eyes are immediately all over any player with a modest amount of talent in whatever division he is and whatever country in the world and he is swallowed up by the big guns to assist in their own race to the top.

So Victor Moses may have to be our sacrifical lamb this summer but I hope we screw whoever signs him for every penny because we need it more than they do. We can then give some of that money to a Crystal Palace, a Hamilton Academicals or dare I say it an Almeria, who probably need it more than us and maybe a very small proportion of that £10m will eventually make it all the way down the football food chain to it’s natural grass roots level without which none of the game would exist.

With Dicko and McManaman having decent seasons at Blackpool, we may take them back, tolerate their mistakes and inexperience and watch them flourish into Premier League players and in three years’ time, we might just be tolerating more media and agent led drivel about bigger clubs sniffing around and us “slapping £10m price tags” on them in a perceived fit of petulance.

Let’s hope so.

Jimmy

@mudhutter for @TNS_WAFC

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