There’s a German saying: the wages of the world are unthanks.
Villa must be feeling the truth of that this week, after Tottenham’s Defoe
decided that he only wanted to play for a top-four club, which counts Villa
out. This seemed terribly ungrateful in a week when Villa finished tarting
up the Holte Hotel, which presumably is where they are to house their
massive squad when it arrives. The hotel is looking fantastic and is a
tribute to the new regime – pity these players aren’t so easily impressed.
The time we’ll know Villa really have hit the stratosphere, is when they
start ripping the guts out of Aston Hall and the neon double arches
get plastered over that rather out-dated frontage. The cable-car
to the back of the Holte is going to look great but – so far so good – one
step at a time.
I have to say that its a bit hypocritical of me to lament Defoe’s
non-arrival, as when he looked like he might keep Vassell out
of the England team, I was in the habit of wishing him harm.
But a fat lot of good that did Darius, or me, and it seems whatever
voodoo I was practising, it had the opposite effect, as him having
to play for Man City and sing Wonderwall every week, is not the best
I’d hoped for the lad – he deserved better..
Anyway, I was more than delighted to see Reo-Coker arrive this week, as I
have long admired the guy, for his strength of personality and the power of
his game and it gives me an excuse to sing Duran Duran’s greatest hits in
the bath, as I prepare to lead the Holte End, with my famously silky
falsetto. I don’t think there is any doubt that he is a fine player and as
long as he doesn’t mind playing in three positions at once, I think Villa’s
midfield should be one of the best ever seen in a 5-1-4 formation. But I
bet they are already making plans for Nigel.
Signing new players is actually a long process and what with the medical,
which consists of weighing the guy’s earrings, counting his teeth and making
sure that his septum is still his own, things can take as long as ten
minutes – its flying the doctor to the beach in the Bahamas, which takes the
time. The contract-talks take even longer and these days you need a pretty
big piece of paper to get all those noughts on. And then when it is all
agreed, there’s the long-winded process of getting in contact with the Bank
of England, to ensure that they are actually planning to print enough notes
to pay the fellah and do Group 4 have a truck big enough to deliver? It all
Elsewhere the debate of the week was about whether Bent is worth £16m, or
slightly more than Henry went for. Its actually hard to say, as even the
best players make dot-com shares look like a safe investment. What with the
rigorous demands of the game, where a top player can play as much as twice a
fortnight, sometimes in cold weather, there is the physical demands of
getting in and out of the sort of cars, which are just not meant to be got
in and out of (Clarkson needs an anaesthetic to get in his), and there’s
all that business of spending nights trying to avoid getting mugged by
some tartlet, for their procreative juices – emission impossible perhaps
– which requires a chastity-belt more solidly built than a Tom Cruise
It can’t be denied that the money is ridiculous but it is obviously set by
market demands, which basically means that the market has been fixed in the
players’ favour and while the millions of players in Asia and Africa are
excluded, anyone who is not entirely hopeless, is going to be worth a lot of
dough. And it seems that until they invent a way of exporting football jobs,
like they did for those who build vacuum-cleaners or make chocolate bars,
the home-grown players will be free to plan their mansions and wave their
wedges in our faces. As for the value to the clubs? Absolutely. Just like
Andy Gray paid back that million quid with his goal at Wembley for Wolves
and Francis did the same for Forest in the European Cup. If Bent scores
enough crucial goals for Spurs, it will be considered money well-spent.
But as much as it might really get under the skin to realise that even the
most useless plonker in a shirt is on some obscene salary, you have to admit
one thing – a footballer doesn’t have to do anything morally questionable to
get it, not big time anyway. Okay its a very strange way of distributing
money and it might be different from what we are used to – having an
ancestor who held the king’s coat at some ancient battle was a decent
system – but it could be worse. Unlike a CEO who might be pulling down
similar bucks, they don’t have to screw anyone to get it. No one makes
anyone watch TV and even when some sponsor employs child-labour
to make their products, a player’s moral responsibility is at worst
vicarious. Footballers are surprisingly clean.
Besides what other massively over-paid job has such positive consequences?
What other profession is in the position to transform thousands of people’s
lives, with a single piece of finesse? Footballers can do that and whether
it is a Hendrix solo or a nice arse on a woman, there are few things in this
world that can make you look up to the Heavens and say, ‘Thanks!’.
Footballers are in that enviable position and even if many of them are not
nice people, they can give you a lift and fill you with wonder. Whether it
is a moment of beauty from Berbatov or Ginola, or exhilarating power from
Collymore, they can make the moment seem special and even the world itself.
And for that, I am truly grateful.