Date: 24th July 2010 at 3:15pm
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When the Celestial City beckons, the football pilgrim must answer the call.


There might be some doubt about the existence of the Bermuda Triangle these days – a place where ships and aeroplanes used to disappear, from the 1950’s
onwards – but there seems little doubt that the Wilmslow triangle is not only fully functional but is actually increasing in size, and it is where we see football egos migrate to in flights of financial fancy.

Or, as it’s more commonly known, wag heaven.

But we can’t blame the women for this, one of many, symptoms of football affluenza, though. It is usually contracted through prolonged exposure to the contagious carriers who frequent the sanctum sanctorum of England’s international elite, where egos clash and serial domestic winners hold court. Where profligacy is paraded and millions spoken of as the natural reward of the especially gifted.

Capello even chose his final World Cup squad, based on who could thrive in this hothouse for multi-millionaires, and who could not. The too humble and diffident Theo Walcott was sent home, Wright-Phillips and James Milner remained.

When the Celestial City beckons, the football pilgrim must answer the call.

John Gregory was wrong; there is a difference between enjoying a life-style based on £4m, rather than £1.5m a year, especially if it comes with less responsibility and less pressure, than the same pay-packet might entail at a smaller club. Add in the bonus of being able to own a house big enough to give the mother-in-law her own wing, promotion to the wag elite for the Missus, and a decent chance of wiping the eye of the Sky Four, for the player, and you have an irresistible package, which is impossible to refuse.

If the player grabs at it, he is thought greedy; and if he refuses it, he is accused of a lack of ambition. But, although he can never escape criticism entirely, he still has to choose what is best for himself as a pro.

Doubts about motive will always persist with the fans though, as too many players it seems, are rather too content to see out their time in the reserves, picking up wages the market would not match, rather than actually getting in a first team every week, elsewhere.

Its hard for Villa fans not to revert to cynicism, when they have seen players like Sidwell (56 appearances for Chelsea and Villa, in 3 years) and Marlon Harewood (29 appearances for Villa in 3 years), happy to see out their contracts in the reserves.

Obviously James Milner deserves the benefit of the doubt but as Richard Dunne has publicly reminded him, he goes in the knowledge and acceptance that he is far from guaranteed to get in the team, where at Villa he would enjoy high status, the special affection of the fans, and substantial opportunity to improve his game, in weekly view of the England manager.

He can even see that the guy he will follow to City’s El Dorado, Gareth Barry, is now less of a player, than he was at Villa and seems to have lost the positional-discipline which enabled him to overcome the problem of a lack of pace, which left himself and the England team, so often exposed during the World Cup.

He would go in the knowledge that some players, like Micah Richards seem to have gone backwards since City became a money-bags glamour club. Even Stephen Ireland (player of the year 08-09) has had less opportunity.

Richard Dunne is living proof that when it comes to football reasons, being at the heart of Villa is a better place to be than on the periphery at Manchester City.

But Man City’s £100m outlay on players over the summer, may increase their chances of winning something, in the coming season, even if it would seem that its a year or two too early for the Premiership title, it would seem likely that one of the cups, would not be beyond them.

And even the most cynical of fans could not deny, that an extra million in the bank and a winners medal in his sock-draw, would amount to a very good year indeed for James Milner.

When expressed in those terms, its hard to deny the attraction for any player, never mind our Jimmy.

So, I expect a tearful goodbye-ee and a bitter welcome back on his return.

But as ever, the fans will have to put up with all the boring stuff from the club and player, as each attempts to exonerate themselves from being blamed for the departure.

As a pro it is de rigueur for the player to deny that money has anything to do with it, and the club has to play out the pretence in the media, that they are not a ‘selling club’ and that they don’t see getting £24m for James Milner, as a good bit of business. The fans know that if James Milner was not interested in money, he would have chosen a career in cricket instead (he was a good player), and that Lerner’s available lucre is a little bit less than the owners of Manchester City, or SW6’s favourite oligarch.

All the fans want to see, and pretty quickly, is the Milner fee get re-invested in the squad, and preferably with a little extra added, to compensate them for hurt feelings and thwarted expectations.

Except for the doolally and the demented, the fans know that when an owner with $26bn enters the game, suddenly the guy holding a billion dollars, starts to look poor.

Anyone who can’t see that, has probably got a bullet in the head.

Keep the faith!


3 Replies to “Something For The Weekend (292)”

  • A well thought out, amusing piece!! Expect to get villified by the doomsayers imminently! will be glad when this saga is over and we have the new players in that are neccessary for another season of improvement…UTV!!

  • Superb article. I’m looking forward to Milner leaving and the subsequent reinvestment personally. Milner’s isn’t doing anything that any other human being wouldn’t do, and we’d be foolish not to accept any offer over £25m. My big worry is that Citeh wi

  • Great post, entertaining piece. As much as i’d like to think milner’s staying would do a great deal in bringing unity to the team going into a season with a few expectations, an unhappy player is never going to play quite the same… If only MON’s transf

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