OPINION: Are modern-day footballers any worse than they used to be?
So, what is it with footballers nowadays? Greedy, obnoxious, spoilt, detached from not only the fans but society itself.
All descriptives that are often associated with modern day footballers. But is that fair? And is it really them that are the problem?
Recent ongoings with Dimitri Payet and Diego Costa has compelled me to investigate.
You often hear of fans longing for ‘the good old days’ to come back and that ‘football isn’t like it used to be’, well it isn’t.
It’s not going to be, if we consider that time to be around 1996 when our national side was peaking and players played with great passion and desire, we were producing players left right and centre, real English talent when in a time it was considered that times were tough and resources were surplus.
They were world beaters, players like Gascoigne, Shearer and Adams, considered legends of the Premier league and rightly so.
They say there’s no characters in the game these days, and again it is not surprising, for football isn’t the one that has changed, it’s the world around us.
In 1996 it was quite the different world, football was merely just taking off on its journey to take over the globe.
Technology was a distant dream and money wasn’t such a big motivation as there simply wasn’t as much around.
The tackles and hard way of playing that came with those days are often what I hear fans longing to return, or more leeway at least.
It could be a hard life in the 90’s, that I believe was replicated on the pitch, there was no soft touches because no-one would feel sorry for you, no bigwig in a suit and tie would be waiting in the tunnel claiming that he could make you a lump sum from that cut on your leg.
The refs would let the game go and would often wave play on at what would be perceived as red card challenges today. It was dog eat dog.
Fast forward to 2017 and how the world has changed. That change has shown on the pitch of course too. Football had to move on, and has simply moved with the times.
Life has got softer, people do whine and complain when things don’t go there way, there’s so many resources and technology at our fingertips that it brings an impatience, so much so that we have to take our information in bite size portions more and more.
That big brother feeling technology has introduced has shifted on to our beloved game too, simply because of the exposure and wealth it brings.
The money that has gradually seeped into the game has of course given back so much, the high profile players, the state of the art stadiums and top class coverage constantly. It has though taken away its soul in many ways, a soul that had long been prevalent long before the big bucks started rolling in.
You see, money changes people, it introduces a comfort on a sub conscious level that can take away from their desire.
The modern day footballer is left thinking, ‘why should I take that risk when the press would make sure I am worthless come tomorrow’, and frankly who can blame them, the money in football is crazy right now.
If you compare this attitude with the one of the 90’s footballer then the outlook is completely different, not only is money no great motivation but the fire in the belly was present solely down to the love of the game, the money didn’t provide such a protective shield as it does now. It helped also that their lives weren’t put under the spotlight and judged with so much political correctness, being a ‘role model’ wasn’t on the agenda.
The crazy money in the game now has encouraged a new type of owner into our football clubs.
Business owners of all types from all over the world whom ironically have no business running a football club. They haven’t the first clue about the club they are buying or sometimes even the game itself.
For these people the football club is just the latest trendy plaything, is it any wonder why clubs are in financial ruins and leave fans feeling so detached.
To try and take the human element out of the game and pretend all footballers are robots and constantly do good and proper things is ludicrous.
We fell in love with the game due to its characters it gave us, their unpredictability.
Inevitably a person born 40 years ago is going to be a different person from one born 20 years ago. They are brought up in a different world, arguably more spoilt but intelligent in a resourceful world, more open to different patterns of thinking.
But at the end of the day the world has changed an awful lot. Does the footballer of today really trust the general public? The amount of technology and freedom of speech, videos and pictures via social media is understandably making them paranoid.
Jamie Vardy for example has had to build a bar in his own home simply due to this fact. Compare that with 20 years ago when players would often meet for a pint before and after training sessions.
The game still needs to work hard on connecting with its audience. A booking for players celebrating with the crowd?
What does that say about the associations trust of society? Not a lot. With so much freedom of speech over social media, namely Twitter, the fan nowadays feels that this is a platform to really let loose, another reason perhaps as to why players seem so detached from society.
The people at the top of the game are quite frankly taking advantage of us right now, popularity has soared so therefore ticket prices have followed suit, it’s an unfair trade, for we ourselves have allowed our game to flourish.
At the end of the day I enjoy football just as much as I did as a child in the 90’s.
You could say it’s more an entertainment business than a sporting one sometimes but as long as the human element is present it will always be passionate and unpredictable.
Let’s hope the game stays true to itself and doesn’t try to constantly filter out all the potential bad influences and demean certain personality traits to be ‘wrong’, everybody is different and to try and pretend the world is perfect is just unrealistic.
After all, I survived just fine watching Gazza do the dentist chair and Robbie Fowler sniff the six yard-line, just imagine the consequences for those celebrations today.