Sven Goran Eriksson is yet again under fire from the English Media for apparently undertaking a business trip this weekend to China, rather than watching any of the domestic football matches on offer. What puzzles me is why they, the media, believe this to be a story. I do not believe that the Swede has watched a match every single time that there is a selection on offer – more often, in fact, you hear a comment from the ever-faithful Tord Grip about a particular players performance than you do from the England Head Coach. And to be honest, what is the problem with that?
Surely there should be more questions asked if he is still watching players closely at this stage? By now, Eriksson should be able to name his final squad for the World Cup with the Reserves who will be on standby. My hunch is that Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell are the only players he wants to watch as he has been denied this due to their long layoffs through injury and whatever. Even when Michael Owen makes his return from his broken metatarsal (will this now be known as “Englishman’s Foot”?), I doubt that he will be watched especially closely as he is going to go to Germany with the squad, and it definitely will not be in the capacity as “Media Analyst”, probably not as Bookmaker either in case of adverse publicity. Re-reading the earlier comment, I am unconvinced that Cole is the one who will be watched closely; more likely Campbell to ensure that he is mentally as well as physically fit.
The only doubts in his mind will probably be about replacement forwards. Defoe is not a regular for Tottenham and must be a doubt for going but to counter this, has proved that he can score at International Level. Darren Bent is this season’s man but has not looked overly impressive for England on the pitch but much of a coach’s opinions are formed on the Training Pitch as opposed to the ninety or so, week in week out. Darius Vassell up to about three weeks ago seemed to be hitting the sort of form that could have given him a last minute flight but is possibly now suffering from his team’s abysmal run of results.
Barring last minute injuries, I doubt that Eriksson had planned to watch many new players and just how much more about his squad is he going learn in the four remaining weeks of the season. Unfortunately, the media think that anything derogatory about the Swede sells newspapers. Which shows how little they actually listen to their readership, given the scorn that was poured on the News Of The World and their fake Sheik story. More likely, this story serves their prejudices and feeds their ego in thinking they brought down the England Manager. Err, tad too late for that given his resignation a while back. Still, never let it be said that our journalists are anything less than the brightest bulbs in the box.
This morning’s Independent contains a salary survey for Professional Footballers, by age. Across the board, it shows that basic pay for top-flight players has, in the words of the journalist involved Nick Harris, risen by 65% since 2000. Quite a hike on the face of it but in reality it is somewhat different, as this represents roughly 11% per year, not quite as sensational figure. What would have been useful is a breakdown by club because my immediate thought is that for example, Leeds attempt to buy glory was in it’s full flow at that time but how do Wigan compare to that in terms of wages? And what impact has the Abramovich billions had on this survey? Are the base figures comparable? The sample size in the survey was 400 players which is not a high number considering an average squad size of around 25 at the clubs, meaning that about 25% of the professional game either responded or were surveyed in the first place. The problem with this is that the gap between the top earners and those not so fortunate (and I use the term loosely) is so disparate that perhaps a higher take up would be needed to make it an accurate snapshot. One key question that they asked was whether the players were in support of a salary cap to limit salaries to 75% of the clubs income? Nearly two-thirds of Premiership players thought this to be a good idea, with between 54 – 59% of the remaining professionals also agreeing. But why is the level pitched so high? Surely the cap should be set at 60% or lower to enable re-investment in football to be meaningful.
The idea of capping is supported by politicians and the clubs to a degree. Surprisingly the PFA does not support any sort of capping. Gordon Taylor argues that player’s careers are short so they should be able to maximise their earnings potential. He is quoted as saying that “of 600 16 year olds who enter the game each year, 500 will have left the game by 21, and that 75 players a year have their careers suddenly curtailed by injury.” I have tremendous sympathy for those 500 boys whose dreams are shattered but they have the rest of their lives in front of them to enjoy and find new callings in life. It would be unusual to find them having a wife and two children to support which is what the 75 who really need support. But do these give sufficient reason for not having salary caps? I would argue that they do not. Surely the PFA have a responsibility to the their members as a whole to ensure that clubs survive. The Union do sterling work in loaning the clubs money when they are in serious trouble to ensure their members get paid. They are an organisation that is often at the forefront of many of the good programmes that benefit the wider footballing communities. On this issue though, they are stuck in the 1980’s. Even the lower paid members of the footballing world, are well recompensed for their chosen profession. However, the biggest part of the problem is that the clubs costs, of which salaries are the largest single element, are more than their revenues so therefore the costs need to be managed more effectively. This is the responsibility of the Directors and Owners but also the PFA have to be pro-active and agree to a reasonable cap to ensure the clubs survive. If not, the benevolence may need to extend much further and on far more occasions.
The full text of the report can be found here.
Today’s Tunes come from a compilation album, Mod Funk, which surprisingly enough contains exactly what it says on the tin.