On signing his new contract in January, Fabian Delph had said he intended to be at the club “for the long run”.
“There was no way I was going to bail out,” he said at the time. “This is my club and I want to be here. That’s why I am committing my future.” Isn’t that great? After all the stories of greed and avarice, we finally have a professional football who wants to play for his club because he wants to be there! Hooray for Fabian Delph! Until today when it was revealed that he is to sign for Manchester City.
Delph, it now transpires, asked Micah Richards, who has moved in the opposite direction, what it was like at Manchester City, presumably merely out of interest. I mean: the man wants to be at his club, after all.
I am not a Villa fan but as a football fan I can just imagine how pissed off Villa fans will be. When someone signs a four and a half year contract, the insinuation is that the contract is for four and a half years, but of course fans, you know, the people who are the lifeblood of the club, are never told about conditions or clauses that might mean that the contract means nothing. My point is that when Delph said, “This is my club and I want to be here. That’s why I am committing my future” was he lying through his teeth? If he wasn’t lying, had it not occurred to him that one of the bigger clubs might come knocking on his door? Please tell me the answer because I was born yesterday, all right?
This is not unique to Villa and Delph. In fact, it’s the norm, not the exception. We are talking about a sport which has utter contempt for its supporters, or maybe it’s even worse than that; that the supporters are simply an irrelevance to the owners, the players, their agents and everyone else connected with the game. What if I had been a Villa fan and had shelled out an arm and a leg for a season ticket, only to find out in mid July that our pivotal midfield player was leaving for a song? I would not have been remotely consoled to find out that there was a clause all along that would allow him to leave the club he so loved because I would feel I had been conned. But then, that’s football. Isn’t it?
Can I blame Delph for trying to better himself? Of course I can. I am assuming that he’s not a complete idiot and that he knew when he re-signed for the Villa that it was unlikely he would win a Champions League medal, our any other kind of medal for that matter, whilst he was at Villa Park. It’s really about money, isn’t it?
PFA suit Gordon Taylor likes to tell us that players have to make as much as they can because, after all, it’s only a short career and it can be over tomorrow. Well, yes, but I am guessing that Delph’s last Villa contract would probably have been slightly more than the national minimum wage and that by 2020 quite a few million quid will have been through his bank account and, hopefully, stayed there.
What’s the worst thing of all? I think it’s that football fans accept all this crap. It is, after all, supposed to be “The People’s Game”, although quite how you come to that conclusion when you think that Delph is leaving a club owned by a remote American and sold to a rich Arab and the Villa people will have no say whatsoever. In modern day Britain, like in anything else, football supporters are expected to leave the ownership and governance to someone else. “Just shut up, pay your money and let us get on with it. And if you don’t like it, tough, because someone else is on a waiting list for your season ticket.” Some clubs even ban supporters who want their clubs to be run better! Only in football, only in England!
Delph will probably end up on the Manchester City bench next season, alongside Raheem Sterling, raking in a million quid a month; all bankrolled by oil money. But their fans, like fans almost but not quite everywhere else, won’t care as long as the team performs.
The saddest part for me is that rather than objecting to the distinctly unlevel playing field of modern day football, the attitude of so many people is that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em and that somehow it really doesn’t matter who owns football. I happen to think it does matter, like I believe it matters when someone makes a commitment and signs a contract but I do understand this view is painfully old fashioned.