Loyalty not the issue in Barry move to Liverpool

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A lot of phrases are overused in football.

Managers saying “I couldn’t actually see the penalty incident from where I was sitting,” for example, or players continually saying they’ll “take each game as it comes.”

But one of the most overused, inaccurate phrases in the game is when fans say: “The problem with players today is they’ve got no loyalty.”

I’m probably biased because I’m usually the one being blamed for it, but let’s go back to the beginning l– not of time but the early days of professional football.

Some people would have you believe that players back then would turn out for their local side for just enough money to keep them in Woodbines and were happy in the knowledge that the local barber would cut their hair for free.

Unfortunately for the whimsical, this has never been the case.

"Once a Blue, always a Blue" 

As soon as the game started having any level of organisation, players have always looked for the best deals possible and clubs have continually tried to pinch the best players.

Many of the first professional footballers were the best Scottish players being persuaded to move to England by the lure of good jobs if they played for a new works team.

And though it may be shocking to hear, clubs these days are very liberal with the word “loyalty.”

When a club wants to retain the services of the player, they expect great loyalty from him. Yet when they want to recruit a player from elsewhere, he should be putting football first and not staying where he is through a misguided sense of loyalty.

Many playing contracts actually have loyalty bonuses in them, thus encouraging a player to stay and collect it. A number of Premier League clubs have now stopped paying the traditional signing-on fee and have replaced it with a loyalty bonus.

Could the reason for this be that if a club sells a player while he is under contract, FA regulations state that he is entitled to any signing-on fees due but not to any loyalty bonuses? Just a thought…

Bizarrely I’ve even had instances where clubs have actually tried to sell a player in order to avoid paying him a large loyalty bonus.

Last year I was involved in one of the highest profile non-transfers ever: Gareth Barry’s on-off transfer to Liverpool.

"You must never leave. NEVER" 

A number of fans pilloried Gareth for wanting to leave and accused him of having a lack of loyalty (they weren’t very happy with me for my part in it either!).

But Gareth had been at Aston Villa for over 10 years. He had rejected numerous opportunities to leave and spurned chances to earn far more money away from Villa Park.

How can that be disloyal? 

And how does that view fit with the fact that Aston Villa pinched him from Brighton in the first place as a 16-year-old? I can only assume that they were pleased then that he decided to advance his career rather than staying loyal to his hometown club.

The truth is that sometimes players are selfish and want to look after themselves. But it’s just as true that clubs do the same. And it’s not because they have lost their “loyalty” – they simply never really had it.

Football is no different from the rest of life. Lack of loyalty in the game is not the fault of players, clubs or, dare I say it, agents. It’s human nature. It’s never changed and it never will.

Read Alex Black's blogs here on Find out more about his clients at Football First Agency

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