Wild rumours spark player unrest
Transfer deadline day is an exciting time for players and fans alike. The dressing-room is full of rumours about new players coming in and current players leaving. As a player, you try to not get too involved in it, but it’s impossible not to.
It’s all well and good hearing about these players coming in who are going to help your team get to the next level but when you hear the whisper that someone is signing in your position then everything changes. Am I going to be out of the team? Am I being moved on? Am I not good enough any more?
All these things run through your head and, believe me, it’s an unsettling time. I’ve been on both sides. Seeing a player coming in to the dressing-room to replace me and me going into a new dressing-room to replace someone else, who won’t be too happy.
A few years ago, I had a situation that I read completely wrong. I went on loan to another club and, after training, we had dinner and I saw a lad across the table constantly staring at me. It was a look of “You’re here to take my place, are you?” I went home, waiting for this lad to continue his dislike of me, and yet, to my surprise, we trained the next day and he didn’t even play in my position. He said later on that it was just his way of weighing me up. I was young at the time and felt uncomfortable but, as time went on, we became great friends.
On another occasion, I was at a club where the transfer window had been a bit quiet until the last day. I was still young and had been fortunate enough to play against some players who I had once had posters of on my bedroom wall.
Anyway, this particular last day of the transfer window, I came in from training into the dressing-room and there, sat across from me, was one of my heroes, who had just signed for our club. I instantly went back to this little kid who had idolised him on television and gone out on to the local park and pretended to be him, trying things he would do on the pitch.
I’m sure it looked bad as I just stared at him and, eventually, he came over and we shook hands. He was officially my team-mate. I was in awe for a while until I got to know him and what a genuine, unassuming guy he was. He was coming to the end of his career – and what he hadn’t done in the game wasn’t really worth talking about – yet he was still the first out in the morning and last one in after training.
I guess a few dressing-rooms are like that at the moment. Players delighted at incomings and players also wondering during the international break whether their number is up. Some new signings settle and some never do.
I was at one club which signed a player who had just had a great European championship. Our club saw it as a great coup that we had signed this player. He came in and seemed to hit the ground running. Then a couple of poor games later, it all got too much for him and he struggled badly. It was a new environment for him.
English dressing-rooms can be quite daunting for some foreign lads and they either take to it straight away or they really find it hard to adjust. We tried our hardest with this lad but he couldn’t get to grips with the mentality or the humour in the dressing-room and, within six months, a world beater had been turned into a shadow of his former self.
He left and his career really stuttered from there. It was a shame because he was a good player; it was just that this country didn’t suit him. Eventually, he resurrected his career, which was good to see because he was a good lad.
To last weekend’s games and it looks like West Ham have pulled off a masterstroke in signing Andy Carroll. I know he didn’t score in West Ham’s 3-0 victory over Fulham but he tormented and bullied the Fulham defence to near-submission, which allowed the undervalued Kevin Nolan to pull the strings behind him. It’s good to see Carroll playing again and wreaking havoc in defences. Robin van Persie has also been a great signing for Manchester United and his impressive hat-trick dragged them over the finishing line against Southampton at St Mary’s yesterday.
Many of the new signings couldn’t play over the weekend due to ineligibility but I’m sure that, come two weeks’ time, I will be waxing lyrical about them. Enjoy the international break, whichever country you follow, and look forward to seeing your new signings in action. I certainly will be.