Lifting the lid on the world of football

The Secret Footballer
15 Dec, 2012

Guthrie reticence rings a bell

Rumours that do the rounds in football are, for the most part, based on a decent amount of insider knowledge. Occasionally, they are perpetuated by Chinese whispers. With that in mind, it is probably fair to say that the story I have heard about Danny Guthrie, the Reading midfielder, turning up for training whenever he feels like it is most likely somewhere between the two.

But what isn’t up for debate is that Guthrie refused to travel to the Stadium of Light for the match with Sunderland on Tuesday night, which Reading lost 3-0. What aren’t known yet are the facts, although Guthrie apparently apologised to Brian McDermott, the Reading manager, and the rest of his team-mates before training on Thursday.

But that hasn’t stopped people jumping on Guthrie’s back. When I read the story online late on Wednesday night, I was amazed at how many posters mentioned money in the comments section. Clearly, something is troubling Guthrie, and anybody wading in with their opinion using money as their core argument is missing the point.

To claim that he is a disgrace because he earns £30,000, £40,000 or £50,000 a week is completely ridiculous. That argument implies that there is a lower amount of money whereby he would cease to be a disgrace and, conversely, if he earned a higher level of wages, then he’d have travelled with the team regardless of his problems. Absolute rubbish.

If a player has something serious on his mind then, I’m sorry, no amount of money is going to un-ring that bell. We’ve all been there. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve buried my head in the pillow rather than answer the ringing phone that I know is about to tell me I’m late.

I have had many days when it wouldn’t matter if the Swedish women’s beach volleyball team have invited me over for a sauna and cocktails, nothing is getting me out of my bed. And that’s the thing a lot of people understandably have trouble coming to terms with about football. Some days, yes, it is the greatest job in the world; and, some days, it feels like the worst job in the world. The stand-out word in that last sentence is “job”.

That said, the fine of two weeks’ wages imposed on Guthrie by his manager suggests that perhaps he had simply thrown his toys out of the pram. Personally, I have never agreed with fining players; nobody has ever been able to tell me definitively how a place of business gets away with fining its employees. I would love to ask the PFA but we’re not really on speaking terms at the moment.

A lot of managers have tried to fine me down the years and, for the first few seasons, I did pay up. But only because I didn’t know any different. However, a senior professional with whom I’d been caught on a night out while we were both injured – I didn’t know that was a fine, by the way – informed me of an ingenious clause in our contract that I had overlooked.

He wrote a letter to the club secretary citing the absence of a written warning for a first offence. Without that written warning for a first offence, there could be no fine. At that time, a fine could only be issued for a repeat offence. I was particularly pleased when I found that out but less so when, years later, I found out that clause had been removed.

Don’t get me wrong. I have never set out to deliberately disobey my manager or the club or to let myself down but one man’s misbehaviour is another man’s free time and I will argue my case vehemently if I feel I am in the right. My fines have all come from naivety rather than a blatant disregard for the rules.

But it isn’t necessarily the big fines that piss me off. It is the little fines, for leaving a top or a water bottle on the training pitch. Everybody forgets from time to time but £50 here and there begins to add up over a season and I see that money as somebody taking the food out of the mouths of my family. I know that sounds a bit dramatic but it’s just a feeling that I’ve always had.

And what harm has Guthrie really done? OK, he wasn’t available to play for his team but, as a player, I wouldn’t want him there in that state of mind. If anything, he has issued a little cry for help – a “gesture”, I think they call it – and now that Reading are aware that there is a problem, hopefully they can deal with it and get him back on the pitch again and in the right frame of mind.

That is the main point to remember. OK, maybe he could have gone about making his problems known in a less public way but, when things get on top of you, sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees, isn’t it?

At this time of year, I think that, deep down, we all secretly have a soft spot for the pantomime villain. Aside from being a crude barometer for right and wrong, we are fully aware that he isn’t ever really going to hurt us.

About the author: The Secret Footballer


I’ve seen everything there is to see in football, and a lot more outside of it. My anonymity let’s me tell you how it is, from inside the game without the shackles of pre-conception or fan bias.

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  1. Joe R

    TSF, You object to fines but what other logical punishment can the club take if the player is guilty of an offence and breaking the rules? Players get paid very very well but it means the club almost “own” them. They can impose a lot of petty rules that players may not like or agree with but they have no option but to obey. How else can players be best disciplined except by hitting their pockets? Stand them in a corner?

  2. Paul

    Following your tweet re Balotelli – If I repeatedly behaved in a way which lead to my becoming unavailable to carry out the job I’m paid for, a period which had a significant impact on my effectiveness over the working year, I’d expect to have my wages docked. Is there a difference there

  3. Benjamin

    Some good points. I’m sick to death of hearing about player’s wages and how they should behave to a superhuman standard because of them. On the flip side, there are players who just don’t help themselves.

  4. Lulu

    Has a modern club ever sacked a player for breaking club rules? Seems footballers can get away with a lot more than most employees ever would – just look at Terry and Cole at Chelsea. Racism and shooting the work experience student doesn’t go down well in most work places. Fines seem an easy option for club and player.

  5. Saul

    I think the reason people cite Danny Guthrie’s wages in this case is because they often feel the same as him. They often feel the same as you felt, wanting to bury their head in the pillow instead of facing work again. I know I certainly have. The difference between Guthrie’s 30-50k a week and my not-even-30k a year is that his money and his talent allows him the flexibility to choose not to come into work if he really, really doesn’t want to.

    As a teacher, if I don’t have a damn good excuse, I’ve got to be in work in the morning, with lessons planned, ready to face that day’s classes. If I don’t have a good excuse, I’ll be suspended without pay or I’ll lose my job and then I won’t be able to pay my rent. If I don’t come into work this really does take food off my table — and it takes the table away with it!

    Danny, on the other hand, can presumably absorb a two week fine without too much of a fuss. He’s got that option. Even if he were to be fired by Reading (and let’s be realistic, that’d never happen; he’d be sold after a spell on the bench) he’d be able to find new and well-paid work next summer. He might have to go from 30k to 20k, perhaps, but he’d find another job in his field because his talent is in such high demand.

    I don’t think the “you’re a disgrace because you earn 30k/week and you don’t turn up for games” argument implies that if he earned less, he’d be less of a disgrace. It’s because 1) people think football isn’t a hard job and 2) we’d all love the Guthrie option sometimes, and it drives us up the wall that for us it’s impossible.

  6. David Richards

    “I would love to ask the PFA but we’re not really on speaking terms at the moment.” ….

    Any reason for the TSF/PFA fallout ?

  7. Peter Savage

    Some businesses have suspension without pay as a disciplinary sanction. A fine is the equivalent of that

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