Date: 5th December 2012 at 4:00pm
Written by:

ON Tuesday afternoon, I accepted a job offer. I will be earning upwards of 18k a year (which is about average, in this day and age), with the prospects of quick progression.

It isn’t a great start but following months of unemployment, following a redundancy, it’s a lot more than most these days and I am thankful, grateful and will work myself into the ground for it like I always do.

Which brings me to the news that Raheem Sterling has supposedly turned his nose up at a £20k a week contract.

I also heard that he, and his partner, had abandoned Twitter this week and the general consensus is that it’s because he’s preparing for the backlash from turning that down in order to move to a ‘bigger’ club. As Jamie Carragher rightly stated many years ago – when you’re playing for Liverpool, where is there left to go but down?

My own situation over the past few months has really put the greed of the modern day footballer (and their despicable agents) into perspective and I feel that something needs to be done from a grass-roots level.

‘Grass-roots’: it’s a wonderful term. It brings to mind ‘jumpers for goal-posts’ and kids knocking a ball around in the park to hone their skills, whilst young tennis players and cricketers get state of the art facilities to train and the disparity between the professions at that stage couldn’t be wider – football just doesn’t get the same amount of attention or respect at that level.

Things have come on a lot since the days of the ‘YTS’ player, but despite the FA and Premier League funding things aren’t all that great, unless you’re a shining young beacon selected to attend St. George’s Park (or, formerly, Lilleshall).

Once these wide-eyed young lads graduate from their academies though, and get the scent of fame and fortune into their nostrils, they immediately seem to set about draining the club, the game and, more importantly, the fan, of their money and their faith in loyalty and humility. I use the rumours of Sterling’s refusal to sign a £20k a week contract as an example but there are more, and worse, that I could use but Raheem is closer to home and therefore much more pertinent.

When this topic comes up in football (which is often), I always come back to the same point: the lack of any kind of real education that most of our footballers get. In the likes of Spain, Germany and the Scandinavian nations, education is valued, which is why their footballers are more willing to move abroad. In England, however, education takes an enormous back-seat once a young footballer is ‘discovered’ and I believe this may contribute to how so many of our young players allow their agents to wring every last pound out of their clubs and then stab them in the back at the soonest opportunity.

If you look at other footballing models, loyalty and education go hand-in-hand. One of the first I can remember (I’m only 31, mind) is Dinamo Kiev. After they reached the Champions League semi’s in 1998-99 and came right out of left-field, I read up on the club a lot. They had numerous home-grown players and had a hugely impressive side, all said.

Kiev, you see, took their players on at a very tender age and trained them into the likes of Andriy Shevchenko. They also educated them, housed them, fed them and made them grateful for what they earned and for what they became. And if you could find a more humble or self-effacing (not to mention, respected) footballing professional as the Ukrainian legend, then I’d be surprised – the man can also speak a number of languages and knows his worth but doesn’t overstep the mark.

Then you can look at Barca – as a more recent example – of a club that nurtures and educates its young charges into immense footballers with great intelligence and great humility. Could there ever be a more impressive example of both of these than Lionel Messi? I mean, I’d be surprised if Ronaldo hadn’t won at least as many awards by now if he was a bit more self-deprecating and didn’t announce himself as the world’s most epic human.

You only have to look at professionals that have played for Liverpool in the past 10 years such as Zenden, Hamann, Hyypia – all of these men were easily worthy of more but they were content to earn what the club offered and respected the club, in full.

Jamie Carragher is perhaps the best example of being aware of one’s worth though, after he was supposed to have quipped, when asked at the weekend ‘How old are you now, Jamie?’, he replied, ‘Old enough to earn £50k a week’.

It is clear that footballers such as Jamie and Andriy have humility and respect to spare. They know their worth and they would never ask for more than they are worth, unless the club offered. So perhaps, rather than having media training during their early years, young footballers should have some training in humility too?

Education may be too much to ask (if the likes of Terry, Rooney, et al are anything to go by) but humility should be expected of any human being and footballers shouldn’t be any different.

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