Bacon’s Bites: Warm the bench or play the game. From the Premier League to Non-League... It’s your choice!
PUBLISHED: 19:30 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:05 22 February 2019
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In his weekly column, Mike Bacon puts the question do players move on to ‘bigger’ clubs but possibly not play. Or stay put, and continue to be the first on the team-sheet.
It’s a bit of a conundrum for footballers at all levels of the game.
If the opportunity arises, do you join a ‘bigger’ club, but in the knowledge you may not play every week?
Or do you stay put at a ‘smaller’ one, where you are a regular – one of the first names on the team sheet?
I say this as it has been rumoured this week that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is monitoring West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, 20, Crystal Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 21, and Leicester’s 22-year-old left-back Ben Chilwell as he looks to buy young British talent in the summer.
Financially, all would be great moves for the players, but will it mean game time? – Something all three are getting at the moment.
Of course the opportunity to join one of the world’s biggest clubs cannot be sniffed at and it is not players’ faults we live in a world where it is seen as a lack of ambition not to do so if handed the chance, even if the resultant move could see that player spend more time on the bench than on the pitch.
Much the same applies to non-league football.
I once talked to a Suffolk non-league player who was at Cambridge City many years ago.
He was determined to keep playing ‘as high a level as I can’, until he dropped back down the leagues when he felt he couldn’t perform at a high level any more.
But he wanted to play... Not bench-warm.
Today, even in non-league, rewards are getting bigger. But is the ambition?
It takes some non-league player to drop down a Step or two and take a pay cut, just so they can play regularly.
There are some out there who will do that. I tip my hat to them.
But back to the big bucks Premier League.
In the recent Man City v Chelsea clash, that City won 6-0, I’m sorry to remind Chelsea fans, the list of 14 substitutes that afternoon could make a Premier League team on its own!
Sane, David Silva, Mahrez, Otamendi, Jesus, Giroud, Willian, Christensen, Loftus-Cheek...
I know it’s nice to have a bit of quality on the bench, but that’s ridiculous.
I suppose for many of them, the crux will come at the end of their careers. All will be rich. Many will have medals. But who has the best on-pitch memories?
Matt Le Tissier spent his entire professional club career (1986-2002) with Southampton and won eight caps for England.
I listened to him speak at the Felixstowe & Walton sportsman’s dinner a few years ago. He was very good.
He admitted he had plenty of opportunities to move to a ‘bigger club’ and many felt he should have done so.
But he had little interest in doing so.
He stayed where he was happy – personally and professionally – played 540 games for the Saints and scored more than 200 goals.
No, he didn’t win a plethora of team medals, but Le Tissier played...And played...And played.
He scored spectacular goals, as well as a stunning 47 out of 48 penalty kicks.
He has a shedload of footballing memories, almost exclusively of his time actually playing the game.
I shouldn’t jest.
I mean professional footballers rarely come out with anything interesting.
Poor dears, so ‘media programmed’ they’ve forgotten the art of real conversation.
No wonder few get invited to speak at the Oxford Union!
So, while I do rather find it odd that Neymar would ‘cry for two days’ after breaking a metatarsal bone in his right foot in January, I should be grateful he at least grabbed my attention with the headline.
The Paris St-Germain and Brazilian star is out until April, having sustained the problem in a French Cup game against Strasbourg.
“I had a tough time getting over it,” the 27-year-old.
“I spent two days at home crying.”
OK, not earth shattering quotes and of course hardly factual, as you couldn’t possibly cry continiously for two days without stopping.
How would you cope when you go to shave or fall asleep?
In saying all that, PSG have said that Neymar will be out for around 10 weeks, meaning he will miss their Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester United, which the French side lead 2-0 after last week’s first leg at Old Trafford.
The second leg is in Paris on 6 March.
And in fairness, Neymar is a top, top player.
I admire his honesty, even if a trifle exaggerated.
The new Kings of Anglia magazine is out next week.
I do hope you enjoy it. Lots of ITFC bits, plenty of non-league. And if you have never read Portman Pete, you don’t know what you are missing!
We are up to Issue 10 already. Enjoy.