Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On players and their connection to a team

I could go on. And on. And on and on and on.

As it stands, however, I've got about five minutes to crack this out. I'm doing so in the hopes that it may well drive me to expand on the thought when time permits. Whenever that may be. If you've been paying attention at all (of course you have!) you'll have noticed time is at a premium and Match Pricks has (ahem) evolved into the higher art of tossing off tweets whenever we come up with something.

This morning, while plowing through a bowl of Cheerios and some morning papers, I stumbled upon a piece in The Telegraph that tells me Tottenham have left Rafael Van der Vaart out of their Europa League squad. Yes, the pitfalls of a Europa League campaign are many, with matches on Thursday and a general requirement of miles upon miles of travel, but still, it struck me as odd that a team like Tottenham, with a genuine chance of success in the competition would leave out such a vital player. Now, it's important to note my schedule to this point of the Premier League season (heck, of all of the leagues) has left me wanting. I've essentially paid attention to the Arsenal matches, noted a few Liverpool matches (that sultry lover that they've become ... again, follow Twitter for that filth) and then have checked the other results on a mobile device while reaching for another Saturday afternoon beer. Priorities and all that.

Here's the article ... 

And here's what struck me so strongly ...

"Spurs could at least have consulted me. Anyway, it's up to the point of no return."

Spurs should have consulted you, Rafael? Spurs? I got news for you, buddy. You are Spurs. You wear that kit. Your pay stubs probably have a little Spurs logo on them. You train at their ground. You get treated by their staff. You are a Spurs player and therefore you are Spurs. 

That statement strikes me so strongly and plainly as a wonderful capsule of the modern footballer. I often talk about the habits of players on Twitter and the Club's inability to properly work with the players to express themselves in the right way in this new forum. And that ties in quite directly to Rafael's statement. Whether he says it in a press conference, in a personal blog, at a cafe with his friends and family or in a tweet (read: news release), it is a representation of his relationship with Tottenham Hotspur. It'd be the same for any player at any Club. 

A Club is an entity. A brand. They stand for something. They represent something. They offer football on the pitch and they offer a feeling in people's hearts (for better or worse). The players are representatives of that brand. Of that entity. They are ambassadors who carry that representation forward with them everyday in all they and in all they say. 

A relationship to a Club is not what you happen to be doing at the moment. It is deeper than that. Clubs need to do a better job of cultivating that with their players and the players need to do a better job of recognizing it.