Saturday, May 1, 2010

Assou-Ekotto only plays for Spuds for the money

"I don't understand why everybody lies. The president of my former club Lens, Gervais Martel, said I left because I got more money in England, that I didn't care about the shirt. I said: "Is there one player in the world who signs for a club and says, Oh I love your shirt?" Your shirt is red. I love it. He doesn't care. The first thing that you speak about is the money."

- Benoît Assou-Ekotto, in a disarmingly honest interview

You've got to hand it to Assou-Ekotto. Most players in his situation (talented enough to play in the Premier League, not talented enough to shine) would keep their mouths shut, put their heads down and toe the company line. They'd say that it's an honour to pull on the shirt, that it's an honour to play for the club, that it's an honour to be loved by the fans.... and that they'd still play for the club for free, if they had to. It's common sense - unless you've the ability of a Ronaldo or an Arshavin, it's better not to make a name for yourself. Otherwise, people might start to question why you're earning such large amounts of money for running hard, kicking hard and sticking it up some foreigners.

Assou-Ekotto, on the other hand, freely admits that he plays football for the money. And beside the obvious dig that the only reason ANYONE would play for Tottenham would be for money, what he says is quite striking - he doesn't care personally for the footballers in his team (although he agrees that they're good guys), and he sees it as a 9 to 5 with obscene wages and a very early retirement. However, because he treats it as a job, he's also thoroughly professional and gives each training session and each match his full attention.

Makes you wish that some of the Arsenal players were only in it for the money.

Of course, most football fans want players to have some connection to the club. It's nice to read about how your captain loves the club and wants to stay the rest of his career. It's nice to see the academy kids come through the ranks and play with the same club they've been at since they were 11. It might just be a platitude, but it's reassuring to believe that the players care about the club as much as we do. Otherwise, we're stripped of the illusion and left with the reality that we're contributing a lot of money to make a bunch of young 20-somethings exceedingly rich for something they may not give a toss about.

But still, I think that as long as the player gives his best on the pitch, and isn't a complete tosser off it, it's good enough for me. Football is a results-orientated business. I'd rather we sign a pay-check player who's professional enough to not fuck up every game, rather than a good guy who loves the manager and the club but who has a game-fade every match. At the moment, I think we've enough of the latter at the Arsenal.

We're up for a few signings in the summer. Chamakh will be announced before the World Cup. Gallas will probably leave, and we'll bring in another defender to replace him. And as for the third? I'm hoping a goalkeeper - no real preference on whom, just anyone who's better than Almunia and Fabianski.

Whoever our new players will be, I bet there'll be a great show of kissing of badges, love for the club, admiration for Wenger, and belief in our rolling 5-year-plan and our glorious youth project. Really, I don't care anymore, I just want a sustained effort at the Premier League next season and an end to the fuck-ups that cost us year after year after year.

On the 357th last day of my 20s, I went to work, read a bit more Northanger Abbey, was offered a personal make-over in a few weeks time by my nurse (similar advice as last week - glasses, hair gel, nice T-shirts), and had a nap. I find myself increasingly tired on a Saturday afternoon, and often need a nap. I've asked around, and it seems common with people of my age. I'm left wondering whether I should admit the inevitable and buy a couple of cardigans and comfortable slippers.

Northanger Abbey is a strange, strange book. It's so self-consciously proud of the talent of the author. It's so eager to impress. The introductory essay in my edition describes it as juvenila, and I'm being to suspect it's true. This book is like the origin film in a super-hero franchise. You can't read the book without having one eye on the future.

Also, I think Henry Tilney's a bit of a tosser.

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