I wrestled with my conscience on June 30th. Despite my writing pretensions, my profession is that of an educator and I took the decision to not join my colleagues in taking industrial action against an unfair policy by a government determined to destroy any last vestiges of communal brotherhood left in this country. As a member of an unashamedly left-wing family, I made the heavy choice to walk through the school-gate and become something I never imagined I’d be labelled; a ‘scab’.
As a younger man, I took part in numerous marches and rallies, proudly walked down the street in a Che Guevara t-shirt, listened earnestly to Billy Bragg’s lyrics. In many respects, I was Rik from The Young Ones, without the flaring nostrils or propensity for spontaneous acts of violence.
But just as Bob Dylan so cuttingly eviscerated his youthful call-to-arms by telling us all in his latter years that “I used to care but things have changed”, the harsh reality of life’s responsibilities and priorities made it manifest to me that I had no choice. I am one of those culpable for the sorry economic mess the country is in today. Maybe you are too?
I borrowed voraciously in the early part of this century and filled my gullet with all manner of material insignificancies. I maxed credit card after credit card. And now, I have a two-month old daughter and a wife to support and a roof to keep over their heads. In that sense, my decision was made for me. You can pontificate all you want about the unity of unions and the red flag, but however harsh it may sound, the NUT will not change any nappies for me. In the end, you need to look after your own.
So why shouldn’t that also be the case for Luka Modric and other want-away stars? I wrote a piece for this very website in December lambasting the craven attempts of Messrs Tevez and Rooney to hold their employers to ransom with threats of departure. It was clear that both players had manipulated the means at their disposal to engineer a wage increase to fill their already bulging bank accounts. I stand by my condemnation of them then. Their actions were underhand and it was with some consternation on my part that they were so willingly and eagerly welcomed back into their respective folds.
Modric’s case is slightly different though. He has consistently shone in a midfield at Spurs which unfortunately does not come close to being comparable to his unique flair and talent. It took him a while to adjust to the cultural and physical differences to the game in England but throughout his time at White Hart Lane it can never be said that he was not one hundred per cent committed to the club. It came as no surprise therefore, that Modric’s star began to rise even more so during Spurs’ intoxicatingly thrilling adventure in last season’s Champions League. The initial flush of Gareth Bale’s heroics have cooled slightly now and it is evident that the true jewel in Harry Redknapp’s crown is the Croatian playmaker.
Consequently, having squandered the chances given to them that would have clinched a second consecutive season amongst Europe’s elite, it cannot have come as any kind of surprise to Daniel Levy and Redknapp that Modric would crave another chance at testing himself against the very best rather than slumming it around Europe for a season in cities that do not have the illustrious allure of cities like Milan and Madrid.
A player’s career is short. As fans we make a big noise about the concept of loyalty but footballers, be they Modric, Ashley Young or Samir Nasri are employees. Some people are happy to work in the same places, to live in the same towns, to drive the same cars for an entire lifetime. Tony Adams, Trevor Brooking and Matthew Le Tissier were happy to stay put. Most people, however, want to better themselves.
Modric wants to play for a ‘bigger’ club and however depressing a reality that might seem to Spurs fans, his aspirations for success cannot be obstructed or resented. Because during his time at the club, he has given his best. That cannot ever be denied. This is what separates him from the likes of Rooney, of Tevez and of Sol Campbell who really did do a dastardly act when he turned his back on Spurs.
The transfer window is now open and the Modric saga will no doubt rumble on throughout its duration. Levy will continue to flex his muscles and release soundbites of bullish bluster but when a player has stated his desire to move on there really isn’t very much a club can do to keep him. What purpose would keeping a disgruntled employee on the payroll really serve? Team unity would inevitably be jeopardised and that cannot be productive if the challenges of the coming season are to be successfully negotiated. Levy’s duties are to the shareholders, Modric’s are to himself and his family. And that is understandable.
It can be viewed that my decision to not down tools was letting down a worthy cause. But in the final analysis, like Modric, I give my all in the classroom on a daily basis. The only team that truly deserves my full and undivided attention though, is the team I have at home; my wife and my daughter. Other people can fight the bigger battles. My conscience is clear. As should Modric’s be if indeed he finds a new home in West London or Manchester in the coming weeks.
(photo credit: frederic jon on Flickr)