There has been lots of media coverage of PDC’s stern ways with lack of effort, truancy, inappropriate behaviour out of school and seriously bad marks. We’ve done our share at Salut! Sunderland and this is something Monsieur Salut prepared earlier – namely for his pages at ESPNFC.com. When I said in my most recent piece there that we could expect more of the same to come, I was aware of the anonymous player who’d called in claiming to be suffering from food poisoning before retreating into telephone silence for hours. I was unaware of the Bramble fine for whatever it was he did or didn’t do in training.
But this – and it could become another series – is my way of welcoming at that ESPN site a tougher approach to player power …
What is it, asked Ken Gambles — a contributor to Salut! Sunderland’s series of necessarily gloomy end-of-season reviews — about footballers in night clubs and 50-pound notes?
He was referring to the unseemly episode in which Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley was photographed lying on the floor of a casino surrounded by money of that denomination.
Bardsley, an all-heart plodder whose limitations had already placed a question mark over his continued Sunderland career, was promptly excluded from the squad for the final game at Tottenham Hotspur Sunday and heavily fined by coach Paolo Di Canio. PDC also went a step beyond internal disciplinary procedures and public castigated his player, implying he would soon be plying his trade elsewhere.
Courtesy of Jake/Salut SunderlandSunderland supporters have gotten the message that Paolo Di Canio intends to run a tight ship.
Gambles went on to recount a story of the Chelsea full-back Ashley Cole’s alleged riposte when someone started playing “keepie-uppie” with an empty can in a London club before asking the player if he could do that, too. If Gambles’s informant is correct, Cole replied by producing a 50-pound note and setting fire to it with the words “Can you do that?”
Football folklore has it that Stan Collymore, once a hellraiser with a nasty temper but these days a reformed character whose radio punditry is punchy and entertaining, did something similar when a player at Nottingham Forest. Even the build-up might have been a model for Cole’s tormentor; man in club taunts Collymore — along the lines of “anything you can do, so can I” — only for the player to light a cigar using a £50 note and say: “Do that then.”
At least West Bromwich Albion defender Liam Ridgwell showed some sense of proportion in economic times most fans find tough. When photographed apparently wiping his backside with bank notes, he had settled for the £20 variety.
My sympathies are rarely with arrogant and obscenely overpaid footballers who show disrespect for supporters, whether by acting dismissively at chance encounters or cutting themselves off with hoodies, shades and earphones from the least prospect of human contact. Ridgewell’s gesture was offensive in a childish sort of way even if we accept his protestations that it was all a spot of fun intended only for a friend’s eyes.
* See the full series of 2013 End-of-season reviews at this link: https://safc.blog/category/end-of-season-reviews-2013/
In the case of Bardsley, what we have seen in newspapers and online was a mixture of tomfoolery and naivety. It was made worse, in his manager’s judgement, by the lateness of his midweek outing, with the important matter of pride left to play for a few days later at White Hart Lane, and by an appearance at training next day that led PDC to believe he had also had his fill of drink (which Bardsley denies).
But my attitude about the Cole and Collymore incidents is more measured. When Gambles rounded off his anecdote by asking “What is it about Premiership players and £50 notes?”, my aside read: “But also, what is it about football fans in night clubs who relish the opportunity for a wind-up when they spot someone famous?”
Of course, I have no first-hand or otherwise reliable evidence that either exchange between fan and player happened as described. What I am arguing is that even if one or both did, the response — while cocky — was understandable. Spotting celebrities in night clubs and trying to embarrass or provoke them is hardly the conduct of intelligent people; I can forgive an expensive, smart-aleck rebuff a lot more readily than I can a contemptuous refusal to sign a boy’s autograph at the players’ entrance.
But for all my previous and, to some extent, lingering misgivings about Paolo Di Canio, I am warming to his style of man-management. There is naturally a respectable argument for a default system of keeping disciplinary matters in-house or saying publicly no more than needs saying.
There is an even stronger case for leaving players who have essentially failed in their jobs in not the slightest doubt that exemplary and, if necessary, public punishment awaits anyone daft enough to act in a way liable to bring their club or themselves into disrepute.
After the stern PDC lecture — even before the Bardsley affair — threatening shortened holidays for any player who failed to show the required commitment for the final game, Salut! Sunderland’s Photoshop wizard Jake portrayed PDC as a cane-wielding headmaster (as seen above) intent on meting out painful retribution to slackers.
Bardsley may consider himself, metaphorically, the first casualty of a rigorous new regime for the misdemeanour that meant he was not even considered for the game. I suspect he will not be the last.
See all Salut! Sunderland’s articles recalling May 5 1973 and the run that took SAFC to FA Cup glory: https://safc.blog/category/fa-cup/may-5-1973/