Taylor Made: a cynical look at the A to Z of footballers’ origins

Jake and Bill

Bill Taylor remembers someone says football becoming like watching their Italians play your Italians. If he is right about the authorship of the quote – he thinks Len Shackleton may have said it – and a quick internet search did not help – imagine what Shack would have made of today’s Premier League. Bill wonders whether it’s time to acknowledge that when we shout for our team, we’re really shouting for ourselves …

Too much is never enough – songwriter Jim Steinman

Whore (verb): to compromise oneself for money

Perhaps we’ve been doing this all wrong…

A popular question for visiting writers of Who Are You is, “Club or country?” [It was a stock question but you remind me I have not asked anyone in ages – Ed]

I don’t remember anyone ever putting country first. This might, I’m beginning to think, be a mistake.

Much has been made of Jordan Pickford’s local ties – a Washington lad who came up through the Academy of Light. Even his blood corpuscles are red and white!

In a textbook example of “do as I say, not as I do,” Sunderland-saviour-until-he-wasn’t Sam Allardyce reportedly fought off an approach for Pickford from ManU shortly before breaking his own contract and selling his soul for a mess (to put it mildly) of lukewarm national pottage.

At least he’s now at the helm of a squad who all call England home and aren’t playing internationals for the money – match fees wouldn’t cover the players’ Coke bills (the ones, that is, who drink a lot of cola…) The selection may be all wrong but perhaps that might change under Allardyce.

As for club football … years and years ago, I remember someone – it might even have been Len Shackleton – dourly commenting that it was becoming a matter of “our Italians playing their Italians”.

The ethnic mix has broadened since then – a veritable A to Z, Albania to Zimbabwe. Football has become a global commodities market.

Skill translates into money and if you’re sexy, you get on TV more and that kicks up your earnings still further. It’s why Leicester, in spite of its flash-in-the-pan miracle last season, didn’t rake in as much as the likes of Arsenal and Man City. They didn’t get as much screentime.

As any Sunderland fan knows, we’ve never been on the programmers’ “must have” list. Which means less of a kitty to share out among the squad.

It’s not that our players do badly. Some of them are paid quite obscene sums of money. Until you look at the truly obscene amounts other clubs shell out.

Sunderland’s wage bill for the 2015-16 season reportedly was £71 million. That sounds monstrous until you consider that Chelsea’s – £215.6 million – was three times as high.

So why settle for less when all you have to do is change your stripes?

If Jordan Pickford realises his potential – and please let him very quickly do so – it’ll only be a matter of time before a club willing to pay him more than Ellis Short dangles the keys to a faster, fancier Ferrari under his nose.

He’s not likely to come over all Roy-of-the-Rovers-ish and say, “Thank you, no, this is my spiritual home and I will have no other.” Or words to that effect.

He’ll move on and someone else will move in, telling us how delighted he is to have joined one of the all-time great clubs and how much he looks forward to his time with us and giving us his all. The sort of thing Big Sam said when he took over the reins.

I’m not – absolutely not – saying we should stop supporting Sunderland. I was born a Mackem and I’ll die a Mackem. The Black Cats are my team. But I’m a realist, too… or a cynic, if you’d rather. The hometowns of our players seldom cross my mind.

Let us by all means continue to pack the SoL and blithely meander up and down the country to savour (or not) the skills on display before us. But let’s have no illusions – we’re cheering on a town, a name, a set of colours. You might even say we’re cheering on ourselves. And why not? Who’s like us?

Otherwise, it’s just our ethnics and generic Brits playing their ethnics and generic Brits. Any local content is purely coincidental and – “just sign here” – almost certainly transitory.

Which is why our passion should perhaps also be more nationalistic – England for the English, so to speak. Club AND country. Homegrown players who are in the team largely, if not entirely, on merit and not because of the pay cheque. They may lose a lot but we can take comfort in knowing that they really are OUR losers.

Now if we could only get them to drive Aston Martins rather than Ferraris…

7 thoughts on “Taylor Made: a cynical look at the A to Z of footballers’ origins”

  1. There’s a book waiting to be written on that subject. No one could argue that it doesn’t happen but… why? Okay, there was (and perhaps still is) a drinking culture at the club but that’s hardly unique. On paper we have almost everything going for us except for our perennial position in the table and an owner who lacks both knowledge and open-handedness. But again, that’s hardly unique.

  2. Something must be inherently rotten at the very heart of our football club if we cannot attract decent players to come and play in front of 45,000 fans every game. We having players going off to the backwaters of Turkey, players who would rather go that sporting and cultural mecca that is Kingston Upon Hull, players who have no interest whatsoever when Sunderland is mentioned? Are these players (and agents) aware of something that makes us such a bad move?

  3. At my great age, you must expect more and more howlers of that sort. Thanks, John for the quick fix

  4. “If he is WRITE about the authorship…” shome mishtake, shurely?”
    Yeah, I Googled the quote, too, and couldn’t find it. But I absolutely remember it being said.

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