Socceroo Shot-Stopper Is Badly Positioned

MARK SCHWARZER has picked a bad time for his contract brinksmanship. The golden oldie keeper wants a new deal to give him “security” up to the next World Cup in 2010 and has been rattling the cage Down Under to nudge the club into action.
The Socceroo shot-stopper has just 12 months to go on his current deal and you can’t blame him for looking to the future but thinly veiled threats that he will let his contract run down and walk away on a free – “doing a Viduka” as it is now known on Teesside – if he does not get what he wants will force the club into making some tough decisions at a time when several underlying factors are starting to conspire against him.
The Golden Oldie – he wants a deal to take him up to the age of 37 – is raising the stakes at a time when the club is taking a conscious turn to youth and to players who are committed and want to play for the club …. and a time when there are a lot of quality keepers on the market.

The Aussie outlined the situation succinctly and honestly in the Oz press, to much gnashing and wailing among supporters back home, many who have long ambiguous about his ability.

“What I want to do is be settled and have my future settled up until the next World Cup and the question is whether that will happen at Middlesbrough or somewhere else. I’ve got to the stage where I’ve been at Middlesbrough for 10Âœ years and I’ve given them very good loyalty and service. If that means I need to move on and go elsewhere, then that’s not a problem, I’ll do so.”

“There’s a lot of factors involved. I’ve got one year left on my contract, so if they don’t want to let me go they don’t have to accept any transfer fee for me. By the same token, we don’t need to agree to a new contract and come January, I can talk to anyone I want to within Europe.”

That’s fair enough. Everyone knows the moves of the ritual dance when the clock ticks down on a contract. If he doesn’t get what he wants he will move – and to underline the reality of that threat and claim some moral high-ground he invoked the case of compatriot Mark Viduka.
Boro took a high-risk approach to the striker contract and did not make a concrete offer of a new deal in his final year, preferring instead to hold out the possibility of a bumper contract as a motivational tool, a strategy that proved succesful on the pitch and brought a storming finale to the season from the Aussie but which ultimately failed to prevent him moving despite a belated and generous offer of almost £60,000 a week. The approach had been used the year before with George Boateng when Boro let his contract run out then made a once and only full and final offer and told him ‘if you can get better, then go’. You win some, you lose some.

“I’ve taken it to be quite normal at Middlesbrough, they do leave things very, very late and they tend to do things only when they’re under pressure to do something. It’s unfortunate because it’s not just with me, it’s with other players like Mark. You would think with the more experienced players and the important players in the squad you would look to tie them down earlier and not let things drag on but for some reason, and unbeknown to most of us, Middlesbrough tend to leave it until very late to sort it out. “

There is an element of playing to the gallery in those quotes. Rather than it being “unbeknown” to the players, in fact the dressing room are well awarer of the club’s stance. And he will no doubt be aware of the nature of the club’s offer to Viduka. Boro certainly weren’t forcing the striker into penury and at the end of the day it was his choice to leave. Schwarzer appears to be trying to use the widespread discontent over the Viduka saga and his departure to one of the Boro’s most bitter rivals to twist the club’s arm a bit, and you can’t blame him for that but it may have been ill-advised for him to talk so openly.
Going public is a double-edged sword as while many will think he has a valid point about Boro’s negotiating position just as many will have their hackles raised by some of his comments – and indeed by his frequent reference to Boro as them rather than us – and will not take kindly to seeing the club held to ransome, especially by one of the better paid players. And certainly not by one who already divides opinion.
The timing is all wrong for Schwarzer to be involved in a public raising of the stakes. Firstly, the club is has made a recent high-profile statement of intent about the type of players it wants as Gareth Southgate carries out his own revolution: younger players with a hunger and passion for the game and a commitment to Boro. “Players who want to play for Middlesbrough Football Club and who are past their best and just here for a pay day” as Keith Lamb explained and Steve Gibson later underlined. In short, the very people Mark Schwarzer will be negotiating with have already made a mental leap to a new demographic at Boro.
Secondly, it comes at a time when the club are wheeling and dealing in order to reshuffle the pack. Yakubu is a key player yet there are plenty of hints that he may well be sacrificed to release the funds to rebuild the team in other areas. If there are so many balls in the air and demands on resources the prospect of Schwarzer being a chip to be cashed in may even help . If he has threatened to do a Viduka and leave for nothing next Summer it may force the club’s hand and prompt them to sell now – he may realise £1m-£2m – in order to fund his own replacement.
Schwarzer has been a great servant to the club and his statistics make him a brilliant value for money buy. He has played in two Wembley finals, was outstanding in the Cardiff cup triumph, made a penalty save from Robbie Fowler at Manchester City that clinched a first ever European qualification and was key to keeping Boro on the road to Eindhoven with brilliant displays at Rome and Bucharest.
His contribution and ability was spelled out by Southgate earlier this year as he clocked up ten years at the club and it is hard to disagree that he has been a great player.
But there are plenty of keepers up for grabs right now who offer just as much and who are younger, hungrier and, crucially, represent a better investment over the next three years. Jerzy Dudek is available on a free, Jussi Jaskelinien is going cheap and Scott Carson could possibly be lured away for £3m. Carlo Cudicini could be rescued from Chelsea reserves. All would be better long term prospects for a club looking to launch a new era than an ageing custodian who is “not sure what he’s doing at the moment” and who thinks leaving the club that has given him glory and riches for a decade is “not a problem”.
Such a nonchalent appraisal of his position at the club will not go down well with passionate fans who care beyond cold blooded employment realities and who make an unconditional emotional investment. They expect the players to be heroes: to fight and belief and show steel and spirit in the service of the club. They make a fetish of commitment. Where they will tolerate – just – a player of questionable ability who busts a gut they will not accept a talented one without the heart for the fight who thinks he is doing the club a favour by being there.
Which makes the timing and insenstivity of his ill-judged Aussie outburst all the more incredible because it is those passionate fans that Schwarzer will be expecting to fork out for his testimonial tickets and ultimately pay his wages. For all his years of service he now faces a backlash from some sections of the crowd and has made himself the boo-boy elect.
He has already blotted his copy-book once after slapping in a transfer request in January 2006, a dummy spitting incident that followed hot on the heels of a dressing down from Steve McClaren and being dropped in favour of Aussie understudy Brad Jones following a poor punch handed Newcastle a late leveller as the relegation battle hotted up.
Back then he made it clear he expected to be quickly snapped up and he was widely “linked” with Arsenal and Manchester United. In fact the only club who inquired were then struggling Portsmouth who quickly backed off when they found out how much he was being paid. With no takers before the transfer window closed he ate humble pie and came off the list and to be fair, upped his performance levels and was among the best of the bunch in the UEFA Cup run.
Despite a “link” with Bayern Munich it is hard to see how the transfer geography has changed too much. There will no doubt be interest if he did make noises about moving but would it be from clubs at the same level? Would they pay the same wages? And would he get the three years he needs to take him through to the 2010 World Cup? I doubt it.
Which raises another point. He said there had been some interest. Look…

“My agent is in discussions with Middlesbrough and they’ve indicated that they want to offer me a new contract, but as yet we haven’t agreed to any terms. Plus there is interest from other clubs – one or two in England but a couple from abroad as well.”

How can that be? He is not on the transfer list. No one has agreed a fee. Surely any such contact from another club, no matter how superficial, would constitute an illegal approach?


75 thoughts on “Socceroo Shot-Stopper Is Badly Positioned

  1. Chris Gibson
    Many Villa fans loved Lee Hendrie. That Irish oaf O’Leary, ridiculed the lad, but he kept his spirits going, which was the main thing.
    He is a bit baby faced, which is probably why he has trouble getting into a pub. However, I think his flair would be an asset to the club and go along with your shout.
    I read a mention of Schwarzer joining a German club who have qualified for next season’s Champions league today.
    He couldn’t catch Stan Boardman’s chips in that company.

  2. I’m with the big aussie on this one. Everyone knows that I cant stand keith bloody lamb and i always hear how hes lost us many a player in the way he does his business.
    Ive always been a fan of schwarzy and think that he’s been the best keeper we’ve had, hes been better than pears for me and i cant see that there is much better out there on offer.
    I’d give him a bumber deal purely and simply because i think that hes the best we’d get, but then thats just my opinion.
    At 34 its just plain stupid to say that hes past it. As a keeper hes got quite a few top class years ahead of him and i for one hope that its with us.
    Contract brinksmanship AV ? Why the hell not? In football youre everybodys friend whilst they want you and when they dont its adios without a moments thought and they ship someone else in as if you never existed, so why should footballers themselves play it any otherway ?
    Loyalty ? Do me a favour. As if mr lamb has any idea what this means, or mr gibson or 99.9% of managers for that matter. In football youre traded just like a piece of meat and players know it and expect it and so why we should expect loyalty or fair play from them is beyond me.

  3. AV – on another subject, please tell me that our next spectacular signing will not be Lee Hendrie.

  4. Hendrie and Hulse. Spectacular? I can think of other words more appropriate.
    I dont think either are better than we have and would be squad players though they do have talents. Hulse would give running and power up front, Hendrie is a capable midfield player.
    There is still Nugent who is acting like my wife – there is a pair of shoes out there but I am buggered if I can find them, I will just try another shop. I guess he is waiting for Everton but it must be worth a shot.

  5. There is a very sober – and none too encouraging – assessment of our upcoming season in The Times this morning.
    To sum up – ‘a struggle for mediocrity and survival; particularly if Yakubu goes and even if Smith or Defoe come in’.
    I can see why they come to this conclusion but much will depend on the next lot of signings we make.
    Does The Yak go and if he does, who comes in to replace him? If it is Defoe, Smith or Saviola that’s one thing. If it’s Hulse from The Blades (no, thankyou!) as was being suggested over the weekend, that’s quite another.
    Are we going to fill our need for a box-to-box midfielder? If so, is it Hendrie (N0, NO, NO!!!!) a 30 year old Villa reject with a chequered past who couldn’t even get into the Stoke side last season.
    Recruiting Hendrie, like Hulse, would give a signal that we plan to be down amongst the dead men.
    No sign of the long fabled Icelandic right back (a saga in its own right) – or indeed any other (having let Baird slip through the net). No sign of anyone to fill in on the right of midfield and stories that Gera is going to go elsewhere.
    No sign of the right sort of decisive action on Old Scissorhands – either do the deal or get rid and replace from outside our current crop NOW – not January or later.
    And, of course, no sign of a shirt sponsor or the new kit. I don’t know how big a deal the sponsorship is and if we didn’t have any how much effect it has on the transfer pot.
    I hope the club could start clearing the log-jam – and giving some meaning to Gibbo’s Euro-spin over the weekend which is otherwise just more hot air and ‘spectacular’ sales talk – by saying we’re not interested in Hendrie and Hulse and that we’ve set our sights higher than that.

  6. Am I the only one here who thinks that Hulse and Hendrie would be excellent signings for the Boro.
    Hendrie has pace and an abundance of experience and Hulse is a good old fashioned type centre forward who is excellent in the air.

  7. Being the optimistic guy that I am and putting 2 & 2 together (always dangerous!) . GS has said it may be August before more transfer deals are done, maybe that’s because the ‘spectacular’ signing is currently playing in the Copa America, just a (optimistic) thought!

  8. Can we have the word ‘spectacular’ banned on teesside. Its all getting silly now. It was something Gibson said pre season ticket deadline off the top of his head it means nothing really. Remember last summer when Gibson promised us a top draw manager.

  9. Nigel
    I think you may well be right by mentioning the Copa America. I am expecting at least one player to be taking a late holiday after we sign him.
    Things are now so slow that you have to look at those sort of options, because it is logic.
    On the positive side once again!
    The club are guilty of allowing a very smiley period to fade away over the last few weeks, and I am getting fed up about reading their old news.
    I support Steve Gibson 100%, however, it is he who is behaving in a negative manner, by talking about Europe, instead of saying “The club are still rigorously pursuing new signings, so please bare with us through this silent periodâ€?.
    If we don’t hammer home what should be happening befittingly then it will never alter, because we are interested in now, not Europe.
    Criticism and praise work wonders.

  10. Very Happy
    Many of our comments are aimed at the clubs comments and the fact they sound like sound bites rather than a coherent communication strategy that conveys what the club are trying to do and how they are going to achieve it.
    We get mixed messages that create the negativity in the fans. When there is so little of substance in news stories as at the moment, then it is even more important to ensure that communication is clear as well as honest.

  11. Oh my god i cant belive people are talking about lee hendrie as a good signing, are you people mad!! were talking about a man whos hardley played any football for 3 years and couldnt get in a poor villa team or a stoke team. this is mental if you people think southgates new fresh approach to pace and energy!!
    please leave feedback for me on this if you are in fact an escaped mental patient and believe hendrie is even a DECENT signing

  12. Ian Gill
    I fully understand & respect all who post on AV’s board.
    Patience is a Virtue, but when are the club going to tell us just a little about Virtue. I reckon we should have all chipped into a kitty and hired a private investigator to tail Keith Lamb.
    Male, approximately 6 feet – 2 inches wearing either a Mickey Mouse suit or a long wooden nose.
    Last sighting: Disney Land Florida
    AV writes: Just stake out the Tontine, no contract can be concluded without the obligatory sighting there.

  13. I don’t know whether Hendrie would turn out to be a good signing or not, but I do know he was getting man of the match more often than not for Stoke, so I’m not sure why people are saying he couldn’t get a game for them.
    He missed a few through injury, but their upturn in form coincided with Hendrie joining them on loan. I think he’d be fine as a squad player.

  14. Lee Hendrie won’t be coming to the Boro, he doesn’t fit the profile of young and fast, he’s not good enough for Villa so not good enough for Boro. He is touting himself about looking for a club, hence the tenuous link with Boro in the papers.
    **AV writes: It is more than tenuous. There are quotes from Hendrie claiming there has been some sort of contact.

  15. Anyone who believes that Hendrie would be a good signing clearly has the same low opinion of our club and its ambitions that whoever it is that Hendrie alleges has been showing interest in him.
    A few decent games in a Championship side last season is no recommendation. And he’s 30, small and lacking pace.
    Get a grip!

  16. No wonder no one signs if they meet at the Tontine.
    Have you seen the price of the bevvies in that place.
    You need to be a PL footballer to afford a pint.
    Oh the joy of a midfield containing Euell and Hendrie.

  17. Dave – Lee Hendrie better than Morrison?
    Mainy – Stephen Carr?????
    Do you two inhabit the same planet I live on?
    Anyone else think Boro are mad to allow Jason Koumas to go to Wigan when he could be the perfect answer in our midfield?

  18. Clive Hurren
    Planet Opinion is an amazing place for name popping.
    Dare I mention, bring back Bernie Slaven, because even with a microphone in his hands I would back our ex-offside king to score 2 goals.
    A lot of players are now on the move and it would not surprise me to see Lee Hendrie join our squad.
    His situation has been another Bernie verses Lenny Lawrence issue, which happens in all places of work.
    He has not lost his drive from box to box.
    I saw his energy levels last season and he was here, there and everywhere creating chances, which Boetang cannot compete against.
    I never saw him in the Tontine, although I did hear a whisper that If Planet Pluto posts anymore negatives against the pub, which may damage trade, he may end up in their net.
    The news about Alan Smith has gone quiet, but Manchester United will now be seeking to unload, in line with Liverpool’s progress.
    There is a notice pinned up at the Riverside which saysâ€? Everyone’s gone to the Moon except..?â€?, which is a funny way of describing Austria.
    So, if we can nail down this mysterious? Surely one hour on the Rack will stretch far more than their tongue.
    Keep smiling

  19. Got to agree with Clive Hurren – Koumas is quality. One of them rare players these days who directly links up midfield with strikers, in the Gazza style. He is always looking to go forward instead of sideways as many midfielders do these days. A snip at the price.

  20. can anyone tell me wear all the T.V money has gone if we cant buy new players and need to sell yak our best goal scorer? are we now a second rate club?

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