IT IS good to see the players throw their weight behind the Gazette’s “Keep The Faith” campaign. Showing all the timing that makes his tackling such a fearsome weapon, iconic hardman Emanuel Pogatetz has admitted as the pressure mounts in the relegation battle that if Boro go down, he’s out of here.
That’s a blow. Not so much for its long term impact on the side. In the wider scheme of things there are a lot of average but committed defenders out there who can look equally uncomfortable in the middle and at left back.
But at a time when the chairman, the manager and the players have been queuing up to call for unity the last thing you need is cracks appearing with the club captain – and a proper parmo powered local lad at that – letting slip in public what we all know the players are thinking in private. When the Gazette ran up those spoof wartime propaganda posters maybe we should have included a “careless talk cost lives” one.
Let’s be clear about this: footballers are not fans and do not have the same loyalty, commitment and passion to the club as the supporters do, no matter how often they kiss the badge or praise the crowd in interviews. For them it is a job. That’s fair enough.
And while it may strike a dagger through the heart of fans, looking for another job when you have the prospect of a pay cut or your current firm tries to relocate you to Doncaster and Plymouth is not a heinous crime. It isn’t a shameful moral outrage. If we are honest it isn’t even particularly a surprise.
And there is no point whatsoever in spleen venting – although people will not spurn an open goal like this in the way that Boro’s strikers do – and no point either in framing a response in the language of the terraces because these blokes, even the true born Teessiders, inhabit a different mental universe. It is just a job and if you berate them for leaving to a better paid one, at a bigger firm with better prospects you just come across as a parochial simpleton demanding they make sacrifices you would not make yourself.
In essence Pogatetz has said nothing wrong. To paraphrase: he wants to play at the highest possible level and if Boro go down he has to think of his career prospects and his international future. There is a not a lot there fundamentally different from the farewell script of Juninho, another player who expressed his love of all things Boro. It is a perfectly understandble position for any professional to take and in truth, any other position would raise questions about their ambition and faith in their own ability.
And while a slip of the tongue has made Pogatetz’ reality public we must suspect that many of the others in the dressing room feel the same. We know that Stewart Downing and Gary O’Neil put transfer requests in during January while bridge burning Mohamed Shawky has said he wants to walk like an Egyptian. Further, we can devine that a few agents have been busy in the last few weeks with stories about Matthew Bates, Tuncay and now “top striker” Jeremie Aliadiere bubbling into the tabloids. On top of that we might speculate that the likes of international hopefuls Mido, Afonso Alves and Robert Huth might not fancy trips to Doncaster and Plymouth and that a few highly coveted academy graduates will also get tempting offers they may need to be dissuaded from taking in favour of one more year, giving it a crack and seeing if they can get us back up.
All we can say to them all is: SHUT UP. Do your talking on the pitch. Concentrate on the job in hand. Don’t wave your CV around in such an incendiary way. Don’t rub your willingness to bail out in the faces of the people who are paying your wages. We know you don’t fancy Championship football; neither do we but we can’t escape our destiny so lightly and won’t walk away even if we could. If you don’t want to play in the lower league the answer is in your own hands: start winning games.
If you want to leave, leave. But keep us up first and then you can leave with dignity.