The London Olympics, if nothing else, re-introduced the host country to the idea of a noble sportsperson. Noble and ethical sportspeople have not been seen in the country’s most popular sport of football ever since Paulo di Canio got himself on the end of a looping cross and decided to pick it up with his hands in an effort to expedite medical treatment to the prone goalkeeper.
Since those halcyon days where one could look to Paulo di Canio for guidance on ethics, football has lurched from one sexist (Andy Gray et al.) or racist (several) crisis to another. All the while, the cost of football has continued to sky-rocket particularly for fans, who see their hard-earned wages go on huge record-breaking transfer fees for worthwhile star performers like Andy Carroll.
As the Olympics came to a close and the new football season opened, fans and the media watched with trepidation if any of the integrity, sportsmanship and honesty of Great Britain’s Olympians would rub off on football’s heroes.
Unfortunately, in the very first game of the 2012/13 Premier League season a manager decided that the pressure was so great it merited pushing over a referee. Alan Pardew’s punishment was brutal if not swift– subjected to having Joe Kinnear appointed above him as Director of Football.
However, the recent changing of the guard in some of English football’s elite clubs has signalled that a new more honest breed of manager has reached maturity. Men such as David Moyes, Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers have taken the helm at some of the biggest clubs. These characters are often associated with graft, sincerity and loyalty some of the key virtues which are energetically declared to be absent in big money football.
Let me put it another way. None of Moyes, Martinez and Rodgers has been appointed to their current clubs because of the amount of trophies they have won, or the glamour that they bring, or even overwhelming Premier league success. All three have been appointed because they have previously acted in a manner which shows loyalty, a good style of football and a honest and family-orientated approach to building a club. In the big money world of modern football this is surely unusual and reflects the opinion that the virtues of pre-Premier League football have not all been eroded by the vices of the new consumerist model.
Time will tell of course. No person is perfect and it would take only a single scandal or misdemeanour for one of the above to stumble and falter. But the theory remains that the virtues shown by this trio of managers are the very vanguard which fight the erosion of football’s local communities, identity and honesty that have been eulogised, rightly or wrongly in the past two decades. Vanguard, however, implies a minority and until Alan Pardew and Paulo di Canio batter each other to death in the technical area we just won’t know if it is too late.
By Luke Murphy. Follow Luke on Twitter: @Luketmurphy