The Football Talk: Is Team Spirit Dead?

The Football talk is back this week with a discussion on team camaraderie in the modern game, The Anfield Talk’s Anthony (@anthonymarkmcav) discusses how and why things like this have deteriorated over the past few decades. 

I’d like to draw your attention to the 1988 FA Cup final. Liverpool 0-1 Wimbledon.

The team that had dominated European football for the best part of two decades beaten. By a Championship level side at that.
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11 players fighting for each other against the best of the best. Grit, determination, blood, sweat, tears, you name it, the Wimbledon players felt it. Just 11 years into their Football League tenure, Wimbledon bested the Division One champions, which was no mean feat. The Liverpool side had just secured their 17th title.

It didn’t stop the Dons from giving it all, and most importantly giving it for each-other.

My question is – Why don’t we see stuff like this anymore?

We’re stuck with Harry Kane, the so-called best striker in Europe swearing on his daughter’s life that he scored a goal that was credited to his team-mate, Christian Eriksen. Not only is that an awful thing to do to your own team-mate, but looking at the replay, I’m pretty sure the goal isn’t his.Embed from Getty Images

The comparison to Roberto Firmino’s selfless act against Stoke has been made countless times already by fans of all ilks, with the Liverpool forward on the brink of a £45,000 bonus, he let the ball trickle in for Sadio Mane to get the goal instead of getting himself one, and he missed out on a big payday in the process.

Players in 2018 lack love for their clubs. They lack the passion for their team-mates that we used to see back in the 1980’s when every player was playing for the shirt they wore. Only with modern football have we seen players not care about the clubs they play for. It’s become commonplace that players will think of their next destination before even stepping foot on a pitch at a club.

Why wouldn’t they? It’s how they have been brought up in the increasingly money driven game of football.

If you go back a couple decades then players didn’t play for the money they were earning. They were playing out of a desire to win. A desire to succeed. Introduce the kinds of money we have these days to that equation and players are quickly exposed for the money-hungry people they are.
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Don’t get me wrong, sometimes there are good intentions behind mega-money moves to China or La Liga or wherever. Players thinking about their futures and ways to provide for their families beyond their tenure in the beautiful game.

Who knows what kind of bonus Harry Kane would be in for if he was awarded that goal last weekend? It would have taken him to 25 Premier League goals on the season and I’d wager that there is a sizeable purse for the English striker should he reach that many in one campaign.

Contrast that with John Aldridge, who signed for Liverpool for just £750,000, which, even with inflation calculated is just over £2m. His contract would be minuscule compared to the of Harry Kane’s in present day. He scored 330 goals in his career.Embed from Getty Images

Some teams do manage to instil an atmosphere around them that is very close and family-like, and I’d like to think of Liverpool as one of them with the players on and off the pitch. Historical events like Hillsborough give the Liver bird and the Liverpool shirt meaning and getting a manager in that understands that has been difficult and it’s probably why we’ve ended up with former Reds in charge a lot over the past few decades. Kenny Dalglish being the sparkling example.

Jurgen Klopp understands it. Brendan Rodgers nearly understood it. Roy Hodgson hadn’t the foggiest. Having a manager in charge of your club that understands the historic value of camaraderie at a particular club is essential in getting everyone playing for eachother and making sure every player that comes in understands that value is also paramount. I believe that’s why Klopp is so particular with who he brings into the side, and why he’s so stubborn at getting his man when he wants him.

Finding the right players to play for eachother is essential. It’s why Spurs won’t win a trophy anytime soon, especially if they’re just going to argue amongst themselves about who actually is scoring the goals.Embed from Getty Images

It’s why Leicester won the Premier League. A group of players fighting week-in, week-out with a common goal.Embed from Getty Images

How many teams in world football can you say that about? Liverpool? Only since January. Philippe Coutinho had his eyes on the door all season. It’s nearly non-existent in European football these days. Everyone wants to move on to the next thing.

When English football dominated Europe back in the 70’s and 80’s. When English football shared SEVEN European Cups in eight seasons. Players weren’t coddled. They weren’t wrapped up in bubblewrap. They were told they were the best. The were told they were professionals and they were there to do their job. To fight for the team no matter the scoreline. To fight for their badge.Embed from Getty Images

The best example of this in a Red shirt would have to be the 1977 European Cup final. Liverpool took on Borussia Monchengladbach in Rome. Kevin Keegan was on his way out the door and to Hamburg but that didn’t stop his fight for the team. He knew his role. He gave up the individual accolades that would have been brought down upon him to help see the side lift their first of five European Cups.Embed from Getty Images

The crazy-gang of ’88 fought for each other, but even they had no reason to fight before long, hence the capitulation of Wimbledon as a club.

My message to any footballer, whatever age, whatever club, whatever background reading this would simply be: Fight for the crest on your shirt, you never know when it’ll be taken away, just like Wimbledon, nothing is forever, not your career, not your ability to play football. Fight for those you serve. Your team-mates.

Thanks so much for reading! I’d just like to say, I’m taking part in this year’s Football Blogging Awards, and I need YOUR help to win at AllyPally next month. Click here to tweet your vote for me! Thanks in advance!

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