Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

Player mobility and Sunday’s semi-final

Posted by John Beech on April 12, 2010

Deep joy in the Beech household, of course, after the much wished for but more than somewhat unexpected result for Pompey against Spurs.  It was a strange game for other reasons though.

There were those familiar ‘Pompey’ faces – Crouch, Defoe and Kranjcar – on the Spurs bench, and although Kaboul was cup-tied he was no doubt there.  A Spurs fan would equally have been watching for Boateng, Brown and Rocha, albeit on the Pompey bench, and might well have been looking for O’Hara, on loan to Pompey and thus contractually constrained from playing against Spurs, perhaps sitting in the stands with Kaboul.  Now, I don’t keep stats on the numbers of players cup-tied, let alone on players who pop up later on the opposition bench, but it did strike me that this was a tie with particularly strong reunion connotations.

This of course is no surprise given that professional players have moved between teams since the 1880s, when Preston North End regularly turned out a team of imported Scots, but it was nevertheless particularly striking that ’till I die’ does not apply to players in quite the same way it does to fans.  Which means that club loyalty is just that – loyalty to a club but not in the same way to its players.  But if the players move around so much, and in this case between two specific teams, it doesn’t help with the notion of local identity and a sense of community implicit in the team.  Perhaps I’m just being old-fashioned, but I find it difficult to ‘dump’ ex-players as readily as they themselves dump their previous clubs.  The problem I have is in seeing a club as something permanent and not related to its ever-changing squad of players.

Hey ho, I’ll get over it, but it has reinforced my view that the all-too-often often opposing diad of the sociocultural  ‘club’ and its business form the ‘company’ constituting a football club should more rationally be thought of as an uneasy triad of ‘club’, ‘company’ and ‘crew’, to use a naval term as Pompey prompted this rambling.  In terms of ‘identity’, it is a peculiarity that both ‘company’ and ‘crew’ regularly change (well, especially the former if you are a Pompey fan) while it is ‘club’ that goes on for ever, even if in a resurrectionist form.


3 Responses to “Player mobility and Sunday’s semi-final”

  1. Dave said

    Football club’s are essentially Theseus’ ship, so you’re not far off with the naval analogy.

  2. sonsdiary said

    Great stuff for all you Pompey fans John my wife and I were dancing around the house when you won yesterday.
    You wont have any worries in the final getting the neutrals on board
    It could be any one of us poor long suffering fans in your position ,as I always say the only constant at a football club are the supporters, when the going gets tough directors disappear like snow off a dyke.

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