Cash in while you can

JAMES RICHARDS says play­ers shouldn’t be crit­i­cised for seek­ing bumper con­tracts – be­cause in­jury could be just around the cor­ner

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS - Fol­low James Richards on twit­ter @d3d4­foot­ball, email d3d4­foot­ball@hot­, web­site www.d3d4­foot­

Why play­ers should make hay

AS THE trans­fer win­dow gets closer to clos­ing, it’s clear that a lot of cash has al­ready flown be­tween some of Europe’s top clubs as well as into the bank ac­counts of agents and play­ers.

It is easy to find this ob­scene in the con­text of deep­en­ing fi­nan­cial hard­ship for many fam­i­lies in the United King­dom and, from a purely moral stand­point, it is just not right that an agent should pocket £40 mil­lion, as was re­port­edly the case in the Paul Pogba trans­fer of last sum­mer.

As for play­ers, though, there is an­other side to the ar­gu­ment that is of­ten over­looked. What hap­pens if a player has an in­jury that ends their ca­reer pre­ma­turely?

They will lose out on a lot of po­ten­tial earn­ings and, for many of them, strug­gle to find mean­ing­ful em­ploy­ment out­side of the game that they have been a part of for their en­tire life.

The rea­son this came to mind was that I was try­ing to think of play­ers that have made a big im­pact on the clubs at the lower end of the Foot­ball League.

The name that even­tu­ally came to mind was Dean Ash­ton, a player who came to promi­nence with Crewe Alexan­dra.

The striker was 26 and at the peak of his ca­reer when he was forced to re­tire due to an an­kle in­jury that he had picked up while on in­ter­na­tional duty.

He had come through the youth ranks at Crewe be­fore be­com­ing a key player for Dario Gradi’s side and, some might ar­gue, the sole rea­son they man­aged to main­tain their Cham­pi­onship sta­tus in 2003-04 and 2004-05.

The fact Crewe were rel­e­gated the next sea­son lends cre­dence to this sug­ges­tion.

In those two sea­sons alone, he scored 37 league goals, all the more im­pres­sive con­sid­er­ing he left in Jan­uary 2005 to join Premier League Nor­wich City for £3 mil­lion.

He was un­able to help Nor­wich stay in the Premier League but stayed on at Car­row Road in an at­tempt to help them achieve an im­me­di­ate re­turn to the top flight.

He scored ten times in 28 ap­pear­ances be­fore sign­ing for West Ham in Jan­uary 2006 for around £7 mil­lion.

It was while on Eng­land duty that Ash­ton broke his an­kle in train­ing, ap­par­ently caused by a bad tackle from Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Sud­denly Ash­ton would miss the en­tire 2006-07 sea­son after show­ing huge prom­ise. He did re­turn for the 2007-08 cam­paign and man­aged ten goals in 35 ap­pear­ances for the Ham­mers, but a sprained an­kle early in the next sea­son flared up his old in­jury - and that would be that for a player many con­sid­ered to have the world at his feet.

It was a case that high­lighted how pre­car­i­ous a top ath­lete’s ca­reer can be, es­pe­cially when you con­sider the phys­i­cal strains and stresses of the sport.

To put Premier League earn­ings into per­spec­tive, you may want to glance at some other big money sports. For ex­am­ple, ice hockey star Connor McDavid, a player for the NHL’s Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers, landed a new con­tract worth a re­ported $12.5 mil­lion per year.

Now this may seem out­ra­geous but when you con­sider the per­ils that a phys­i­cal sport like ice hockey ex­erts on the hu­man body, it is not far-fetched to con­sider se­ri­ous in­jury a re­al­is­tic out­come.

When you con­sider what sac­ri­fices some top ath­letes have to make in or­der to reach the peak lev­els re­quired, it is surely only right that they get well paid.

Most foot­ballers will only play for around 15 years and not many will play at the top level where they re­ceive these astro­nom­i­cal sums that are of­ten re­ported in the me­dia.

I am not an ad­vo­cate of greed and be­lieve that there needs to be some re­straint when it comes to player wages.

It is not good for the game for clubs to laden them­selves up with debt in or­der to com­pete in the Premier League and pay silly money to their play­ers.

Nei­ther am I an ar­dent sup­porter of a salary cap yet I still feel the fi­nan­cial fair play rules don’t go far enough. Any­way that is, per­haps, a de­bate for an­other time.

As far a player salaries go, next time you quickly de­ride them for earn­ing more money than you think they’re worth, spare a thought for Dean Ash­ton and the many oth­ers like him who have been forced to re­tire early.

Cut down in his prime: West Ham’s Dean Ash­ton

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