x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

An example not to follow

Nobody at a football club benefits from an unhappy player, not the player, his club or teammates.

My son came home from training at Manchester City one day last season and he wasn't happy.

Craig Bellamy wasn't featuring in Roberto Mancini's future plans and had been told to play with the reserves and younger players such as my son, Devante. He said that Bellamy did nothing but moan at him and I could see that it was getting him down.

It is one thing being angry and wanting to get away from a club, it is another to take your frustrations out on a 16-year-old kid. To me, Bellamy was wrong.

I knew the situation well because I had seen it when I was a player.

Nobody at a football club benefits from an unhappy player, not the player, his club or teammates. I saw it from a young age at Arsenal, when senior pros would be sent to play alongside youngsters like me in the reserves. They moaned, didn't try and bad-mouthed the manager. It was a horrible, negative situation.

We should have looked up to the senior players, learned from them and aspired to be them. Instead, we found out how corrosive the presence of a bitter player with personal agendas can be.

Perry Groves was one such senior player and he wasn't happy playing in the reserves. It wasn't like he was the best player in the world - in fact he wasn't even the best player in the reserves - but his unhappiness affected the younger lads.

The player is usually blamed, but he is not always at fault.

Look at Chelsea at the moment. The manager made it clear that Nicolas Anelka wasn't in his plans.

Anelka once had a reputation for being a difficult character who always wanted to move, but he accepted that he wasn't wanted and found a move for himself, a very lucrative one. No fuss, no hanging around polluting the minds of the other players.

Not every player is at Anelka's level and not every club can let players leave for free like Chelsea. Andre Villas-Boas can afford to force the issue and then come out smelling of roses. I respect the fact that he has been clear with the players and told them straight before they can fester.

The Chelsea manager is clearly establishing his power. He has told the defender, Alex, the same and he is expected to leave. Again, it is better for him to leave if he doesn't feature in his plans.

As well as being the young kid watching the disillusioned professional, I've been the old pro who has been told he can go.

Blackburn Rovers told me that when I had two years left on my contract. I could have sat around and claimed my two years, but that wouldn't have been good for anyone. So we reached a compromise on my contract and I moved to Fulham.

That's football. If a manager wants you out, you are going to go one way or another, no matter what your contract says.

The media will often make a player out to be the bad guy because the club will use the local media to put their side of the story. The media need to maintain their relationship with the club rather than an outgoing player, but some players have powerful media contacts too and we're seeing that at Chelsea.

Villas-Boas will face more issues. Frank Lampard came out in the media this week and said that he did not speak to his manager, that he had not been told why he had been left out of the team and that he was as fit as ever and wanted to play for Chelsea.

That was a mistake and I laughed at that one because that's only going to irritate the manager. Every player wants to play until he's 40, but that's not always his choice.

Villas Boas has every right to do that because he is the boss.

He must have the absolute support of Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, otherwise you can get into dangerous situations where so-called senior players can group together and bleat that the manager has lost the dressing room. That's not a healthy situation.

Villas-Boas is also sending out a message to the other players. You don't see Manchester United players beefing against Sir Alex Ferguson in the media because they know they would not last another two minutes at the club.

Villas-Boas would like a similar situation at Chelsea, but to establish his absolute power he must also win matches. It's a fickle, dirty industry that he's in, but he's not stupid.


Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten




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