x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Two sides to every story

Until refusing to play in Munich, Carlos Tevez worked hard for Manchester City and his unhappiness at being on the bench was natural.

At Blackburn, Andrew Cole, right, could not get along with Graeme Souness, the manager, but he still gave his best at training.
At Blackburn, Andrew Cole, right, could not get along with Graeme Souness, the manager, but he still gave his best at training.

I have sat on the bench and not wanted to go on the pitch. I sat there while managers such as Graeme Souness played with my mind and put me on for the last two minutes of a game. A week's hard training for what? Two minutes when the result is already decided.

Souness was in charge at Blackburn Rovers and we did not get on at all. He didn't like me and I didn't like him. That's life; you can't like everyone who you work with.

One thing which annoyed me was that he trained with the players, even in the most important sessions the day before a match.

While he might have been a great player in his day, I felt he was slowing down an important session. We would give him a forward pass but he couldn't get there because he was too old. He couldn't get to the standard that the players were looking for - as no 50-year-old man could. One day, I told him. He went mad and we had a stand-off. The lads held me back. Souness sent me to the changing rooms and I refused to go.

He will have his side to the story - just as Carlos Tevez will have with Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager - but basically there was a major personality clash.

I went home and thought about not turning up the next day. But I did. If I didn't turn up then the manager would have been in a stronger position. He would have been seen to be vindicated in not playing me - a prima donna.

There were times when I didn't want to go into training, but I always went, even if I was sent to do extra gym sessions or to train with the kids. There were times when I didn't want to turn up for matches knowing that I would feel ridiculed and disrespected because the manager didn't like me. But I always went.

I had a good relationship with Blackburn's fans, but if I had refused to play or to come on as a sub, that would have gone. There would have only been one winner there - and it wouldn't have been me.

So I turned up for matches that I knew I wouldn't be playing in when Souness was desperate to get me out of Blackburn. I wanted to stay, but I didn't want to play for him. He was the manager and I was soon on my way.

Tevez is being painted as the villain, but nobody really knows the full story.

People are saying that he is a disgrace because he refused to play in Munich on Tuesday night, but did you see the faces of the other players on that bench? They all looked dejected.

Pablo Zabaleta, who was sat next to Tevez, has said that there are too many players at City - Tevez isn't the only player who has an issue with Mancini's regime.

The problem with having a lot of players is that you have a lot of unhappy professionals. Too many cooks spoil the broth and all that.

All players think they should be playing, but only 11 people can play. Forty years ago there were no substitutes. Thirty years ago there was a single sub. Even when I started playing it was normal that one sub was used. Players knew where they stood and whether they were going to play or not.

That has all changed. Managers may prefer the new system because it gives them more choice and allows for huge squads, but players - who only ever want to play - don't.

A squad system needs to be managed very carefully.

It takes outstanding man-management skills to keep people happy and minutes need to be shared out, but even then it's almost impossible.

Players can do one of two things - they can accept it and keep their mouth shut as Shaun Wright Phillips did at City before moving on to Queens Park Rangers.

Or a player can do something publicly about it like Tevez, Zabaleta or Edin Dzeko, who was fuming at being subbed in Munich.

Going public brings the matter to a head, but it is usually the player who loses out and gets moved on. The player's reputation suffers because his options are limited.

Few people have any sympathy with Tevez because he was honest enough to say that he wanted to leave in the summer. City tried, but couldn't find a buyer.

How quickly those critics have forgotten that Tevez has been City's playmaker, goalscorer and most important player of recent seasons. And that, until this week, he has never seemed to do anything less than run his legs off while wearing a light blue shirt.

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