Twitter and other social media sites drew a great deal of entertainment out of the photograph of Andre Wisdom’s ditched car over the weekend.
Someone called the police to let them know Andre Wisdom's car was there. pic.twitter.com/ax7j1s5Cwf
— LFC Fans Corner (@LFCFansCorner) November 10, 2013
Wisdom is currently on loan at Derby County and some claimed the hilarity comes from the fact that his vehicle trouble was caused by him not knowing the way to their ground.
Others have unfavourably compared his driving skills to his capabilities as a right-back (for the record, he’s actually a decent centre-back who can play full-back if required, much as Jamie Carragher did during the early years of his Liverpool career
For me, once the giggling over the sight of a shiny sports car being abandoned in muddy woods has receded, there remains a more serious issue at the heart of the jocularity.
The car, it has been alleged, is worth £100k. It’s a Porsche so, whether the evaluation is close or quite inaccurate, it won’t have been an inexpensive purchase.
Some argue that it maybe be a club car. I presume they mean a Liverpool FC car as Derby County certainly couldn’t be splashing out on Porches for young players when their last manager, ex-Red Nigel Clough, was forced to make so many swingeing cuts to his budget.
Whether it’s Andre’s own car, something he is purchasing on finance, or one provided by Liverpool, it highlights one of the issues I believe to be at the heart of the recent debates about why British players and the ‘home international’ teams are under-performing when it comes to top-level football.
At the heart of the debate for me, anyway, but seemingly overlooked by Greg Dyke and his FA committee thus far as they attempt to fathom out ways of enabling England and young English players to perform to a higher level and, ultimately, to have some chance of ever adding to the solitary World Cup success the country has achieved.
The issue of wages is often considered a controversial one by fans.
While we might accept it if our club forks out millions on a player, it is often harder for those contributing to the players’ wages by attending matches or buying official merchandise to swallow quite how much some fairly unproven talents get paid for their efforts on the pitch. Or, more gratingly, how much some academy graduates get paid to sit on the bench.
Wisdom is a good player and the current captain of the England U-21s so I’m not arguing that he deserves to be paid a packet of jelly-beans and a copy of the Beano for his abilities.
I am suggesting that the Premier League has become so soaked in money that it is now quite commonplace for average players to be financially rewarded beyond their capabilities in the hope that they will show loyalty to a club if and when they develop into good or, occasionally, great players.
When the Premier League began, some twenty-one years ago, the influx of money from sponsorship, from Sky broadcasting and from worldwide screening deals was apparent quite quickly.
While bargains were still there to be found, the price of purchasing talent became entirely removed from the actual worth of a that player, and the wages being paid to younger team members began to increase.
The success of the worldwide appeal of the league then encouraged billionaires to buy up English clubs which only exacerbated the problem.
Why is it a problem for young men who are, it must be remembered, part of the entertainment world as well as being sportsmen, to be paid so handsomely for the brief period of their lives in which they can perform to the best of their abilities?
It’s not the money per se, it’s the underlying attitude wealth can breed in some of the youngest and most impressionable. Decent income can convince some young players that they have already ‘made it’, that they no longer need to try to push themselves to reach their full potential because they are being paid extraordinarily well simply for showing that they have potential in the first place.
If teams genuinely do allow their academy graduates to drive around in club-provided high profile sports vehicles, it only adds to the illusion that they are already stars and that material gain is more important than hard graft on the training pitch and in matches themselves.
It is possible that the over-abundance of fiscal reward in top-level English football has created a culture in which the best British youngsters either believe they are successful because they’ve signed a lucrative deal at the age of 18, or believe they’ll never quite oust the even more lucratively rewarded foreign superstars from the first team and had therefore better milk the cash cow of Premier League football for all they can before they get offloaded to poorer, lower league clubs.
Too many people have focused on the influx of foreign players as the reason English youngsters do not develop in the way they might once have done.
This is to forget that the first successful generation of Premier League winners were predominantly populated by English players with a few imported extras adding competition or occasionally inspiring the youngsters with their skills and their work-rate.
Cantona may have been a catalyst for the Manchester United resurgence but it was their British academy graduates like Beckham, Giggs and Scholes who ought to be the inspiration for today’s generation of aspiring youngsters.
Their application and commitment to learning their trade were more important to them than the trappings of success (whatever that grumpy retired Scotsman now says about Beckham).
It was also very clear to see how proud they were every time they pulled on the club shirt.
Liverpool had a potentially decent young crop of players back then too. I’d never question the commitment of Robbie Fowler, Jamie Redknapp, Rob Jones, or Steve McManaman but we could all pick out plenty more who were already showing signs of turning into the genuine Spice Boys that the above four were wrongly accused of being.
In recent years Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have epitomised the same pride and commitment shown by the United ‘class of 92’ but there were precious few following them from academy to first team under Houllier or even under Benitez.
In my head Michael Owen doesn’t count but that’s because I’m still annoyed at the way he skipped off to Madrid, at the way Fowler was often dropped to accommodate Owen’s speedy (and ultimately oh-so-breakable) legs, and at how clichéd his punditry is every time he now turns up on TV.
Gerrard and Carragher have no doubt been well rewarded in terms of money in their careers but I don’t believe it was ever their motivation.
They wanted to play to the best of their abilities every single game, to try to help Liverpool return to the perch they had mythologically been knocked off. And to win trophies. For the medals, of course, but also and probably foremost, for the club and its fans.
When the day comes that Liverpool Football Club achieve a Premier League title I bet Carragher’s broadest smile will also contain a hint of regret that he was not able to be involved in bringing this, the biggest marker of domestic successes, to the fans earlier.
If there is anything wrong with some of the latest clutch of youngsters at Liverpool or at any of the other 19 Premier League clubs, overbearing materialism and irresponsible financial inducement will, in my opinion, be contributing factors.
If there is a failing in the brightest and best young England players, the roots may lie in areas such as over-expectation, coaching styles, burn-out and other pitch-side controllables.
But unless those at the highest level, including but not exclusive to Dyke’s FA committee, recognise that too much money, much too young is a serious issue as well, then it might still be difficult to translate the pride and skills of special individuals into a team that can work well enough together to reach the late stages of international competitions, let alone win one of them.