The Wonderful World of Football - Loyalty in the game

Last updated : 25 October 2010 By Site Editor

“I have a great relationship with Wayne. I have been in regular discussions with Wayne's advisers and we were getting closer on the new contract...Wayne and his advisers have now told me their preference would be to leave. I'm so disappointed.”

Interestingly, this isn’t a quote from Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. No, it’s actually Everton manager David Moyes, speaking in August 2004 about a then 18-year-old Wayne Rooney, and his determination to leave his boyhood club.

Of course, a truly bizarre few days concluded with Rooney performing a dramatic U-turn and committing himself to United for another five years, but for the majority of the past week, he looked to be on his way. Amid the chaos and speculation, it was significant how many fellow managers defended Ferguson and condemned the England striker for being greedy and disrespectful.

Blackpool boss Ian Holloway was the most vocal, with his already infamous press conference subsequently receiving thousands of hits on YouTube. Yet despite sounding worryingly similar to David Brent, his words were both passionate and sincere. Similarly, Steve Bruce, Sam Allardyce and Alex McLeish all spoke in favour of the United boss, albeit it rather less emphatically.

It would easy to explain this support for Ferguson as a by-product of his good relations with the aforementioned managers. This is undoubtedly true, and most probably did contribute in some way. However, David Moyes is also very highly regarded within the Premier League, yet he didn't receive anywhere near the same amount of protection from his peers when battling to keep Rooney.

Now, Ferguson has managed to keep his star man, just. He did so by using all of his experience and managerial nous and, perhaps crucially, for the first time in his career, making concessions to a player. So, the point his fellow managers were making is this: if the most successful manager in British football history is struggling to keep his best players, then what chance has everybody else got?

The Rooney saga highlighted many flaws of the Premier League: player power, influential agents, greed and disloyalty. However, the united front put on by Holloway and company also showed that, somewhere, there's still some good left in the game. 

Truthfully, the gang of yobs outside his house offering death threats, as opposed to the condemnation he received from a host of Premier League managers, probably had more of an impact in ultimately convincing Rooney his future is at Old Trafford. But I’m sure Ferguson was grateful for the unequivocal support he received. I reckon David Moyes would have appreciated it six years ago, too.