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Monday, 13 June 2005

2105: Chelsea move for Arnesen was i

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by : Fred Tarow

Seaman’s Curse
David Seaman’s final game for England might have left a bitter aftertaste and he was widely blamed for the World Cup quarter final defeat to Brazil, yet he has to be considered one of England’s greats and a player who has yet to be properly replaced.

A number of young pretenders have been earmarked as potential England Number One’s, but most – including the following - have failed to make the grade.

David Lucas

As a young keeper with Preston he was earmarked as one of the brightest prospects outside the Premiership with one national magazine going as far as predicting that he would be keeping goal for England at the 2008 World Cup. Having lost his place at his home town club, he was transferred to Sheffield Wednesday for £100,000 last summer and has got his career moving back in the right direction following their recent promotion from Division One.

Stuart Taylor

In 2001, following injuries to David Seaman and Richard Wright, Taylor stepped into the spotlight and he helped Arsenal to two 3-1 victories against Manchester United and Juventus. Eventually, he played enough games to get a championship medal and seemed to be Seaman’s long term replacement for club and country.

However, his career has tailed off since then. Wenger brought Jens Lehmann and Manuel Almunia, thereby limiting Taylor’s prospects. A shoulder injury caused him to miss most of the 2003/04 season and he spent time on-loan at Leicester last term. As with Kirkland, regular football elsewhere looks like the best option.

Nicky Weaver

Signed for £100,000 from Mansfield, Weaver made his debut for Manchester City at 19 and immediately looked the part. His progression gained pace as City won two back-to-back promotions, attaining hero-status in the penalty shoot-out win over Gillingham in the 1999 Second Division Play-Off final.

The Premiership, however, proved to be a step too far. A number of erratic displays as City struggled against relegation saw him being replaced by Carlo Nash with his reputation blown to bits. Injuries almost forced him to quit but he made a comeback late last season coming on as a substitute in the 1-1 draw at Middlesborough.

Richard Wright

“Nervy and erratic performances became the norm with Wright between the sticks, although the defence started to do a more effective job of protecting him – and he needs a lot...England No. 1? My a**e!” That is the verdict of an Everton site and as clear an indication as any of how Richard Wright’s reputation has fallen.

Yet during 2000-01 he was arguably the best keeper in England as Ipswich took the Premiership by storm. Things started to go wrong when he was signed by Arsenal for £6 million. Rather than confirming his status, a series of howlers soon saw Wright being dropped and eventually shipped off to Everton. At Goodison he has done little better and 39 year old Nigel Martyn is a much safer option for David Moyes. Tellingly, despite playing just seven games last season, Wright suffered 20 goals: almost half of the 46 shipped by Everton over the whole season.

Steve Simonsen

Another player who failed to make the grade at the highest level, Simonsen started out at Tranmere and even won England U21 recognition. A rumoured £3.3 million deal (although apparently Tranmere only received about £1.3 million as much of the rest was based on appearances) made him the most expensive teenage goalkeeper and took him to Everton in 1998 but Thomas Myhre’s impressive form kept him out.

On the rare occasions that he got a chance, Simonsen failed to impress and when David Moyes took over, he made it clear that a new keeper was his priority. In May 2004 he was released by Everton and joined Stoke.

My fury has just about abated. The red mist that blighted my sight so is lifting. The vet just called and advised that my dog will be okay despite suffering a boot (from an as yet unknown assailant) to the torso, the second such attack in the last year (the other one came in November). He did tell me I should expect a call from the RSPCA though. The stench of betrayal still lingers, but it is being slowly replaced by a feeling of inevitability about the whole situation. Why did I expect any different from Frank Arnesen? Once he-with-the-oil-stained-roubles came acalling, it was obvious that the Dane's recent claim that "I'm happy in London" was anything but a public statement of his loyalty to Tottenham Hotspur.

The moral outrage that greeted the news of the former PSV man's suspension and desire to join Chelsea was understandable, even if some of the punishments proposed for Chelsea's alleged illegal approach were pure fantasy. "Strip them of the league title and give it to Arsenal" are words I thought I'd never see pass a fellow Spurs fan's keyboard but they did. And it wasn't just one deranged fan; there was a whole cackle of them. Other punishments suggested included the FA withdrawing them from the Champions League or even relegating them to The Championship.

Then of course we had the conspiracy theories. Chelsea took Arnesen because they saw Spurs as some sort of threat to their long term plans for world domination and decided to sway the Dane with their bundles of ill gotten cash. Even the usually level headed Alasdair Gold perpetuated the theory in his otherwise excellent "Spurs shock as tea-lady is tapped up by Chelsea" piece. It seems that people have this view of Roman Abramovich as some cartoonish super-villain who will hire people he has no real need for and spend national budgets doing so, just so no one else can have them. If this is so would Roman not be trying to destroy Arsenal and Manchester United before relatively lowly Tottenham? If the theory is in fact true can I expect to see Arsene Wenger selling programmes and Alex Ferguson serving pies at Stamford Bridge in the near future for obscenely inflated salaries?

The truth is that Chelsea need someone like Frank Arnesen and that's why they have head-hunted the Dane. Yes they can spend fortunes on players, like they have done over the last couple of seasons, but its not financially viable to do so. Roman didn't make his billions by just throwing money away and I don't expect that he is going to start anytime soon. Earlier this year, the repulsive Peter Kenyon claimed that Chelsea's spending would be no where near as flamboyant in the future as it has been over the last two years. Furthermore with UEFA's impending insistence on having a minimum number of "home grown" players in the squad it was imperative that Chelsea started to do more than just buy finished articles from abroad. Logically the club needed to develop an infrastructure that promoted the development of "home grown" talent.

Roman wants the best for Chelsea, even at the expense of other clubs and the game as a whole, and Frank Arnesen is arguably the best at spotting and signing young talent. Yes Chelsea's recruitment tactics are about as subtle as a nuclear bomb, but they know that because of their healthy financial state they can sustain any fine the FA might mete out quite easily. They were also clever enough to know that even if Tottenham make a formal complaint to the
FA, a points ban is unlikely. Chelsea may be public enemy number one, and deserve a stiff punishment, but one cannot deny that they are assembling the crme de la crme of football in all departments at Stamford Bridge in an effort to create a dynasty more durable and immune to footballs cyclical nature than those of bygone years.

What about Arnesen? His actions have proven, yet again, that contracts are no longer a guarantee of services for a period of time, but merely a tool for employers to extract compensation once their employees get a better offer elsewhere. Yet are the charges of disloyalty justified? Not really. While us Spurs fans have invested a lifetime suffering disappointment at their hands, and have a huge emotional investment in the club, Frank Arnesen doesn't. He joined last year, not because of a noble desire to lift Tottenham from perennial mediocrity to its rightful place in the sun, but because he was being well paid to do so. He was there because the price was right.

Now he's got a better offer, with a better club, and by all accounts his responsibilities will not be quite as burdensome at Chelsea as they were at White Hart Lane. Let's be fair, if a friend came to me and said that he had been offered the chance to double his salary, move to a better company, and have his workload reduced, and asked me what he should do, I could only give one answer. Just because us fans believe that the club's employees should be as loyal to the club as we are, and have the same emotional connections that we do, does not mean that they will, and only on rare occasions will it be so. To the likes of Arnesen, and in professional football and society in general his type are in the majority, the main reason for working is to earn money. It's vulgar but its reality.

So while the moral outrage over Arnesen's inevitable move will continue for some time, and the claim that Chelsea are destroying football as we know and love it for even longer, one cannot deny that both parties have done what is best for them and in Arnesen's case, what any right minded person would have done. Is he greedy? Perhaps, but in his position how many of us would have acted any differently?

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