By Chris Wright
It’s been a grim few days as far as football is concerned; from the horrific collapse of, and then subsequent morbid blanket fascination surrounding Fabrice Muamba, right the way down through the spectrum to the truly inane and pathetic.
On Monday night we heard that Newcastle ne’er-do-well Nile Ranger was arrested for breaching his bail conditions, venturing into the city centre despite the court’s insistence that he shouldn’t, in order to fritter away swathes of his barely-earned wages – rumoured to be around £17,000-a-week – at a casino (no free bets in sight, one imagines) before being pinched while trying to make his exit
Ranger appeared at Newcastle magistrates court the very next day (Tuesday) to admit breaching his bail, which was related to an assault charge, and is now pencilled in to return to his second home for trial later today before the same magistrates on a previous charge of being drunk and disorderly.
So far, our Nile’s week has been pretty…well, ‘litigious’.
It goes without saying that, in almost any other walk of life, Ranger – a 20-year old man with a rap sheet listing, among other things; assault (allegedly leaving a man unconscious on the pavement), armed-robbery (he spent 11 weeks in a youth offender’s institute for his part in an armed robbery), drunk and disorderly conduct and drink-driving – would have been extradited by his employers long ago and that’s without accounting for all the unnecessary non-criminal mithering he’s caused Newcastle with his various lapses over the years. Replica firearms, ill-discipline, Visa issues, etc, etc.
It’s perhaps worth pointing out that only one – one – of those aforementioned charges came before he signed his first professional contract at St James’ Park. The armed-robbery occurred while he was on the youth books at Southampton, aged just 15. The Saints severed all ties with Ranger as soon as the guilty verdict was passed.
Newcastle came calling a couple of months later.
Elsewhere, and perhaps an even better example of how football isn’t even trying any more, came at Chelsea yesterday – where, once the smoke had cleared, youth team midfielder Jacob Mellis was fired for letting off a paintball smoke grenade at Cobham and forcing a full-scale evacuation of the premises.
Chelsea ‘parted company’ with Mellis without much thought, though his accomplice in the prank, Billy Clifford, was let off with a fine. See if you can guess which player was being farmed out on loan to Barnsley and which one had just signed a new, four-year deal with the Blues. Any ideas?
Of course, as we mentioned at the time, we’re dealing with the very same club here that merely took first-choice left-back and distinguished England international Ashley Cole across their collective knee and smacked his bottom for bringing an offensive weapon into work with him then actually discharging it into the work experience boy’s flank not so very long ago.
In summary: smoke bomb prank = termination of contract. Firing air rifle into another human being’s flesh = that’ll cost you a week’s wages – and we shouldn’t kid ourselves that any other club would act any differently.
Look at Carlos Tevez for crying out loud. The man was made a pariah for refusing to warm up against Bayern Munich and was subsequently exiled to the golf courses of Buenos Aires for his gross insubordination – yet, here we are, five months later, with him poised to make his first-team Man City comeback (on the bench) against Chelsea tonight backed, by a tidal wave of well-wishing from the very manager he grossly insubordinated.
Lest we forget that Roberto Mancini vowed Tevez would ‘never play for the club again’ on two separate occasions, yet the uppity Argentine will be back kissing the badge or making other such empty kowtowing gestures to his support before long – because he’s too good to let go to waste. There’s no other reason. He hasn’t been made to pay reparations, he hasn’t spent months on a quest for a soul-searching epiphany – he’s just too useful to have on the books and not have contributing.
Sure, they’ll be righteous indignation from some quarters, but no-one that matters will really care as long as he’s scoring goals and mucking in on a Saturday. Time passes, we all move on. We forgive and forget (with the emphasis on ‘forget’). In a way, it’s really quite healthy.
Of course, the FA will always be there to dole out three-match bans for bad tackles and mouthing naughty words down cameras and the like, but when it comes to internal discipline, football clubs are self-preservationist law-enforcing agencies unto themselves.
The value of the individual to club, their inherent utility ( i.e, the amount the club stands to forfeit by firing them) is in direct correlation with the individual’s susceptibility to culpability and punishment.
Each case is judged on its individual merits. ‘Merits’ being a direct synonym for ‘monetary worth.’
Lee Hughes killed a man and drove off into the night pissed, Marlon King beat a woman black and blue. Both served jail sentences then re-found gainful employment immediately after, waltzing through the prison gates and in to waiting taxis to be ferried hither and thither with their agents for contract negotiations with various clubs.
It’s the way it is and it’s the way it’s always been. If you’re good enough, you’re more or less above the majority of the laws of the land. At least now they’re not even trying to cover the hypocrisy up any more.
We can probably count that as ‘progress’.