Sunderland’s Bruce can’t lecture Bent about loyalty

January 20, 2011

SOCCER-ENGLAND/Much-travelled Sunderland manager Steve Bruce either has a very short memory or the biggest brass neck in football but either way his claim that his club had been let down by Darren Bent’s disloyal move to Aston Villa takes some swallowing.

“It’s hugely disappointing and the players, our supporters and the club as a whole have every right to feel massively let down,” he complained after Bent’s transfer.

Moving from a club in sixth place to one above the drop zone only on goal difference might look odd at first glance, certainly if Bent’s justification for the move about joining a “big club” is to believed, but Bruce is surely the last man to start bleating about loyalty.

As a centre half winning rave reviews with Norwich City back in the 1980s, Bruce told anyone who would listen that he wanted to go to Manchester United.

When he became a manager of Wigan Athletic, he was so loyal that he walked out after two months to go to Crystal Palace. It was Steve Bruce who left Palace four months into his first season to take over Birmingham City.

And surely that was…Steve Bruce who then left Birmingham in acrimonious circumstances to return to Wigan, who he then left to join Sunderland.

Should Alex Ferguson decide to finally retire anytime soon and Manchester United were to enquire about Bruce’s availability to succeed him, how would his loyalty to Sunderland’s “players, supporters and club as a whole” fare then?

The fact is that, much as the fans want it to be otherwise, modern footballers have no more loyalty to their clubs than the average till operator does to their supermarket.

If a shop up the road offers a bigger salary then off they will go without a second thought for the customers and colleagues left behind.

So it is with Bent, and all the others whose negotiations are carried out by agents with only one target – get as much money for their client as they can.

Schalke 04 boss Felix Magath said this week that power had shifted too far in favour of the players and suggested that those who try to break their contracts should be banned from playing international or Champions League football.

It is an interesting suggestion, albeit one highly unlikely to ever come to fruition. Magath is trying to shut the stable door not just after the horse has bolted but after it has disappeared over the horizon.

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