Day: June 25, 2011

The Twohundredpercent Vault: The Maximum Wage And Retain & Transfer

One of the more extraordinary facts to be thrown up by last night’s Premier League match between Blackpool and Manchester United was that one Manchester United player, Wayne Rooney, earns more every week than the entire Blackpool squad does between them. Such are the vagaries of modern football. It wasn’t, of course, ever thus. Until the early 1960s, footballers existed in a peculiar form of serfdom, unable to work where they wanted to and with a savage salary cap that didn’t even seem to take into account the harsh fact that players, often uneducated and having only ever known one way of life, would usually see their careers grind to a halt by the time they were forty years old. The story of football’s maximum wage is a story that spanned the first eighty years of professional football in England. Darwen FC had been the first club to pay players to pay for them, the Scots Fergie Suter and James Love in 1879, and as clubs became more and more aware of the commercial benefits of having a winning team, this practice became more and more commonplace until the widely ignored FA rule banning professionalism was lifted in 1885. The lifting of this rule opened the floodgates and within ten years clubs were already requesting that the the Football League introduced a maximum wage for players. Most players were...

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Jack Climbs A Beanstalk While The Giant Pays Transfer Fees With Golden Eggs

Fee-fi-fo-fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman? Hmm, smells like pound sterling…. In a more recent piece for the Financial Times, Simon Kuper informs us that top flight football clubs have rapidly turned the business of player evaluation into a quantifiable pursuit. As opposed to a more personal scouting scheme where a club manager might have to rely on whether the opinion of whomever he sent to watch whomever he’s watching is worth a flutter, instead a few statisticians can torture the mountain of numbers at their fingertips sufficiently enough to objectively assess a player’s potential value to his squad. Having read that piece, one might wonder why the Alex Ferguson who misinterpreted the stats on Jaap Stam made, what thus far appears to be, another error in statistical analysis when he signed Bébé without having seen him play. The Scot has been ridiculed for signing the lad on the recommendation of former assistant Carlos Querioz, but perhaps the jokes should instead be directed at Manchester United’s IT department for giving Sir Alex the data they had already collated on Javier Hernandez before he met with the young Portuguese player. The transfer fee of £6.6 million for “Chicharito” in hindsight looks a good deal for United, whereas the £7.7 million doled out for Bébé seems like it might turn out to be money less wisely spent. Thus far this transfer...

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The Twohundredpercent Vault: In Praise Of… Football Grounds With Alan Mullery

Molineux, Wolverhampton. Judging by the brightness of the sunshine and the bareness of the goalmouth, it’s springtime. The camera lingers on the main stand as it fills up with a lone goalkeeper (Mike Stowell, perhaps?) warming up in front of the camera. Finally, a shower of ticker-tape and the team takes the pitch. Welcome to “Football Grounds With Alan Mullery”. There comes a point when even the most obsessive of us think, “You know, maybe this is too much”, and it’s entirely plausible to believe that many of us might reach that moment with this video. And yet… this is a time capsule. Our football stadia stayed largely unchanged for much of the twentieth century, and this is probably why Molineux was chosen as the opening shots for this video. When it arose from the crumbling ruins of the old stadium in the early 1990s, it was considered to be the height of new ground sophistication. Less than two decades on, “Football Grounds with Alan Mullery” (recorded in 1993) already had the sense of being a paean to a lost age of vast concrete terraces. By the time it was being filmed, it was already clear from a cursory viewing of “Match Of The Day” that the times were a-changin’. If the first couple of seasons of the Premier League had a “look” to speak of, that look was...

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