Deadline Day Panic: Peter Odemwingie’s Unplanned Trip To London
It was, all things considered, a relatively sane transfer deadline day. None of the biggest clubs got particularly involved, and no-one spent £70m on a life-sized perspex replica of Bobby Charlton in the hope amongst hopes that scientists might have perfected human cloning while no-one was looking. Professional football, however, would not be professional football with something of an ill-advised nature happening on a day like this and, whilst the goings on at Queens Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest were mildly diverting, there was only really one story worth paying attention to if you wanted to keep up with the inside track on the madder side of transfer negotiations: Peter Odemwingie’s one man bid to get get himself signed by Queens Park Rangers, come hell or high water.
Odemwingie has been acting erratically for a little while, now. The West Bromwich Albion striker – probably now ex-West Bromwich Albion striker – has been agitating for a move away from The Hawthorns for some weeks, but rather than following the established protocol of getting some carefully placed stories into the national press, pouting in public a little and leaving the negotiations to those who know what they are doing, Odemwingie went public, with a series of pronouncements via his Twitter account – including one which suggested that even his advisor had told him to shut the hell up, but that he was choosing to ignore this advice – which simultaneously irreparably damaged his reputation with West Bromwich Albion supporters and perhaps even his own reputation as a professional that anybody would want to do business with.
Perhaps it was inevitable that all of this would come to a head yesterday, on the one day during the season itself when calm, measured thinking is most likely to go clean out of the window. Odemwingie took it upon himself to drive from the West Midlands to Loftus Road in an apparent attempt to strong-arm this sale through before the transfer window slammed shut and he was faced with with the obviously appalling prospect of having to play out the rest of this season for a well run club in the top half of the Premier League table with an outside chance of qualifying to play in Europe next season for just £30,000 a week.
Now, it could be argued that Queens Park Rangers had been dragged into a situation that was partly of their own making, here. After all, the club had been reported as having made a £2m offer for the player that had been turned down by West Bromwich Albion earlier this week. However, with commendable restraint they wouldn’t allow Odemwingie in to sign the contract of his dreams, leaving the player stranded outside Loftus Road facing the daunting prospect of having to return to The Hawthorns to explain himself and, perhaps more significantly from the point of view of a professional footballer, come face to face with the other Albion players. He was, however, sent home from this morning and now, to no-one’s surprise, will not be involved in their match against Tottenham Hotspur this weekend.
To paraphrase a well-worn saying, money corrupts, and vast amounts of money corrupt vastly. For all the talk of ‘a new chapter in my life,’ no-one has really been under the impression the Peter Odemwingie’s motivation suddenly had for a move to Loftus Road was dictated by anything other than money. On the one hand, a sliver of mitigation for his behaviour might be found in the fact that, at thirty-one years of age, the high earning days of his career might be starting to come to an end. Some former players go into coaching or management whilst others go into the media. On the whole, though, the future employment prospects for the ageing player, who might well have been groomed to do nothing other than play football since early childhood, aren’t necessarily great and the impulse to do anything for one last big pay day before the good times come to an end might be understandable. Whilst it might be momentarily diverting to consider the idea of professional footballers turning up en masse at Loftus Road and trying to break the doors down because there were unquestioned £100,000 a week contracts being signed off left, right and centre, it might, just perhaps, be a cause for concern that players are driven to such behaviour in the first place.
That said, however, there are ways of negotiating that will work and there are ways of negotiating that won’t, and this player’s behaviour yesterday not only landed him quite firmly in the latter category. Worse than that, Odemwingie has possibly burnt his bridges in the Premier League, the one football league in the world in which rampant wage inflation has remained a constant theme above all others. He might be able to withstand the media mockery heading his way. He might not care about the fact that yesterday’s shenanigans might well be the one thing above all others that his career is remembered for. He might even be happy to take the next five months off work, especially if that time is spent on full pay. The question of ‘What next?’, however, might well be playing very much on the mind of this player for the foreseeable future. West Bromwich Albion, meanwhile, have acted with as much dignity that we could have expected from a situation that very quickly became beyond their control.
Only time will tell whether Peter Odemwingie will ever now get the contract he wants, but it would be difficult to bet against the manager of another club deciding that the events of both yesterday and the last few weeks pall in comparison with the promise of a shiny new striker. In a broader sense, though, perhaps his behaviour yesterday afternoon of a wider set of issues that football should face, one of entitlement and expectation, of the hysteria that now covers the closing of the transfer window like a fog. It seems likely, however, that in case more time will be spent focusing on the symptom than the root cause.
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