No player is bigger than the club. An idea conceived by Shankly and embraced with a vengeance by Ferguson.
Given United’s success over the past two decades who could argue with him? Sharpe, Beckham, Stam, Van Nistelrooy and Keane all tried and were shown the door.
The team is the unit; the individual subservient to the whole; the dressing room the manager’s to win or lose. And heaven help the manager that loses theirs.
Central to Fergie’s genius is his knack of surfing a wave of player power that has drowned managers from Clough at Elland Road to Andre Villas Boas, as well as, in the case of the Dutch and French national sides, sinking entire campaigns at major championships. But that’s just football right? Overpaid players fuelling tabloid rumours hyping every fixture is the screenplay for the modern game
It certainly isn’t cricket. Or, at least, it wasn’t.
Suddenly another dressing room thrusts itself forward as a crucible of tension and agitation. In keeping with its rather more dignified standing, cricket’s seed of discontent has nothing to do with wife-borrowing or boot-flinging. The rotten something at the heart of the English game is nothing more sinister than a parody Twitter account, albeit one in the name of the player most akin to the modern Premiership footballer in looks, attitude and, crucially, earning potential.
The rotten something at the heart of the English game is nothing more sinister than a parody Twitter account
Controversy has stalked Kevin Pietersen throughout his career so it is no real surprise to find him shadowed by an alter-ego with a keen eye for capturing the nuances of KP’s real ego. KP Genius is nothing if not aptly-named.
That Pietersen believes and is prepared to publicly intimate that this is part of a wider conspiracy conjured to drive him out of English cricket threatens to derail an unprecedented improvement in the fortunes of the national side that broadly tallies with his arrival on the international scene seven years ago.
There has been a typically English response to the team reaching the summit of the ICC rankings and this explains why Pietersen feels able to agitate so freely in favour of a more relaxed relationship with the squad or, as it has been interpreted, to play wherever and whenever he feels fit.
Essentially, we all know deep down that this is not a vintage period for international cricket and, perhaps more worrying than that, we don’t have the strength in depth to ensure a sustained reign at the top. Pietersen is only too aware that this is the case and this is the reason why the England management have deemed it prudent to placate him.
There has been a typically English response to the team reaching the summit of the ICC rankings and this explains why Pietersen feels able to agitate so freely
Quite rightly, England aspire to match the achievements of the two genuinely great sides of the past half-century but it’s almost impossible to imagine Clive Lloyd, Allan Border, Vivian Richards, Mark Taylor or Steve Waugh or their selection committees putting up with Pietersen’s idiosyncrasies.
Ricky Ponting became the most successful international captain of all time only after he had been read the riot act by Taylor and the Australian management for a series of misdemeanours.
Internecine strife broke out in the West Indies dressing room over sponsorship and financial arrangements only once the flood of talent that replaced Roberts with Marshall and Richards with Lara ran dry.
The Andys Flower and Strauss are offered a simple choice. Stick, and continue to placate Pietersen in the hope that they can squeeze enough runs out of him to succeed on a challenging tour of India and win back-to-back Ashes series, or twist and call his bluff in the hope that the next cab off the rank is the real deal, capable of filling a KP-shaped gap in England’s middle order.
Maybe the most pertinent question they could ask themselves would be “What would Fergie do?”
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