Money is destroying the personality of players – The characters in the game have faded away

The Premier League has seen some magnificent players grace the league over the years, but the characters of the game have almost faded away. There used to be so many characters in the beautiful game, clashes of personalities that you were eager to see each week. Now when you watch a Premier League game, though the quality is there – it does not feel the same. The battles on the pitch are a lot softer, the days of crunching tackles by the likes of Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira have long since past.

Today’s game is a global, money-making machine but the heroes and villains of the game can no longer be seen. When I was younger, I found myself in a great era of characters in the game. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I can now appreciate how much each character added to football. There were the likes of  Tony Adams, who famously battled alcoholism whilst leading Arsenal to league titles. There was also the unique and lovable personality of Paul Gascoigne. Even the foreign players added their own unpredictable nature to the game. In comparison, modern day football seems a bit dull.

Obviously English football has changed dramatically over the last decade or so. The wages are ridiculously high, the pressures and expectations are unrealistic and the media scrutiny is constant. The players are surrounded by PR people and agents, they are prepped, one dimensional and generally kept out of public view. The interviews seem rehearsed and you rarely see a glimmer of personality from a player. Often you will find pictures of players lying on a beach in a gossip magazine.

You need characters in the game but they are gone. There’s a different type of player coming through. They are extremely talented but they lack personality. There are no rough-and-ready players who are gentlemen at the same time, who stand up for what they desire. When I was growing up I looked at football as a hobby, as a sport I loved. Now people go into it to earn money, not the other way round.

People these days don’t enjoy the simplicity of the game. During my childhood my dad, my brother and me used to put our jackets down and pretend they were goalposts – like many other kids did. Choosing an empty patch of grass to play on or an empty car-park. Now most play football on their computer games. It comes down to the younger players being paid astronomical amounts, in days gone by the younger players would clean established players’ boots, it encourages responsibility, professionalism and respect. Football clubs have gone soft on their youngsters, they have too much, too young.  Players are forgetting the hard work that needs to be done to earn the sort of lifestyle a footballer has. Not enough of them have the same dedication and it’s something I feel very strongly about. They think they have made it already.

Cleaning boots, showers and toilets was routine for the younger players before Howard Wilkinson introduced the academy system in the 1990s. Clubs who signed up had to agree to send the youngsters to college instead.  The idea was to produce better players and a route into the real world for those who failed to make it as a professional. However, the competition among top clubs to sign the best youngsters for their academies means many are paid more than senior pros in Leagues One and Two.

The personality of players is being destroyed by the amount of money they earn as soon as they turn professional. This is something that has to change before it spirals out of control even further.

It would be so refreshing to see a player expose some of their personality, to be unleashed without it being because they are angry. The head down, headphones in, nothing to see here, emotionless walk to the changing room sums it all up really. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely to change much in the near future.