The real-life tales of a football writer
When Carlos Tevez first returned to West Ham as a Manchester United player, he walked into the centre of the pitch and crossed his wrists in a salute familiar to any Hammer. Then he rigorously applauded the home fans – to an enthusiastic response.
Eyebrows were raised in the away end, but little said; even though they won that day, West Ham were as much of a threat to United as Manchester City have been for three decades. They were as irrelevant as the ‘Back Manchester’s Host City Bid’ pitchside adverts at Old Trafford. (Public money is being wasted on those – as if an England World Cup bid wouldn’t feature Manchester.)
Tevez got a very different reaction when he applauded the Stretford End in the Manchester derby. Raised in Buenos Aires – a city with more derby games than any – he should understand derbies. He played for Boca Juniors, whose derby with River Plate is probably the planet’s most intense. He starred for Corinthians, whose match against Sao Paulo is among the most febrile in Brazil.
Tevez should know that derbies are not love-ins, nor for seeking approval by clapping rival fans. He honestly thought that he could go to Old Trafford and get a decent reaction from United fans.
From his point of view, he was a tireless performer in red for two years and felt he’d earned that respect, just as he’d done at West Ham. It’s true that he was an industrious United performer, one of the best in the 2008 European Cup Final. He was so popular that thousands of United fans sang “Fergie, sign him up” following the final game of last season, choosing the inopportune moment of Fergie’s appreciation speech.
Since he moved to Manchester City, there has been some staggering revisionism from United fans who, at the dash of a signature, decided he was worse than Ralph Milne and uglier than the Elephant man.
The Athletic Bilbao coach Joaquín Caparrós said: “In football, you can go from whore to nun in five minutes.” He’s right, and it works the other way.
Football fans operate in a self-serving pantomime of playground emotions. Arguments are selected to suit, rejection taken in its most base form - with spite. And hypocrisy thrives.
I saw United fans absolutely slaughter Alan Smith when he played for Leeds... and then welcome him when he moved to Old Trafford. Michael Owen was a dirty Scouse rat... until he signed for United. He’s now the fourth most popular name on the back of shirts in the Old Trafford Megastore.
(Not that the people who buy replica shirts should be any barometer of credibility. Wayne Rooney is way out in front; while he plies his trade on the pitch, United fans sing songs about putting Scousers on a bonfire and burning it.)
Fans slate the media, yet they are the first to take the bait when the media whips up a feud before a big game like the Manchester derby. They hammer players for not speaking their mind and talking in clichés, then slaughter them when they actually speak their mind. Damned if they do...
I’ve lost count of the number of emails in recent days from people who’ve decided that Mark Hughes – whom they idolised as a player – is a darker force than the Taliban. A few have had a real go at Brian Kidd.
Now I know Brian and I like him. He would have loved to return to Old Trafford at any time in the last 10 years, but that wouldn’t have happened with Sir Alex Ferguson in charge. So he’s spent most of the last few years commuting from his family home in Manchester and living in hotels away from his family. He was at Portsmouth last season and could have stayed, but it’s five hours from home.
He’s taken a job heading up City’s youth academy, where I’m sure he’ll excel, though I wonder whether he’ll keep his United season tickets. Some United fans are disappointed that he took the job. Did they want him to sit at home unemployed, away from the game he loves?
I spoke to Andrew Cole about this last week. “Fans don’t always appreciate players signing for rival clubs, but fans aren’t professional footballers,” he said. “They don’t have to make such choices between football clubs, but in their working lives fans have to make choices and do what is best for their career at that time.
“As long as they give 100% to the company they work for, it shouldn’t bother anyone. That’s all I ever did, work my socks off to make whoever I played for a better team.”
The problem comes because players have a different set of rules to fans, who apply morals they wouldn’t adhere to under the same circumstances. Fans hold up players like Ryan Giggs and Jamie Carragher as examples of loyal one-club men, but such players are very lucky and in a position most players would envy.
They’re at top clubs and have the choice whether to stay or go – 99% of professional footballers don’t (although it still amuses me that Gary Neville verbally abused Jordi Cruyff when he was linked with Liverpool and told him that he couldn’t move “to them”).
Tevez had a choice, though, and he chose money, although he’ll have his side of the story. Maybe other unsavoury elements made the decision for him. It’s not black and white, but fans try and make it a black and white issue, hero or zero, in the same way they describe someone they don’t actually know as a “legend” or a “w***er” simply because they did or didn’t stop to sign an autograph.
Tevez made his decision and he’s hardly the first footballer to follow the money route, but if he thinks he can come back and everything will be fine then he’s naïve. Then again, laughing as he left the field will hardly have endeared him to City fans, either...
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If you are a Man UNited fan, then you certainly don't understand the situation here. Tevez wasn't boo-ed at every time he touched the ball because he chose to sign for City, which is what you are implying. He was jeered because he LIED about why he signed for the bluenoses, and told the media he had been thrown out of Old Trafford! But CARLA lit the blue touchpaper when he continually whined almost every week about why he signed for the Pity, and demaned respect whilst not respecting SAF or our Management team. He was mistreated - didn't get enough games, yeah right! He couldn't stop badmouthing our club, and that's why he will always get the same treatment at OT. Hughesy is getting the treatment because he has become like Pinnochio, his nose is growing rapidly for all the lies he tells to defend the indefensible among his players. I loved to watch you on MUTV and read your mag - not any more Andy - just stop misrepresenting our fans like the bluenoses, unless you are becoming one of them!
Poor old Carlos was really living in dreamland if he thought he would get a heroes welcome dressed in laser blue on derby day. As you said, he is well used to derbies in both Argentina and Brazil. While I respected and loved his contribution in a red shirt in the two years he played for us, his constant whining and complaining to the press over the summer and for most of last season did nothing but make him look a right d**k. He moved (or was encouraged to move by his agents) for money, end of story. It was hardly for the prospect of winning trophies (perhaps he was laughing at the 33/34 years banner on the Stretty having just realised his mistake!). True, professional footballers have to think of their careers and their families but Tevez did nothing to help himself in his constant bleating about his "mistreatment". If winning two leagues, a champions league, a league cup and earning over 90k a week is mistreatment, then sign me up! To then expect to be applauded by fans at OT while playing for the bitters is not just unreal but a tad stupid in my opinion.
As you say, all football fans are revisionist when it comes to players but there are factors that have exacerbated the reaction to Tevez among United supporters.
Tevez very conspiculously failed to be humble about his move from United to City. In saying that Sir Alex Ferguson showed him disrespect and so very obviously telling outright lies about the club's offer to him, he immediately set himself against the club.
United fans are forever loyal to the club and Sir Alex has such a massive bank of credit that fans are prepared to trust his judgement when it comes to players. This is an argument Tevez could never win with supporters.
Tevez simply should have said he was moving to find the first team football he couldn't at United - like Nicky Butt and Phil Neville - and he could have maintained a more civil relationship with United supporters. The player's problem is that he rates himself as significantly better than he really is.
Moreover, Manchester City supporters have held him up as some kind of trophy. True, they haven't seen any silverware in 34 years, but still it's a wee bit desperate. How could that not provoke a reaction?
I understand your revisionist comments to a certain extent but the way Tevez conducted himself after he left United he did not deserve to be revered by our fans. When Ronaldo left United i think some people expected him to open his mouth about the club, but the way he has been since he left is exemplory. He has been nothing but courtious and thankful about SAF and the club, something that has raised my estimation of the type of person he is massive amounts, i never doubted his immense talents as a footballer but i think all united fans questioned his nature sometimes seeming very arrogant, something which i am sorry about now. The Way Tevez acted has just made me respect Ronaldo all the more. Tevez also needs to realise that he had as much to thank the club for as much as it needed to be thankful to him.
Do you really think that had tevez signed for another club, say Inter, Real Madrid or even Arsenal, his return to Old Trafford would be as hostile as it was at the weekend? My change of opinion of the man has very little to do with him saying he was treated badly by the club due to his "limited appearances" and stalling contract offers. He was half right, Ferguson didn't see him as a first choice and as a result he didn't get the games carlos thought he deserved, and SAF was also left unconvinced he was worth the extra £20-25mill. Neither do I, and the same applies for many other reds.
It was because he decided to follow the $ and show zero respect to the fans (who gave him better vocal support than afforded to almost any other player wearing red during his 2 years at OT) by signing for city. He could have gone to many other clubs and would have returned to OT with a good reception. Time will probably tell that he contradicted himself by moving "to get more games" due to the number of attacking players they've signed. His limitations were all to see in stoppage time when he could've easily taken that clearance down and held up play but flicked it on straight to Rooney...
And Hughes? All managers are guilty of defending the indefensible among their players and it's just another case of what this article is about: hypocrisy. It's Hughes' bad words about United since taking over at city that have ruined my opinion of a man who was my first hero.
I don't think Fergie made too much effort to sign him and in the end he cost more than he wanted. (Remember, United had already spent £10m just loaning him).
He went to City and everything changed. Fans are fickle. Every team. I didn't have a reason to boo Adebayor even if I wanted to but now I do (an Arsenal fan) but I'll choose not to.
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