In modern British sport there is the running joke that there is no loyalty anymore. “It’s not like the good old days when a player kissed his badge and did genuinely love his club”. Yeah, the good old days. Men where men, fights were allowed, divorce was uncommon and players had a club for life.
In contemporary sport, though, with its bonuses and image rights contracts, is there a reward for loyalty?
Look at the case of James Eddie. Loyal servant to Glasgow and a versatile and hard working back 5 unit. He isn’t a marquee name or a game winner but he gives his all and is the kind of character that can hold a dressing room together. He’s a ‘club man’.
Glasgow have decided, however, to let Eddie go. No new contract.
Now I don’t know the specific information about his fitness or his injury history and the only line in the press is ‘released’ but surely this is a lack of foresight as Glasgow look to start next season with characters like Kellock, Gray, Low, Stortoni, Morrison, Barclay, Beattie, Cusiter, Jackson, Van Der Merwe, Vernon, Tkachuk, Hall and Evans missing. Who steadies the ship in the new Fiat* League? Where does the experience and grit come from?
Eddie has been with Glasgow since 2004 and has played in every competition. It seems bizarre that he would be let go in favour of, say, a Paul Burke or someone else from the club scene. But he will be. Last night he played his last home game with Glasgow and there were back slaps and applause all round. Lineen has made his decision and, much like every decision in the last month or so, it has been a ruthless one.
In rugby terms it is hard to see why a player would stay for a long time at one club, though. Young players get a one- or two-year contract and the mega-bucks superstars are only able to be retained for two to three years, financially. Those in the middle wouldn’t want to be tied down, either, especially when there are options in France: the Holy Grail for any player needing swag.
The issue here is, however, that Eddie wasn’t even offered a contract. Budget cannot be blamed for this one. This comes down to selection. And for the 6 World Cup weeks that the Magners/Fiat*/Farmfoods?! League is running Glasgow will be missing a lot of guys. Indeed from last night’s starting team only 4 starters, at most, will be available.
So with the proposed shrinking of squad sizes in Scotland to a fully-contracted 32 it could mean slim pickings for a combative pack in those 6 weeks. Glasgow, like Edinburgh, need competitive recruitment. They need new blood. No announcements seem forthcoming.
In this respect the SRU are trying to be coy. Or just dismissive. Thus far they have not been drawn in to talking out about player recruitment, and why should they? Contract negotiations can be delicate affairs. There could be a time, at the death of the season, when the pro teams announce many signings. A fillip for the fans as World Cup preparations truly kick-in. Or they could just put their head in the sand as little known players drip into the pro scene.
We will have to wait and see. Players brought in in a World Cup summer could just be stop-gap personnel. Short contracts would be likely. The reassuring thing is that loyalty can be bought if it is only for a 10 game stretch. Who wouldn’t kiss their badge if they were starting every game for 3 months? Scottish rugby is so turbulent there may be need for a whole team of badge-kissers. Please spare a thought for the servants shown the door, though. It wasn’t their choice to kiss someone else’s badge…