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Saturday 22 September 2018

What ever happened to leaders?

Pogba and Lukaku would never have lived down their silly antics in my day

Yours truly (left) pictured with my Liverpool team-mates Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen (below) - two real leaders - parading the FA Cup back in 1989. Photo: Russell Cheyne/Getty
Yours truly (left) pictured with my Liverpool team-mates Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen (below) - two real leaders - parading the FA Cup back in 1989. Photo: Russell Cheyne/Getty
(l-r) Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku’s recent social media video is an example of the cringe-worthy antics that modern professionals get up to. Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

You might remember the days when every successful team had leaders in the heart of their team dragging them to glory. I was lucky enough to play alongside men like Roy Keane, Paul McGrath, Alan Hansen and Steve McMahon and they led by example.

In my playing days, there was a certain macho side to the game that you wanted to fit in with and it was shameful if you were shown up to be a man who couldn't stand up for himself in a confrontation.

Yet the antics we see from footballers now confirms that showing off your new haircut or displaying your six-pack to the world on a social media channel, is celebrated by a new breed of supporters in the game.

When I saw Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku hugging each other in a stage-managed social media video when it was confirmed Lukaku would be moving to Manchester United earlier this month, it made me cringe.

Hammered

I bet the two of them went off to get their nails manicured together after filming that video, yet this is how footballers express themselves these days and everyone seems to think it's fine.

I might sound like an old man here, but if any member of Jack Charlton's Ireland team from the late 1980s and early 90s made videos of themselves holding anything other than a pint and released the footage to the public, they would have been hammered when we gathered for the next international.

We got on with our jobs, had a very nice life on the back of it, but we didn't need to ram our success down everyone's throat to highlight how great we were, but that is what we see time and again now.

John Terry's departure from Chelsea last season was another example of everything that is wrong with a game over-populated by players with egos the size of a skyscraper.

Nonsense

Terry had a magnificent career at Chelsea and led them from the front to some wonderful successes over the last decade and more.

Yet why on earth was he allowed to stop a Premier League game after 26 minutes - to coincide with the number of his shirt - and stage-manage his exit from his final game for Chelsea last May.

What a load of nonsense that was!

We all appreciate you have done great things for Chelsea John, but play your last game, have a big send-off and then make a dignified exit.

No, he wanted all the glory to be on him and made sure of that with a sideshow that should not have been allowed by either Chelsea or the Premier League.

I look at players like Wayne Rooney, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany and Steven Gerrard as recent examples of players who were incredibly high profile, but didn't spend their time on social media making silly video clips to amuse their fans.

They are respected for what they have achieved on the field and not for their celebrity as a star on Twitter or Instagram, but the fans who follow the game today seem to like all this nonsense.

Performance

I get the impression that young supporters lap up the antics of these self-absorbed footballers as long as they score the odd goal and turn in a good performance on the field.

The minute they let their standards drop, people start to question whether they are spending too much time worrying about other aspects of the game, but players like Pogba and Lukaku can do no wrong in the eyes of their supporters. It's fair to say that the foreign players who have come into the English game crave this celebrity cult more than any of the homegrown lads, but it is a virus that is spreading.

Football clubs are not helping by producing these wacky videos to announce signings this summer, in what is another example of the game losing a sense of perspective at a time when a ridiculous amount of money is polluting the soul of the game.

The £8bn broadcasting deal the Premier League signed up for a couple of years ago has actually taken the game further away from long-standing supporters and fuelled the bank balances and egos of players who can't believe how lucky they are to be making all this money.

Football has changed so much over the last 25 years of the Premier League and not all of it has been for the better.

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