Phillips saga a sorry spectacle but one Leeds haven’t done too badly out of
Saturday, 25th Jun 2022 05:55 by Lumo Michalik (@quadraphinha)
The midfielder’s impending move to Manchester City only serves to prove Gordon Strachan right. The so-called beautiful game is bereft of morals.
“We have no morals in football,” declared Gordon Strachan one sweltering day in 2014. Uruguay had battled their way to a 1-0 victory over Italy in the World Cup, but it was one man in particular who stole the headlines. A minute before Diego Godin’s late and decisive strike, Luis Suarez sank his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini. Strachan, who was covering the tournament for ITV, offered a mordant criticism of the modern game:
“People talk about morals - we don't have any morals in football. Let's get that right.
"Over the years I have played there has been wife-batterers, drink-driving incidents, infidelity, Eric Cantona jumping into the crowd and kung-fu-ing someone in the chest. The clubs stand by them.
"The supporters themselves, when these guys come back, they stand up and applaud them on the pitch. So don't anybody start talking about morals - we don't have any in football. If these things had been done by youth team players - who don't have any importance to the first team - they get sacked.
"But because they can bring in merchandise and bring in money, then they will back them to the hilt.”
The erstwhile United midfield general hit the nail on the head. As with so much else, morality is subordinate to money. This year, millions upon millions of supporters across the globe will watch a coruscating array of stars compete for the World Cup in stadia people died building. In an ideal world, Qatar, a despotic petrostate in which homosexuality is punishable by death, would have no business hosting the tournament, but the last host was Russia, another country that treats the human rights of others as one would treat something one had stepped in on the street. Football sold the principle long ago.
Kalvin Phillips’s move from Leeds to Manchester City therefore comes as no surprise. It is no less sorry a spectacle for this, exemplifying as it does all that is wrong with the sport, but what is remarkable here is the response of the supporters. It is the United board that has come in for the most vituperative criticism. Not Phillips, who has exercised ample player power in his bid to abandon the club he so often professed to love; not his agent, who will take a pretty penny for having assisted his client in this ignoble endeavour; not Manchester City, which is far less a football club than it is a propaganda tool for the Abu Dhabi dictatorship and whose fans have only been all too happy to feast themselves on the many, many treats its filthy lucre has bestowed upon them, stuffing themselves silly like Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory; and certainly not the unfettered hypercapitalism that has poisoned the game down to its very roots, that has allowed terrible foreign dictators to purchase English clubs, that has driven many more to the brink of extinction.
As a long-standing season ticket holder who desires nothing more than complete supporter ownership across football, I am often extremely critical of this board. Since installing itself it has, in my view, been wedded to commercialism and the pursuit of profit over all else, as we saw when it sanctioned a post-season tour of Myanmar while the government of that country was committing genocide against Rohingya Muslims. It has often made cosmically incompetent decisions, notably the Gaviscon badge and the appointment of Paul Heckingbottom, for which the fans would likely have taken pistols to Uncle Ken’s head had the wretched Tory Papa Smurf made precisely the same calls. Here, however, I can see no good reason to criticise them.
I can well understand the argument that Leeds should have gotten more money. The fact is that Phillips wanted and pushed for the move, which enfeebled the club. He also didn’t have an especially long time remaining on his contract, which further weakened Leeds’s negotiating position. Manchester City were able to offer him mind-bogglingly large quantities of money because their owners are rich, murderous tyrants. Consequently, Leeds are to receive anything from £42m to £50m for a good player but one whose greatest achievements are one respectable year in the top-flight and a smattering of decent showings in an England shirt, and who spent a great deal of last season injured and looked woeful once he’d returned and Marcelo Bielsa had left. It is exasperating, it is rotten, it is one more reason among countless others to decry the rampant and obscene avarice and abundance of modern football, in which money rules all and morality has no place, but in this case the ugly game, mercifully, hasn’t done too badly by Leeds United, and it won’t do anybody, certainly not the poor blighter who’ll have the unenviable task of replacing his star in the United firmament, any favours to pretend otherwise. I only hope that I am not alone in finding it evidence of how monstrously ailed our game is that the Leeds board is receiving more criticism for this than it did when it dragged our club’s name through the dirt to take it to Myanmar.
Photo: Action Images
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