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Stability: a thing of the past?
DET Column
Wednesday, August 06 2008

Here's an interesting test: how many of us could name, off the top of our heads, all the players who've appeared in a Rams shirt in the last five seasons? It's a tough one, isn't it? The more you think, the more names keep coming back to you. Tough? It's nigh on impossible.

Now here's another scenario. It's a safe bet that, if we looked back 20 years or so in the record books, that list of players would be a lot shorter. And it's an equally safe bet that this would be true for most clubs. So, why is that? What's driving the revolving doors at football clubs these days?

Well, the reasons for the length of that list from the last five years seem almost20as numerous as the players on it.
Firstly, there's freedom: despite what poor wee Cristiano Ronaldo says, players aren't effectively owned by clubs in the way they once were. When fed up, they move on. And clubs have benefited from player freedom, too: managers can make multiple changes to squads (despite the wretched transfer window system) more quickly than ever. Has there ever been a summer of transfer activity at Derby quite like this one?

Of course, there are disadvantages to these=2 0changes: such as, when players change clubs, agents get paid. And so the rise of that figure of nebulous repute, The Agent, has run concurrently with the era of the itchy-footed footballer.

There's a lot of talk about loyalty, too: players, we hear, just aren't "loyal" in the way they used to be. Well, there are plenty of reasons why a player might suddenly become, in some people's parlance, "disloyal" (apart from the obvious fact they're highly unlikely, these days, to have been boyhood fans of the clubs for which they end up playing).

We've already mentioned agents; but fickle fans, difficult chairmen, and the lure of bigger pay packets can all persuade professionals with families, mortgages, and short careers that it's time to move on.

And now we've just mentioned what people might see as the major driver in all these cases: players move for money. Makes sense, doesn't it? Money and football: the words are, depressingly, almost synonymous now.

But is it that simple? Isn't it arguable that what's really behind the accelerating pace of change (including footballers club-hopping with dizzying speed) is simply the momentum of change itself? Without getting too scientific about it, the fact is that modern life, whether in terms of business, entertainment, or sport, changes more quickly and more often than at any time in history.
The job for life, the extended family living in the same street, the nuclear family per se — they'r e not the dominating factors in society that they once were. Relatively "new" technologies find themselves suddenly obsolete as something a little newer comes along. People move home, retrain, change careers and jobs, with a regularity that would have bewildered our grandparents' generation.

And thus it is with football. And not just with players — with owners, too. The wealthy, "benevolent" local businessman owner is not only a dying breed, but one increasingly out of its depth. Few individuals have that kind of money, "football money", any more. Clubs are taken over by consortia, companies, entertainment groups, faceless collections of anonymous investors. And fans sit and scratch their heads over whether they can trust the latest occupants of the board room, and wonder if the new custodians of their lifelong passion have its best interests at heart; and if they can believe anything they say.

Stability: you could be forgiven for thinking it's gone for good from football. Will Derby's latest owners provide it for our club? Let's face it, they'll be the exception if they do. In a week of recriminations and accusations, it's tempting to just wash your hands of the whole head-spinning malarkey and leave it to the gods.

Except that we have fans who keep caring — no matter what else changes, and how quickly. RamsTrust wants to work positively with whoever runs our club for its long-term benefit, regardless of personalities and prejudices, because — as our owners have already happ ily discovered — Rams' fans deserve the best.

Some things don't change.

You must supply the file pathname into the first Jumi argument at the least!

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