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The Adam Doyle column: Carlos Tevez, theoretical physics, and the influence of disruptive players

Carlos Tevez must be a theoretical physicist. He believes in quantum mechanics and the existence of infinite universes where everything and anything can happen.

For instance, in one universe, Arsene Wenger sees every decision made by the referee. In another, there is some unbiased and insightful opinion on Match of The Day. In Tevez’s universe, he is the victim of an unholy alliance to see his name dragged through the mud. To everyone else, Carlos Tevez is a deluded, disruptive, yet very talented footballer.

The recent Tevez debacle highlights the pervasive problem of disruptive players within football. How do they affect the morale in the dressing room and to what extent do they hinder the team’s performance on the pitch? I’ve come up against a few in my short career and luckily the effects have been, more often than not, fairly minimal.

Top ‘superstar’ footballers, often paid outrageous sums of money, are taught to distort reality to suit their own ends, and as such provide the most easily available example of disruption. However, that’s not to say that disruptive players don’t also reside at non-league level. In fact the situation can often be a lot worse. In my experience, it is the young, one-time pros that fit the bill, especially the further down the ladder you go.

Some players carry an air of entitlement believing they are ‘above’ the level they currently find themselves. My response to these players is usually a little reminder that they may once have played higher, but where they’re playing now is exactly the same as me. I also find that a little kick to their ankles in training works wonders.

Most players want to try and ply their trade at the highest level possible so it can come as a bit of a shock to some young lads that after spending their formative years gracing clubs in the top leagues, they are now playing on pitches better resembling the Somme and having to wear odd socks. Such is life in non-league. Most come to accept their situation and indeed embrace it for all the qualities that it does possess. Yet some choose to sulk, moan, cry and even refuse to play.

Bonding through disruption

At an old club of mine one player muttered something under his breath during the team talk. Asked by the gaffer if anything was the matter he replied that it was too cold and that he did not want to play. A few stifled laughs escaped some of us but the gaffer just told him to leave, albeit using slightly more colourful language.

The player promptly picked us his bag and left only to return two minutes later to ask his mate for the car keys! Cue more stifled laughter. Needless to say he never played for the club again. Luckily this did not have an adverse effect on the team. In fact the whole calamitous situation just added to the close bond the rest of the squad had and the story is still recited today whenever we meet.

Alternatively, one previous gaffer, upon being faced with a senior player refusing to sit on the subs bench, declared to the rest of the squad that the offending player would never again pull on the shirt. The very next Saturday the same player was named in the starting 11. From that point on the gaffer’s authority and reputation amongst the playing squad was in tatters. The gaffer’s authority must be total otherwise the structure breaks down and you don’t play as a team, but as individuals.

My favourite episode of a disruptive player was watching the great Anfield hero and three times European Cup winner Jimmy Case player-managing Bashley FC in the Wessex League during the mid-nineties. After not getting his favoured decision from the referee Jimmy proceeded to pick up the ball and unashamedly launch it high and far over the nearest fence. Such was his standing amongst the opposition and officials that no one even uttered a word in defiance. A new ball was summoned and play was resumed as if nothing had happened. Good old Jimmy!

Disrespecting teammates 

The worst type of disruptive player is one who disrespects his own teammates on or off the pitch. Any player that openly or covertly seeks to disparage his teammates can be a real source of conflict, and it is this type of player that leaves the worst taste in my mouth. I imagine there have been a few snide remarks over the years regarding my ability, although, as yet I haven’t heard any (I told you that kicking ankles works), and I’m sure they’ll be a few more in future, especially if I continue to slice the ball out of play at least once a game.

If and when disagreements amongst players arise they should be kept within the confines of the dressing room and not transferred to pitch or, as is increasingly becoming the trend, onto the latest social media platform.

It is impossible to become friendly with every teammate throughout your career, and the odd disagreement is to be expected; in fact it can even be cathartic. A good manager, such as my current one (it had to be said!) will spot possible tensions that arise from disruptive players and act before any damage to squad harmony. If that means kicking the player in question out of the club, then so be it. If he gets in the way of winning football matches the decision is an easy one.

You’ll always have disruptive players such as Carlos Tevez; it’s how you deal with them counts. As previously mentioned, a little kick goes a long, long way.

By Adam Doyle, Woking FC 

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