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We live in an age of freedom, when individuals are allowed to be employed at will and pursue their goals in a suitable working environment.  Leadership today is more difficult as the ‘Yes Sir’ military attitude that allowed authority figures to act as they pleased is dead.  Leading the high level employee today requires the ability to set an enjoyable and beneficial working culture.  If these standards are not met people are allowed to seek to further their career elsewhere, this is the way of the world, and if you are sat reading this it is likely you have those standards.

Is football different?  What would happen tomorrow if you physically lunged at a fellow employee with an intent to hurt them, or if your employer head butted you?  The likely answer is that you would walk out and it would take a real strength of character to continue working in those conditions.  It is clear that James Beattie possesses tremendous strength of character.  In an age where many fans are poisoned to side against football players as the nation buys into the stereotype of an egotistical highly paid whiner.  But think for a minute.  What if a good man who worked at his job every day was physically assaulted and then forbidden to move and do his job elsewhere? 

Today it is common for unhappy players to sulk, put a visible lack of effort in, or to manipulate the media in terms to force a move.  The sad thing is while people complain maybe that is the attitude that is rewarded in football today.  Maybe a good employee who walks the line is merely treat with disdain and his future and personal life overlooked by clubs for reasons of uncaring or incompetence?

How many times has Nicholas Anelka became a miserable presence and got his own way?  Anyone who saw Yakubu’s final days at Middlesbrough witnessed a player show a disrespectful lack of effort to demonstrate he was no longer of use to his employer.  As much as fans complain, this has proved to be the successful formula to get your own way and clearly it is the path to take in today, especially if you play for Stoke City.

While the details remain unclear on exactly what happened it is clear Tony Pulis acted in a manner unacceptable for a leader, and James Beattie has every right to feel unhappy and uncomfortable in his environment.  Pulis is entrusted with the development of Beattie as a player and a man who cannot communicate without physically lunging at you has not earned that trust.  It is also worth noting that Brian Laws was sacked a week later for a very similar incident.  The double standard is compelling.

James Beattie could have stayed home, held a press conference crying about it, or became a negative influence so Stoke were best rid of him.  He has done none of this and sources close to the dressing room stated that in a terse meeting Beattie was told to “stay fit and wait for the transfer window”.  Clearly this has been the case, and if you look back over Beattie’s career and see the opinion of manager’s such as Gordon Strachan and Tony Pulis himself when he could hold his temper and act rationally, you will see a reflection of Beattie’s character.  Consider the comments below from teammate Ryan Shawcross;

“Beatts has been his usual lively self. He hasn’t spoken much about what happened but he’s a character.

He’s a good lad and all the players like him. We hope he’s here for the rest of the season.”

Would you react in such a manner if you were attacked?  I wouldn’t.  Figures in the game such as Paul Ince have felt the need to pipe up and stick the boot in via the media, but Ince needs to look no further than the closest mirror to find a player who disrespects his current employer and engineers a move by wearing a Manchester United shirt while still a West Ham player.  Then West Ham manager Lou Macari even reported feeling threatened by Ince’s agent while engineering his move away from Upton Park and get his own way.  James Beattie has acted in a much more professional manner.

The incidents that occurred on transfer deadline weekend indicate the results of not shouting and screaming to get your own way are less than if you act in a negative manner.  Information regarding the facts below has come from a source within the club who wishes to remain anonymous.  The willingness to speak out suggest a divide of support toward Beattie among the Stoke employees.

Stoke City had received interest in James Beattie during the transfer window from Fulham, Sunderland, and Blackburn.  While the interest lingered it is commonly known that the end of the transfer window and deadline day rush is where most deals are finalized.  As an estimate of the 30 million pounds spent in the window, 20 million was spent on the last day so any competent club would be staffed and aware during the last days of the window.

Fulham in particular showed interest in Beattie and on the Saturday Fulham Chief Executive Alistair McIntosh had been in phone conversation with his Stoke counterpart Tony Scholes.  Scholes was made fully aware of the Fulham interest.  Fulham officials reported Scholes was impossible to contact Saturday night after apparently shutting off his phone, the same problem was reported on Sunday night.  Why was the chief executive out of contact at such a crucial time?

The conduct of Stoke became even more questionable on the Sunday when Scholes apparently reported to agents that no offer had been submitted by Fulham.  Unbeknownst to Scholes the agents were aware he was recorded on the phone by Fulham on Saturday night declining an offer.  Is this an acceptable way to treat an employee?

On Monday morning text messages were sent by Stoke to Fulham stating the offer was under consideration.  Less than an hour later the offer was accepted.  There was however one problem, James Beattie was in Sunderland with the Stoke team.  Just why James had travelled to Sunderland can be questioned for a number of reasons;

  • Stoke were aware a club in London was interested in signing Beattie.
  • Stoke had been warned by multiple sources of the logistical issues surrounding Beattie travelling north.
  • Stoke were aware of the 5pm deadline when the transfer would need to be finalised by.
  • James Beattie had not trained all week, so was the intention really for him to be involved or merely to ruin a transfer?  Stoke made 3 substitutions in the game without Beattie appearing, this despite Stoke not scoring in the game or even threatening much.

In the end time ran out and Beattie was denied a move, left to play for an irrational and sporadically violent manager.   So in today’s climate if you are a professional footballer looking for a move is the way to go about it to act professional and get your head down working through.  Not if you play for the incompetent Stoke City it’s not…apparently.

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