What should Tottenham do with outcast Adebayor?
Why it's sometimes a good idea to keep an outcast close to the inner circle by Adrian Clarke
In his quest for new contracts and a spot of attention, the centre forward’s capabilities know few bounds. When up-for-it, the talented Tottenham striker has strength, touch, power, speed, skill, finishing prowess the lot. He swats defenders away like pathetic little flies.
When he isn’t in the mood? Well, there’s just nothing. Bone idleness and a stadium full of sighs. Rarely can a footballer have sweated so little, for so much reward. In fact the Togolese front man’s earnings to effort ratio is so top-heavy, it’s a miracle he can stand up straight.
The January transfer window told us Mauricio Pochettino doesn’t fancy him, and that’s no surprise. The Argentinean coach is busy developing a new, ferocious work ethic at White Hart Lane and Adebayor doesn’t have the desire or substance to buy into it. Not every week anyway.
Under Tim Sherwood, a manager that pandered to his ego, we saw glimpses of what he can produce but during the early part of this season the 30-year-old was sluggish and disinterested. Harry Kane’s effervescent displays since displacing him have put the £100,000 a week man to shame. It’s little wonder Pochettino was so eager to loan him out. Daniel Levy put the kibosh on that. While the Spurs chairman was well within his rights to refuse to subsidize Adebayor’s wages at West Ham, it does leave his club with a quandary.
What do they do with him now?
No matter what’s said publicly, Adebayor’s marriage with his manager is now an unhappy one. The Argentinean coach is likely fuming at the striker’s refusal to play out the rest of the campaign at QPR, and the man himself may feel embarrassed that they wanted him gone. His unceremonious axing from the 18-man squad for last weekend’s north London derby spoke volumes for the state of their relationship.
From personal experience, many players in this situation would be frozen out completely. I’ve seen dozens ‘punished’ by their boss for failing to leave when requested or for simply hanging around like a bad smell. A rebel footballer that picks up his wages without playing is also often sent to train with the kids. As an Arsenal youth teamer I remember 1989 title hero Michael Thomas being forced to join in with us each morning after he’d expressed interest in a move to Liverpool, and it seemed petty to me at the time. He got on with it though, not complaining too much.
If a club wants you to leave, they’ll often try and push you of the door. When out of favour with Alan Little at Southend United, I was often told to stand like a lemon on the sidelines while the first team played a practice match, or to go and train with the under-18s. Having been a regular, that hurt.
Then on match days after fans had left Roots Hall I’d sometimes be forced - along with other outcasts - to get changed and undergo an exhausting ‘physical’ running up and down the pitch for what seemed like hours. Officially this exercise was to ‘keep me fit’ but the hidden agenda was to try and break me, to force me to walk away.
I also suffered pariah status at Stevenage too (there’s a pattern developing!) after confronting the new manager, Wayne Turner, over why I’d been dropped. I told him I’d rather go on the transfer list than idly stand by and watch a worse player take my place.
This response saw me ordered to report to the local leisure centre three nights a week for rigorous fitness sessions under the careful watch of a staff member. If I was a minute late, left early or didn’t complete my programme I’d be severely fined. It was also explained to me that I was no longer welcome at the stadium on match days until further notice.
The manager’s idea was to force me out of the club (which eventually worked) but could I have disrupted his dressing room and poisoned the manager’s name? Yes, of course I could. And in his case, I was more than happy to try. No one could stop me chatting to teammates on the phone, and together we all agreed that the boss was letting himself down, acting like a nasty, petulant playground bully. It made the players respect him less.
I was a fairly placid, relatively likeable and popular player wherever I went, so if I experienced such brutal cold-shoulder treatment more than once in my career, then it tells you how often it happens to footballers. It’s actually unusual NOT to be ostracized by a club at one stage or another.
Would it be in Tottenham Hotspur’s interests to make Adebayor suffer in this way? Even though he may deserve it, I don’t think so.
The striker has a big presence in the dressing room, and if he’s subjected to banishment from the group it could cause ructions. A disgruntled pro will usually get on with things and fight for his future as long as he feels there’s a level playing field; but when they’re blackballed completely and feel there’s nothing to lose the mood can quickly turn sour.
At a time when Pochettino’s squad seems incredibly united, the last thing he needs is a disenchanted star man bickering constantly with the rest of his players. Put bluntly, I think Spurs need to keep the big man sweet. He’ll be earning £100,000 a week until the summer of 2016 regardless of how the club treats him, so what’s the point in cutting him off completely? They have to play the game.
A little like making a casual partner feel like you’re keen even if you’re not, Tottenham would be wise to make Adebayor believe he’s got another chance. Let’s face it, he might receive one. Harry Kane might get injured, and although Roberto Soldado is a willing stand-in, goals in English football don’t appear to be his forte. At some stage between now and the end of May, Pochettino may have to rely on a match-winning performance from Adebayor.
Leaving him out of his 18-man squad each week won’t help. What’s happened has happened - the cards have been laid out on the table- but it has to be better keeping the forward close to the team, rather than push him away.
Sat in his luxury apartment on a Saturday afternoon, Adebayor’s value will only plummet. Plus, if he’s made to feel like he’s still welcome (even if it’s a smokescreen) the chances of extracting a useful contribution and retaining the interest of potential summer suitors has to rise.
I’ve been impressed by Mauricio Pochettino these last few months. His tactics have been well thought-out and intelligent. If the Spurs boss can use that brainpower and channel it into handling his infamously selective non-trier correctly, it may turn out to be one of the smartest moves he makes this season.
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