Is Arsenal legend Adams right about loyalty in football?

Seeing Is Believing LFC Shirt - Steven Gerrard

Arsenal legend Tony Adams asserted earlier this week his belief that there is a lack of loyalty in football in the modern era - Is he right?

The former Arsenal captain was a one-club man for his entire career, joining the Gunners as a 14-year-old boy in 1980, working his way up through the youth system to make the first team by the time he was 17 and being handed the armband which he kept for 14 years at just 21 years of age.

Now, aged 46 and retired from professional football since 2002, Adams revealed last week that he would have made the tea at Arsenal such is his love for the club.

He spoke in relation to his hopes of becoming Peter Hill-Wood’s potential replacement as chairman of the North London club but in the end Arsenal appointed Sir Chips Keswick this month.

"The game and society have both changed in that respect," he said.

"When a foreign player comes over to play here it is natural maybe that he goes back.”

Adams spoke in relation to another former Arsenal captain, Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas who returned to his boyhood club in 2011 after 8 years with the Gunners.

However, Adams also spoke candidly on the subject of reported Arsenal transfer target Wayne Rooney – the Englishman handed in a transfer request to Manchester United at the end of this season, according to Sir Alex Ferguson.

I have discussed on several occasions the contentious issue of Wayne Rooney’s contract negotiations and the subsequent behaviour that could (and has previously) been deemed as disloyal and, furthermore, somewhat disingenuous.

For all the chest-thumping, badge-kissing and pledging of lifelong allegiance, football players often change their tune to dance to the beat of their bank manager’s drum. That’s just the way it is, some might say.

But, then again, there are exceptions to that rule – whilst he’s an unpopular figure at the Emirates, Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross recently signed a new five-year deal, effectively pledging his career to a mid-to-lower table Premier League team when he could likely have moved to a top six club at the very least.

When Fabregas left, on the one hand Arsenal fans could feel they were betrayed but on the other hand, you could say he was showing loyalty to Barcelona – he was born and raised in Catalonia and he wanted his homecoming. All that talk of his ‘Barca DNA’ was a bit too saccharine-coated for me but, nonetheless, the player was loyal.

While we’re on the subject, he remained faithful to Arsenal throughout the lengthy transfer saga – whilst all around him, Barca talked about him, he never ever dishonoured Arsenal or disrespected the manager, even after he left.

Whilst there will always be the Ashley Cole’s, the Robin van Persie’s, the Samir Nasri’s and the Emmanuel Adebayor’s, there are still players who are cut from the same cloth as Tony Adams, or Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs.

Steven Gerrard is a prime example – he is and has been for about a decade one of the best midfielders in the world and, as such, could have gone anywhere but he’s Red through and through and Anfield is where he always wanted to be, through thick and thin and even thinner.

Whilst he’s undoubtedly my least favourite footballer, there is something to be admired (albeit begrudgingly) in John Terry’s allegiance to Chelsea. What these players represent is the ethos and the values of the club – they transcend the game, along with time itself, and become immortal.

The statues built in their honour mean something – exactly that: honour. The club honours them as they honoured the club by remaining loyal servants. Saying there is no loyalty in football could be equated to saying there is no more faithfulness and fidelity in marriage.

Whilst I’m lead to believe around half of all marriages end in divorce, there are the other half that end in death. There are still the rare breeds of Tony Adams left in the game, as rare a breed as they are, they are not yet extinct. These players are married to club they love – ‘til death do them part.

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