By Alec Johnson
It’s Sunday, 21 September and our former glory boy Miguel Michu gets his first start in Serie A for the perennial underachievers, otherwise called Napoli.
Just over 8,000 people are there to watch Udinese beat Napoli 1-0, with a frustrated Michu and equally miffed Argentinian hitman Gonzalo Higuain shooting blanks once again. The truth is that neither has scored a league goal this season.
So why did Michu - once worshipped in this part of South Wales - force this move?
Yes, Naples is a nice place to live but he won’t win anything there unless Maradona comes out of retirement. The games are played out in front of half-empty stadiums which themselves are crumbling, none worse that the Stadio San Paolo, as the 900 over there with me last February will confirm.
But it's not just Michu's decision to move that's puzzling. We also have our Spanish-now-Arabian brothers... what's all that about? Moving to a start-up football club in a league with average crowds less than Ashleigh Road on a Sunday morning. It's cash and lifestyle over club and country. That essentially finishes the careers of Pablo Hernandez and Chico Flores.
Add Ben Davies and Michel Vorm to the ever-growing list of evacuees and you start to see a pattern developing. While Ben is at least getting some Thursday football over at Spurs, Michel hasn’t put his gloves on yet. One year ago he was the Netherlands’ number one, now he is Spurs’ third choice. While accepting that Vorm actually didn’t choose to leave, he did choose the destination and clearly hadn’t considered the options fully.
|Nice hat Danny - shame about the bench.|
Roll back a few more years and it’s Darren Pratley, Dorus de Vries, Sam Ricketts and Danny Graham all scrapping around in the Championship having, in their own small-minded way, forced through exits from our club. Nobody on this list bettered themselves and none of them would find a place in our squad today. No doubt we have become a stronger club, but have they all gone backwards?
I believe so.
The greatest disappointment of the lot was our hero Scott Sinclair. In his final match for us he scored a stunner in a 5-0 win at Loftus Road, before leaving for a club where he played 78 minutes in the whole next season. What a waste of a raw talent that would have continued to improve within our environment.
|Sinclair on the bench - a familiar sight.|
We feel that we are on the journey together and Saturday’s awesome spirit through the stadium as everybody sang for the entire second half confirms this. We barely touched the ball yet the attitude was one of togetherness. That itself is very rare in football.
So, the loyalty is reciprocal, as is the success of the players and the club. Nobody needs to leave for a few pieces of extra silver or an opportunity to play for their country (unless you’re English of course) as the land of opportunity is right here. The club now compete on salary in the richest league in the world, the city provides a fabulous lifestyle and the management encourage players to play. What more would you want in a football career?
Welcome to the most successful football in Wales, and the best run club in football.