AUTHOR: – Bricki
Manchester United have played to full houses again on their tour of the USA and the players look fresh and sharp as they go through the usual tough pre season.
Just like any other tour that a Premier League team undertakes, the players have been interacting with the fans and sponsors to show a positive face of what is now a global giant of a club.
It appears some fans in England though are none too pleased about this and are feeling short changed about the ‘access’ that the club allows players on these tours.
Do these people have a point when it comes to player access?
When I was a child I used to stand outside the car park at Old Trafford and waited to catch a glimpse of the players as they arrived to either play or watch the game. It gave a child a thrill to see an Andy Cole, Ryan Giggs or Roy Keane go past and to cheer them up close so they could hear you.
Being lucky enough to live and play football in Greater Manchester meant that at presentation nights we would always get a United or City player to turn up, giving out trophies to excited kids. Even as a coach of a junior team I had the honour of facing Denis Irwin as opposition coach. I say it was an ‘honour’ but losing 10-0 didn’t feel such an honour afterwards…
The point i’m making is that as a child I loved being able to get close to the players who I saw as idols and stars. Yet as I’ve gotten older its not really had the same impact on me when these players have been up close and personal.
Today as a man in his mid to late 20s my feelings towards the footballers themselves have changed. I enjoy writing about the game, the details of the player development, how a team or player is performing or offering comment on the latest high profile story.
I would love to sit down with a player and get his opinions or thoughts but only in a writer’s sense. I no longer feel the urge to have to meet players at events, ask for an autograph or have my photo taken with the trophies we win.
It’s with frustration then I keep seeing complaints that the fans in America or wherever else the team tours gets access to the team that we don’t get here. Whilst on the current tour the team has been signing autographs and fans have had an opportunity to have their picture taken with the Premier League Trophy. On a tour that is designed to give the players the best conditions for pre season as well as spread the name of Manchester United as a club this is totally understandable and expected. The fans on this tour may only get to see the team on this one occasion for the next 5 years so to allow them a signature or a picture is surely a small thing for a fan that doesn’t get much else.
One argument given is that the players don’t stop outside the training ground and sign autographs for kids who wait there. Signing an autograph for a child is something I’ve seen most players do outside Old Trafford; however it is the grown men stood there with pictures, shirts and other memorabilia that cause the issue.
The vast majority of this memorabilia ends up being sold for profit or being placed on EBay. Is it any wonder then that the players are discouraged from spending large amounts of time signing all these pictures just for someone else to make money out of it?
Last season before the United and Spurs game at Old Trafford, I was passing the hotel the Spurs team stays at on the Friday night after I finished work. The team coach was pulling up and the players getting off one by one. A small crowd had gathered but at the front were two men who must have been in their 40s at least. One of the men had 50+ pictures of Gareth Bale on small pieces of card, which were then thrust in his face as he gets off the bus. The man expected Bale to stand there and sign each and every one of these identical pictures. It took Harry Redknapp pulling Bale away to stop him signing all these pictures for the man, yet it was obvious this was not a personal memento of meeting his ‘idol’.
The clubs provide functions and venues for the younger fans to get to meet players and get autographs or photos but it needs to be remembered that during a busy league and European campaign, chances for these events are limited already.
On a pre season tour the players will naturally be more relaxed and have more time to interact with fans, this is something the club can use to help Manchester United be viewed positively in other areas of the World.
If as an adult you are finding an issue with the fact that players don’t stop to sign piece after piece of memorabilia for you then it may need you looking closer to home as to why you are stood there rather then why they won’t do it.
If a fan wants memorabilia then there is a time and place to get it, gathering outside a training ground with piece after piece of ‘tat’ to sign is not the best way to go about it.
In my own view I don’t need a signature of a player or a shirt to remind me of the good times I’ve experienced with my club. I think of the moments I’ve had with other fans in the stands, pubs or on the street as we celebrate, not some shirt with a faded signature hanging on a wall or a rushed picture with a player as he leaves the ground/training.
It’s interesting to note that after winning the league the Trophy was on display in the Nike shop on Market St in Manchester, free of charge to go and see. I wonder if the people complaining took a chance there to go and see it?
If you want to collect that sort of thing then go ahead but to lambast the club and players for spreading the name of Manchester United is self defeating. If the club can bring in new fans with these trips and show what the club is about, then they can increase the revenues of the club and make it more likely that we get that Sneijder/Modric type player who you can then see playing every week and for the ones who get to games, see him in the flesh.
If you actually want your pound of flesh from the players in an autograph then you might have your priorities wrong because I would rather he spent his time resting up or training, not signing a card for you
AUTHOR: – Bricki