Often Partisan


The Bristol City game saw Keith Fahey making his one hundredth appearance for Birmingham City, joining Stephen Carr and Liam Ridgewell as one of three players at the club with appearances in three figures. It got me thinking about player loyalty – there were of course more players with bigger amounts of appearances but our summer sales saw a fair few leave – and I thought I would discuss it further.

Part of my thinking boils down to a discussion on smallheathalliance.com about player testimonials. Although Colin Doyle hasn’t made many appearances for the club, he’s our current longest-serving player at 8 years in the senior squad and eleven overall. The discussion was then how many players had served the normal length of time at a club for a testimonial (10 years), and when the last one was – which was quickly identified as Ian Bennett, who served for 11 years making 354 appearances between 1993 and 2004. I then decided to look further, and since the war I can find only seven other players who meet the criteria of more than 10 years in a senior squad – Gary Pendry (1969-79, 360 appearances), Ray Martin (1964-75, 374 appearances), Malcolm Page (1965-80 391 appearances), Malcolm Beard (1960-70, 405 appearances), Trevor Smith (1953-64 430 appearances), Ken Green (1947-58 443 appearances), and of course Gil Merrick (1946-59, 551 appearances).

Of the eight players mentioned above, only three have played for the club since I was born, and I can only remember one of them (Benno). I tried looking for players who made over 200 appearances for Blues – and if I restrict it to players who have played at least once in this millennium, there are just eleven – (Darren Purse 200, Cameron Jerome 201, Seb Larsson 205, Damien Johnson 215, Stan Lazaridis 222, Martin O’Connor 223, Maik Taylor 242, Martin Grainger 266, Bryan Hughes 291, Michael Johnson 313 and the aforementioned Benno). It doesn’t point to much player loyalty at St Andrews.

I guess some people would point to the lack of loyalty to football clubs from players, and I can certainly empathise with that viewpoint. Whilst it’s obvious that players were moved on for financial reasons, it’s also true that there were players who wanted to leave. From talking to sources in the media, there was (and still is in a couple of cases) a feeling amongst some of the players that they wanted to stay in the Premier League and thus they wanted out from the club. It didn’t matter that they were contributors to the downfall, they had their careers to think of and if they could get a move – well, ta-ra a bit.

However, I think that it’s too easy to blame player disloyalty. I think that clubs are equally disloyal to players – for instance, when a team gets promoted how often do you see teams cast off a few players for those with “Premiership experience”? I personally think there is a direct correlation between the club yo-yoing between the top two divisions and players being ankled after a season or two. Looking at those eleven players, only two left the club having been sold by it (Darren Purse and Cameron Jerome), one left on a free transfer (Damien Johnson), one retired from injury (Martin Grainger) and the other seven left on Bosman frees (and only two, Bryan Hughes and Seb Larsson, I can remember being offered a new deal). Thus that would point to those players in the main being loyal to the club until the club doesn’t want them any more.

I honestly believe that in the modern game, outside of the top four or five teams we will see fewer players who qualify for testimonials. Part of it is because of the Bosman ruling meaning players can move on much more easily – but another part of it is because it’s easier to pick new players on the Bosman ruling. I suppose the question is if this is a bad thing for the game.

postscript – as I suspected I might, I’ve missed at least one – John Frain (1986-96, 336 appearances). Thanks Short.

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20 Responses to “Loyalty”

  • Jason says:

    Hiya, you missed out John Frain who had a testimonial vs the Villa in 1996 and made 336 appearances for the club

    How you missed Frainy out I’ll never know!

  • Tim says:

    Paul Tait was there ten years, but the club wouldnt give him a testimonial

  • Oldbluenose says:

    As the gist of your article implies, [ methinks ], Gone are the days of both Club and Player loyalty to each other,!!. There can, and is, various reasons for the parting of the ways,?. The main thought of mine, simply is, — When we get a good-un, who stays with us, — Value him, — Amen,!!!!!!!.

  • Dino Tiltoni says:

    As I saw Colin Doyle warming up at half time it did make me wonder why he’s stayed at the club so long when he could have played regularly for a lower team.

    News on other sites has 100+ game Ridgewell earmarked for sale in January. I think he may need to begin to look a little more interested and urgent if he plans a move to a Premiership club, even if only as a benchwarmer. I worry that Beausejour may have to be sold to trim the wage bill. WIth him, Burke and the emerging Redmond we have three players that could help us mount a promotion challenge.

  • Oldburyblue says:

    Let’s be clear….the ONLY real loyalty shown in a football club is that of us fans, and that is only loyalty to the Club and not to players, managers or owners. Unlike ANY employees of the club, we have no real financial interest, so we are there because we WANT to be. “The king is dead….long live the king” applies to those who believe in The Monarchy. Those who believe in BCFC are just the same.

    ps……congratulations to almajir….consistently the best BCFC fan blog.

  • blueroy says:

    consistently a good read, and agree with oldburyblue’s comments. Going back to loyalty, tricky trev played from 1970-1979 how many apps did he make?

  • Bombay Blue says:

    Another good article but I think you miss one aspect of loyalty, that of fans! No not to the team but individual players. It is all too evident nowadays that a proportion of supporters turn on their own players far too quickly when things are not going well or the style of player does not fit the Blues mould. How many players have left because fans have turned on them. I hasten to add this is not the majority of players that have left, but enough to make it a factor. Unfortunately, the need for immediate success, plus the yo yoing between divisions will mean that player turnover is only likely to increase at Blues in the future. KRO

  • Ork says:

    Almajir, I’ve been lurking on your site for a few months, and find your contributions well balanced, informative and considered…….congratulations!!!
    I attended five of the testimonials you mentioned, but you missed Johnny Schofield………..Who!
    He was our goalie between Gil Merrick and Jim Herriot. Schofield suffered a non footballing injury and used to play with a plate inserted in his skull.
    His was the first testimonial I attended……think I’ll now take some time reflecting on some of the players in that game……thanks for the prompt.

    Keep up the good work.

  • oldburyblue says:

    I agree Bombay Blue…whilst wearing Our Colours they are ‘one of ours’ and should be SUPPORTED. I think we have all shouted out in anger, disappointment or frustaration at players because that is part of the match atmosphere. However, there is a big difference between immediate reaction to incidents as they occur and the premeditated rants we hear from some ‘fans’ directed at he same players time & time again.

    Any shout of more than 5 words is not aimed at the player concerned (doubt very much they would be able to hear it anyway), but is clearly aimed at those around him who they think want to hear his opinions.

  • oldburyblue says:

    Oops…a bit sexist of me there. Deliberately used the word ‘they’ at the end, then spoilt it by saying ‘his’!!

  • Oldbluebaz says:

    Johnny Schofield served Blues for 16 years 1950-1966 hows that for loyalty.
    Another player from that era Johnny Watts spent 12 years with Blues 1951-1963 he made 248
    appearances for the club however he was not granted a testimonial.

  • john says:

    I have a feeling that around the time we played celtic in the clubs centenary match the club ‘created’ a inner club for those players who had made 100 appearances. Can’t recall who was in the group; or if that little elite group still exist.
    Someone no doubt has the answer.

  • Tilton36 says:

    I remember going to Joe Gallaghers testimonial v the vile. Sure it was in ’81 & if I’m right quite lively both on & off the pitch! Think he went to wolves within a year.

    • Ork says:

      John Frains was also against the vile. They beat us 6-0 which only confirmed what a shower they were to do that to the bloke on his testimonial night. I remember Brian Little busting a gut to turn us over.
      I don’t forget, and I don’t forgive.

  • bbonks says:

    Ian Handysides had a testimonial too, though that was because of his illness i think not the time spent at the club.

  • maurice walters says:

    Your blogs are so important to us blues fans who live abroard (i live in Thailand) talk about loyalty look at the best team blues ever had the 1954 team.
    games years at blues
    Gill Merrick 485 21
    Jeff Hall (died at 29) 227 9
    Ken Green 401 16
    Len Boyd (capt) 255 7
    Trevor Smith 365 11
    Roy Warhurst 213 7
    Gordon Astle 235 8
    Noel Kinsey 149 5
    Eddy Brown 158 5
    Peter (spud) Murphy 245 8
    Alex Goven 165 5
    how is that for loyalty (this team beat LIVERPOOL 9-1 and i was their) 11th december 1954 MEMORYS

  • Al-lad says:

    You hit the nail on the head when you suggested a major cause of this was the clubs yo-yo status. If you think off our current squad ‘should we gain promotion’ how many players would be retained? For teams like Blues it’s a constent rebuilding exercise. The top clubs can retain the best players, add an international player each season plus gambling on the odd player, we don’t have that luxury. Also you can’t blame players for wanting to play at the highest level, hence a desire to move if a club is relegated, or a bigger team makes an approach.

    The consequence of this is we have the scenario of the ‘couple of seasons heroes’.

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