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A Thin Line Between Love And Hate

We all have our favorite players within our favorite clubs. Normally, the player’s personality, playing style and achievements form a perfect cocktail of love that ferments over a number of seasons. So what are fans to do when that player, whose kit you own and have cherished over so many Saturday and Sunday morning pints, does the unthinkable and moves to a rival club?

Over the years, Arsenal fans have had to grimace as Ashley Cole, Samir Nasri, Robin Van Persie, and now Cesc Fabregas (by way of Barcelona) have left to play for rival clubs in the Premier League. Though Arsenal fans will claim they have had the worst of this experience (and they’re right), other top clubs such as Chelsea (Juan Mata to Manchester United, Frank Lampard to Manchester City), Liverpool (Fernando Torres to Chelsea) and Manchester United (Carlos Tevez to Manchester City) have had very popular players leave to play for rival clubs. To say nothing of the smaller clubs, whose superstars are often poached by the top clubs at the first sign of promise. So how should fans deal with this?

At first blush, the natural reaction would be a mixture of hatred and anger towards the player in question. How he could possibly leave your beloved [fill in the blank]? This occurs most often with superstar players: no one is going to be angry about Shawn Wright-Phillips leaving. When the player is simply chasing higher wages (quasi-understandable) or what he perceives to be a better chance of winning silverware (NOT understandable), this is a completely justifiable reaction. The player has misguidedly put himself before the club and by proxy, you. He’s selfish and he will come to regret this. When this inevitably backfires, you will mock him. You will think of clever ways to insert expletives into his name. He will be dead to you. How dead to you?

Prime Examples: Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea, and now Chelsea to AC Milan),  Frank Lampard (West Ham United to Chelsea), Robin Van Persie (Arsenal to Manchester United), Andy Carroll (Newcastle to Liverpool), Sol Campbell (Tottenham to Arsenal), Ashley Cole (Arsenal to Chelsea)  

Another situation that can arise is when a once-prominent player - a critical member of your club - can no longer crack the starting 11. Maybe it’s a new manager that is implementing new tactics or formations. Or a new signing has taken his spot. The gentleman has done amazing things at your club, so you can remember the good times fondly. It makes more sense that this player would want to leave (it least in comparison to a straight money or title grab). He wants to play, he wants to make his national team’s squad for the World Cup. When he leaves, you’re sad, but you understand. You wish him well. 

Wait, he’s going where? I can hope HE does well, but not the club, right? When do they play [your club]? Dammit, he’s going to score against us, isn’t he? Of course he is. Ugh, that’s going to be terrible. Yep, he scored. I hate everything.

Prime Examples: Juan Mata, Didier Drogba, Michael Owen

The final and perhaps most frustrating situation occurs when your club sells a younger player that showed flashes of brilliance, but could never quite put it all together. Maybe he has an established vet in front of him, or he’s playing out of position, or just can’t stay fit. It’s not really the player’s fault: they’re not playing him, of course he wants to leave.  

When the club sells him for a tidy profit, you are nervous. Are we giving up on him too soon? Well, it’s a lot of money that we can spend elsewhere. Yeah, it’ll be fine. 

And then he gets to his new club and he has an impressive goal. And then another. Oh dear lord, what have we done? Can we get him back? What’s that? There’s no takesies-backsies in the transfer market? Fantastic. He’s going to love scoring against us. That’ll be fun. 

This leads to renewed anger against the last manager for failing to uncover the gem that he turned out to be. Especially since the club now has a hole at the exact same position your former youth-star plays. That’s fine, I never liked him anyway. Look at his attitude now, he wasn’t like that when he was here.  What a ….

Prime Examples: Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea to Liverpool), Arjen Robben (Chelsea to Real Madrid), Mario Balotelli (maybe) 

There’s also the hatred that a fan can have for a player on his OWN club. But that’s a subject for a whole separate column.

So there are a number of ways that a favorite player can leave for a rival and break your heart. We at The18 won’t tell you how you should feel about it. No matter what the circumstances are, it hurts. There are players that I hate for NO reason, let alone having emotional scars from once having loved them. The irrational and wide-swinging emotions are a critical part of what makes sport great. Let the hate run wild. Just remember guys…sometimes they come back.

Follow Mike Smith on Twitter @thefootiegent

He’s loved and lost…then hated…and finally managed to love again.

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