The Graham Cummins column: Top players can be jealous of teammates

The Graham Cummins column: Top players can be jealous of teammates

Walk alone: It’s every man for himself in football, says Graham Cummins, given the competition for a place on any good team. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

FOOTBALL might be a team sport, but you’re self-employed as a footballer and, nine times out of 10, a player will do what benefits him.

We see it so often: A player being selfish and not passing to a teammate in a better position, because he wants all the glory.

Who can forget Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, arguing after the Egyptian elected not to pass the ball to his teammate in a game against Burnley?

All footballers have egos and want to be the main man.

Salah has been excellent for Liverpool, but he knows there is always the question of whether or not he is better than Mane.

Had it been a different teammate, Salah might have passed the ball, but he didn’t want Mane getting the headlines. Incidents like that happen all the time in football.

Teammates or rivals? Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. Picture: Thomas Ash
Teammates or rivals? Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. Picture: Thomas Ash

There are other ways players are selfish.

The majority of players who aren’t in the starting 11 might not admit it, but they want the team to fail, or at least the guy in their position.

Players want to be in the starting 11 every week and shouldn’t be happy sitting on the bench, or in the stand. A striker isn’t going to play if his fellow teammate is scoring every week.

When I was on the bench, I would be hoping the striker playing instead of me wouldn’t score, or have a good game. If the team won and I was set on the bench, I would feel awkward in the dressing room afterwards.

However, what I heard last week, in a podcast — a player admitting to hurting a teammate because he wanted to be in the team ahead of him — was something I’ve never witnessed during my career.

Yes, I played alongside lads who have left the foot in in training, because their teammate had annoyed them in some way, but they were never bad challenges, just tackles that would let the player know not to make a cheeky remark again.

I’ve never seen a player want to hurt a teammate so much that he caused him an injury that would keep him out for weeks, just so he could reduce the competition for places.

Tom Brewitt was a former teammate of Dundalk’s defender, Daniel Cleary, and Brewitt admitted that he was ready to do “whatever it took” for him to play in a game for Liverpool, ahead of Cleary.

Daniel Cleary of Dundalk. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Daniel Cleary of Dundalk. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The 23-year-old was almost proud that he achieved his mission of injuring his teammate in training.

I would imagine there are other players with the same mentality as Brewitt, but I’ve never known any, and if I were a player now, and Brewitt walked into the dressing room, I wouldn’t be happy with him.

The defender has just been released from Morecambe and will be looking for another club.

Players might not want the defender at their club, but some managers might be impressed by what Brewitt said, because it shows he wants to win at all costs.

Most managers will tell players to watch their challenges in training and if they feel a player is going in reckless into tackles, they will send them off the training pitch.

However, some managers will tell players not to pull out of challenges and enjoy seeing players hurting one another in training.

I don’t agree with the latter approach. I don’t believe in managers saying:

‘Train as you play on a matchday and you shouldn’t be pulling out of challenges’.

No one ever remembers training — so what’s the point in risking injury? — but some managers love it.

Football is ruthless and Brewitt’s comments have shown that even your teammates will stab you in the back for their own gain.

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