What is most galling about Paul Shaw’s departure, aside from the evident loss of a bit more craft is the dull transience of life in the Conference.
In a league where a good number of teams are part-time it shouldn’t be surprising to see players leave one mundane job for another. It happens in every workplace in the country. Footballers are almost unique when they say they’re moving jobs to ‘win trophies’. If only we could all say that about the jobs we do. Most people are more prosaic, distilling their requirements down to pay packets, distance to work and getting away from the bastard boss.
Money and greed are regular criticisms of modern football although at the top of the game it isn’t the money that’s as important as the number. Ashley Cole didn’t want an extra £5k a week from Arsenal because he wanted to buy a bigger house, it’s because he wanted to be viewed alongside the other stars in the squad. If Thierry Henry was paid 200 piles of cow dung, Cole would have wanted 201. It's about respect; though what Cole and his kin miss is that they are afforded respect just by virtue of the privileged position they find themselves in.
Shaw has cited money, security and cultural enrichment for his children as reasons for moving to Hungary. He’s not gone to win things. Football is the job he does, and he’s gone looking for the things we normal people look for when looking for a job. This is where the magic and sheen is slipping. In the past players who left either were rubbish, or moved, if not to win things, but at least to appear regularly on TV – Whitehead, Elliot, Aldridge, Houghton, Saunders, Windass et al. The players on the pitch may not have been superstars, but we were, occasionally, a gateway to stardom. We were the fans who watched the players on the pitch battling to achieve that. The roles were clearly delineated.
At the time, being a ‘feeder’ team was galling, but at least it was something. Now we’re culturally closer to the players, which might encourage greater camaraderie. It’s likely that the average salary in the squad is similar to the average salary in the stands. They may have a sexier job, but the players’ value is akin to your average mortgage advisor. We want them to do things that are magical and different, but, when thinking of it in those terms, can we expect much more than competence?
And can we expect players to be loyal, or contribute to a cause that is not theirs? Shaw’s not stupid, his needs are a normal as ours, that’s why he’s moved – he’s just got himself a better job. We shouldn’t be surprised to see him go, as depressing as it seems.