Saturday, July 21, 2007
Not exactly a Wright Franny Magnet
Franny Jeffers & Richard Wright
It is with some regret that I have recently had to accept that my dream of playing professional football will not become a reality. Not least because I'm now 34, ridiculously unfit with no particular talent for the game and I haven't played since I was 16. But that never deterred me from the dream of pulling on the shirt of the mighty Ipwich Town at the mecca of Portman Road.
Which is why I can never understand it when professional footballers piss whatever talent they have up the wall, particularly bearing in mind their careers are over so quickly. Often it's a question of drink or drugs, which can be terribly sad. Often those that burn brightest, burn out the fastest.
But the ones that really get my goat are the mercenaries, those that seem happier to just take the money without any real desire to play. I'd play for Ipswich for nothing, just for the pride in wearing the shirt. At the very least for the pride in playing the game I love, week in, week out.
Franny Jeffers had a great future ahead of him as a youngster, he was the great white hope of the English game. So much so, that Arsene Wenger spent nearly £10m on his 'fox in the box'. However, due to injury and poor form, it didn't work out and his career has been in freefall ever since. He returned to Everton, but fell out with David Moyes. He spent a time languishing in the Charlton reserves and then in Blackburn Reserves.
At the end of last season, he came to Ipswich on loan and did well for us, enough for Ipswich manager Jim Magilton to offer him a contract. After lengthy negotiations with Blackburn, we eventually agreed on a price and offered a contract to Jeffers. Which he turned down, demanding over £10,000 a week. No one else has come in for him, and he's decided to stay at Blackburn, even though he is at least 5th in line. And apparently, Mark Hughes is in the market for another striker, which will leave him struggling to make the reserve team.
I just don't get it. He's now 26 and has rarely played first team football for around 4 or 5 years. I didn't expect him to show any particular loyalty to Ipswich, but I did at least think it might be a springboard for him to get his career back in track. But it seems he's happier to just take the money and put his feet up in his mock-tudor manor. How a player that has barely played for that period of time can demand £10k a week, I'll never know.
And the Richard Wright story is even worse. When he was with us, playing for his home team club, he was widely touted as the man who would replace David Seaman for England. His ill-advised move to Arsenal (as understudy for David Seaman) didn't work out and his career has also been in freefall ever since. His move to Everton was also a disaster, where he was their third-choice keeper. And when Everton released him, Ipswich came in for him and offered him a contract plus the chance of first-team football at his home team club. A chance that every fan dreams of, a chance of being a local legend. And he turned it down, preferring to sit on the bench at everyone's favourite cheat team, Wet Sham. I was absolutely flabbergasted when he turned us down. I guess I wasn't that surprised at Jeffers, but I expected more from Wright.
I hope when they both finish their careers that the money is a comfort to them. They both had the world at their feet, but the money proved too big a temptation. Where are the John Wark's of this world when you need them?