Saturday, 14 April 2007

Storm Trooper

Goalkeeping legend Robert Green is the subject of the Saturday Interview in the Daily Mail. It's a good read about a good player with a good photo in a not very good newspaper. I'm reproducing here so you don't have to venture onto the site and also because the guy richly deserves all the coverage he gets.

Green bids to weather storm at Upton Park
By Matt Lawton

Robert Green reflects on his first season at West Ham. "It’s been extraordinary," he says. "Like being stuck in the eye of a storm. Inside the training ground, on the pitch, in the stadium — it’s been a media circus. A frenzy. Like something I’ve never encountered. "All the stuff that’s been going on off the pitch. The takeover. The arrival of a new manager after what seemed like a few days. The threat of having points deducted. The arrival of the boys from Argentina. It doesn’t necessarily affect you as a player but it’s something that goes on around you, going on over there."

But that’s just it, says West Ham’s 27-year-old goalkeeper. It has been going on "over there" and is not, therefore, a reason why West Ham’s players can blame anyone other than themselves for their predicament, which leaves them in desperate need of a victory at Sheffield United today if they want to remain in the Premiership. It could, of course, amount to nothing if an independent Premier League commission decide later this month that West Ham should be deducted points for an alleged breach of transfer regulations — if they decide that Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano were ineligible to play for the club earlier this season. But you won’t hear Green complaining.

Does the situation not demotivate them? "I don’t think it’s ever really entered our heads," says Green, as he relaxes in the bar at Upton Park. "Not at all. We are doing everything we can to stay up. Whether that is then taken away from us is out of our hands. "We can’t control what the Premier League decide to do — if they decide to deduct us points or fine us. Look at AFC Wimbledon earlier this season: 18 points deducted, reduced to three. Three points doesn’t sound a lot but it could make all the difference to us. All we can do, though, is focus on playing. It’s never been mentioned in the dressing-room. I’m not sure the lads even know all the ins and outs of it. Of course, it could be massively disappointing if we get enough points to survive and then go down. But should we be in the position we are in right now? No. And we can’t use the things that have happened around the club as an excuse. We’ve had enough games this season to put things right, but performances, on the whole, haven’t been good enough. We’ve shown what we can do in glimpses. We’ve done that in the last three games — against Middlesbrough, against Arsenal last weekend, and against Blackburn —but we’ve gone to other games and not performed. That, for me, is a bigger crime."

Green continues to talk with refreshing honesty. Did the arrival of Tevez and Mascherano not destabilise the dressing-room? "That was all massively blown out of proportion," says Green. "I signed the day before they arrived. Why didn’t I make that kind of impact? Why didn’t I destabilise the dressing-room? The whole idea was crazy. When they arrived they didn’t even speak any English, so how were they going to do that? They were two quality players. You only had to watch the World Cup to see that. Whether they were used to their full potential, I don’t know. But look at Javier now. He’s doing pretty well at Liverpool. And Carlos is flying now he’s been given a chance to come up for air."

A change of manager nevertheless followed. Farewell Alan Pardew, hello Alan Curbishley. "It was a decision that was taken by the new chairman, Eggert Magnusson," says Green. "But if we stay up then everyone will say it was the right decision. Only time will tell. There wasn’t anybody in the dressing-room who disliked Alan Pardew. Like any squad, you had 11 happy players and a load of other not so happy players. But when the manager was sacked I think a lot of the boys looked at themselves and took some responsibility for that. We did a disservice to him and to the club by not performing as well as we could have done."

After a 6-0 defeat against Reading, Curbishley reminded them of that. He called them the ‘Baby Bentley’ brigade, as well as a few other things. "I don’t drive a Bentley," says Green with a smile. "I don’t care for cars. I drive a Range Rover but I’d be just as happy to drive an Astra or an Escort. The manager told us that what he said had been misrepresented. I think what he did say that day was said with the right intentions. He was talking about the hunger shown by the Reading players to stay in the Premiership. The hunger they were showing wasn’t being shown by our players."

Curbishley banned the card schools and while that had an impact on some players, it did not trouble Green. "I’m not a gambler," says an England player who has used his spare time to gain A-levels in law and psychology and is now keen to do a degree. "But I never really saw the card school as a problem. If people want to play cards, let them. It’s up to the individual how much money they play for. That was how most of the boys saw it. People play cards for a lot of money but in this industry people earn a lot of money. It’s not my scene; I prefer a quiet life with friends who are away from football. You’re better off asking the other 25 boys what I’m like but 'different' is probably a word I’d use. I’m probably different in that I don’t watch a lot of football. I won’t watch it on TV. I will study who we are playing before a game, but beyond that I won’t sit and watch hours of live games. Football is already my life and I think if I spent my entire time immersed in it, it would send me crazy — or crazier. I’m from Woking and they’re my team, and I’m probably more interested in non-League football than the Premiership."

And more interested in winning than making excuses.

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