Pitchside

Schneiderlin and Lovren highlight serious problems at Southampton

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Morgan Schneiderlin tweeted the following earlier this week:

Now, I’m not much of a betting man, but I’d be willing to wager heavily that prior to this the Southampton midfielder took one look at Dejan Lovren’s petulant Instagram message and subsequent sale to Liverpool and thought: “That’ll work a treat for me, too!”

France international Schneiderlin handed in a transfer request shortly after this public expression of his desire to leave St Mary’s, where he has plied his trade since he was aged 18 in 2008.

The then-Championship side dropped to League One, entered administration, and rebounded with successive promotions under Nigel Adkins during that time, before Mauricio Pochettino’s brief tenure in charge led to one of the club’s finest-ever seasons and the subsequent soar in transfer value of most of their players.

We all know how football works now. Such fantastic rises by clubs like Southampton are almost always ‘rewarded’ by being sucked dry by bigger sides who want what the underdogs have, without having to actually toil to put it together.

However, such a practice is only the norm because footballers allow it to be.

Many of them, Schneiderlin and Lovren included, convince themselves that they must jump ship to a more established team in order to ever play at the highest level. That they’ve been regularly defying the critics and rising higher and higher with Southampton suddenly becomes irrelevant.

Such a mentality is laughably described as ‘ambition’. I always thought ambition was, for instance, working towards becoming a manager in your chosen work field, or rising to a point of widespread renown.

A footballer’s desire to play for big clubs, even if that means swapping a regular starting role for rotation or fringe involvement, is about as ambitious as it is to marry a rich spouse.

With that in mind, nobody ruined Lovren’s dreams but Dejan himself, by choosing to be so narrow-minded about his career and what he must do to succeed. Nobody has halted a fairytale six-year journey for Schneiderlin but Morgan himself, by deeming such behaviour as an acceptable way to behave after quietly building his reputation so admirably.

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Of course, the saddest part of this is the duo’s flagrant disregard for the terms of contracts they were only too happy to sign in order to activate big pay rises.

Normally the first response to any complaints about players’ contracts on here, whether issued by writers or readers, is that old favourite “well, if you were offered that kind of money, you’d do the same thing!”

Erm, well, there’s a slight difference for most of us.

Many of us ‘regular folk’ are employed on what are known as permanent contracts. There is no fixed term and we are obligated to work under the agreed terms for however long, until we are either let go or choose to leave.

If we choose to leave, we can do so at any time after giving 30 days’ notice. So, if someone does waltz along offering to double our wages, our current employers have left that proverbial door open.

In football, with transfers the way they are, players sign contracts for so many years. By doing so, they’re submitting their fate within that stretch of time to the club. Yes, they can be moved elsewhere before the contract expires, but only if the club decide it’s the best move.

Now, ‘player power’ overrules that at a canter. Mostly because many teams are deathly afraid of having a key player rot in the reserves if they dare attempt to spit in the face of the terms they agreed to at the start, when it suited them.

It's easy to just decide that Schneiderlin has served the club well enough and long enough to decide now's the time to leave, but his contact says otherwise - and he was a key part of that piece of paper becoming legally binding.

I'm sure seeing all his current colleagues and another manager depart have served to seriously unsettle him, but even then there's a way to conduct yourself and there's a way to throw your toys out of the pram.

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If only more clubs realised that the short-term damage they’d sustain from putting their foot down would benefit them so much more in the long run.

Instead, they continue to be tools, used by ‘ambitious’ footballers and clubs who were very successful on more level playing fields in decades past, who have astutely used such a reputation – referred to by some as ‘history’ – to maintain their perches at the top of the food chain.

And that’s why Southampton themselves are ultimately responsible for what will surely be their sudden grind to a halt after four years of tremendous progress.

Manager Pochettino was one of the first to leave this summer, and it appears, he took whatever authority Saints had over their staff with him.

Now, the inmates have been given free rein to run the asylum. Only thing is, they’re only ‘running’ it long enough to figure out which button opens the asylum gates, so they can flee.

I can only hope Southampton build upon the signings of Ryan Bertrand and Graziano Pelle and sensibly re-stock their side, so that they can continue to operate healthily and attractively in the Premier League.

But, should the widespread belief that they’ll be part of the relegation dogfight in 2014/15 come to pass, they’ve nobody to blame but themselves for not enforcing the contracts they had the likes of Lovren and Schneiderlin sign.

Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter @liamhappe

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