By Adrian Durham – @talkSPORTDrive
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
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Many years ago, a friend of mine was facing a painful divorce. He couldn’t cope. He found himself in an airport lounge one morning crying his eyes out. He missed his plane to London, and consequently missed work that day. Once his employers found out the full story, they offered help and support. He was one of the toughest guys I know, had already endured a traumatic life, but the divorce was killing him: mentally he was weak and emotionally he was shot. It took him a while to get back on his feet.
If that was your friend, you’d support him wouldn’t you?
So how come football turns previously normal human beings into insensitive, uncaring people?
West Ham co-owner David Sullivan confirmed this week that Dmitri Payet wanted to return to Marseille for family reasons. He’s returning to an inferior league, so it’s not a football decision. He’s taking a pay cut, so he’s not a greedy money-grabber. The reasons are genuine. Some fans have asked why Payet hasn’t revealed those reasons. They’re obviously very personal, and it’s actually unreasonable to expect him to tell all.
My understanding is he went to the club late last year to explain, and was told he couldn’t leave. He faced the prospect of staying in London, unable to deal with his personal issues, which dictated he return to the south of France.
The club wouldn’t listen, so he had to force his way out. If the club could make the player look like the bad guy, then of course the fans would turn on him. And that’s exactly what happened. When Slaven Bilic first revealed Payet wanted to leave, the West Ham boss never mentioned family problems. Why not?
Why didn’t Payet talk to his team-mates? We don’t know for sure what problems he faced domestically but, if it’s anything like the situation my friend went through, it’s no surprise he shut himself off from the ‘banter’ of the group. It’s probably the last thing he wanted to get involved with. In every sense Payet had switched off, and needed to be in Marseille. So much so he didn’t care about half a million pounds he was due in salary in January.
In Payet’s circumstances, I’d expect an employer to be understanding and sympathetic. I can’t believe the club publicly demonised him, turning thousands of fans against him.
I’m not saying Payet is an angel, but the club saying a player is on strike when he is in reality forcing his way out because the club won’t listen to him is something totally different.
Some people reckon West Ham lost their heart and soul when they left Upton Park. Well, it looks like they certainly lost the family values synonymous with their old home.
Payet did what all good, solid East Enders would do – he put his family first. Yet he was vilified by the club and the fans.
Are all Hammers fans happy with what West Ham United Football Club has now become?