You know, it’s funny what people will swallow. Not in the David Blaine sense but the headlines and the bullshit that fly about in this game of ours from time to time.
Pulling the wool over people’s eyes, however, is not just the preserve of Blaine and his magic circle chums. It happens in every business and football is no different.
This week, I read the reports that suggested Kenwyne Jones had sent a text message to his club informing them that he was not available for selection for Stoke City’s match against Liverpool.
Naturally, the media and the wider football community went into meltdown; even our own Secret Journalist jumped on the bandwagon: http://ow.ly/sI5h0.
Every article I read had one thing in common – none of them had a single quote from Jones. I smelt a rat but, at the time, I didn’t know the real facts. But now I do.
I wasn’t the only player who smelt a rat, either. A lot of Premier League players did, including the half dozen or so who I’ve spoken to since and who were all in agreement about one thing.
The club never received a text because Kenwyne had never sent one. That theory has since been backed up by two more people who are much closer to Kenwyne than I am.
The reason this tale was concocted is because Stoke want Jones out of their club.
Jones earns a tremendous wage at Stoke and I’m sure it won’t be lost on you that he isn’t featuring under manager Mark Hughes. He’s been dropped for today’s game at Crystal Palace.
Yet at 29 years of age, he has some resale value to Stoke as well as a wage that could be split quite comfortably between a couple of new acquisitions.
With that in mind, my hunch is that Jones is less than keen to leave the Potteries because he won’t get the same wage anywhere else.
That, in itself, isn’t a problem because the normal course of action for a club in this situation is to offer the player a settlement figure based on the remainder of his contract.
This is standard practice and is designed to reduce the shortfall in the player’s wages at his new club, especially if he is no longer in his prime.
Clearly, Stoke do not want to do that. Their chairman, Peter Coates, who is never shy in coming forward in the media, has tightened the purse strings at the Britannia Stadium quite considerably since former manager Tony Pulis departed. And that includes paying off players who are no longer wanted.
Clubs feed the public domain with stories like this all the time. I can remember a similar thing happening to a goalkeeper who I used to play with – the nicest, most professional and seriously talented player you could ever wish to meet.
He did extremely well for our club and, as a result, he attracted a lot of interest from clubs in the top four. Eventually, one of those clubs put some serious money on the table.
Understandably, our club did not want to sell him but, instead of rejecting the offer and releasing a statement, they rejected the offer and came up with their own plan. These days, it is not enough to simply reject an offer because there is so much money in the game that clubs are rarely put off by the size of a transfer fee alone.
Our club knew that their goalkeeper would be the subject of further bids if it did not nip the situation in the bud immediately.
On the Friday before a big game, the manager asked our goalkeeper if he was OK to play? Perhaps his heart was elsewhere, maybe he needed to have a weekend on his own to take his mind off things? “No,” replied our goalkeeper, “I’m fine with everything and looking forward to the game.”
The following day the papers were littered with one quote from our manager: “We dropped the player for the weekend’s match,” he said, “because it was clear that his head was all over the place and he couldn’t deal with all the speculation.”
And that was it. No more bids from the interested club; in fact, no more bids from anybody.
Who wants a player, especially a goalkeeper, who crumbles under a bit of pressure? It was very clever and, at the same time, extremely vindictive.
And that is what is happening to Kenwyne. The difference is that he does not want to leave, whereas the goalkeeper at our club did. You might ask who would want a player who sends a text saying that he does not want to play?
But Stoke aren’t worried about that. They are simply trying to turn the fans of the club against Jones to make his position untenable. And what better way to do that than to incite the fans by saying that one of their own players has refused to wear the club’s shirt?
At this time of year, clubs will always take a chance on a player like Jones, not least because he’s a striker – managers always take chances on strikers. Everton are rumoured to be interested and they aren’t going to be put off by a poxy “text”. But the fans will and Stoke know it, that’s why they did it.
Kenwyne isn’t a troublemaker and he’s most certainly a handy player on his day but his club has made a decision and, unfortunately for the Trinidad and Tobago striker, they have decided to go about it in a way that forces his hand and makes his time left with the club extremely uncomfortable.
If the text exists, then I challenge Coates to show it to us, but my strong belief is that it doesn’t and never did.
In fact, I’d bet that David Blaine would struggle to conjure it up.
About the author: The Secret Footballer
I’ve seen everything there is to see in football, and a lot more outside of it. My anonymity let’s me tell you how it is, from inside the game without the shackles of pre-conception or fan bias.