Rooney makes a mockery of the rights footballers fought for

IT'S been interminable, this question of which player might go where, and what's worse is that there are four weeks to go until the Premier League season actually starts. But there's still been time to make good on a summer plan to re-read a book which we all need to return to in these dismal days, when a £250,000-a-week footballer lets it be known that his feelings have been hurt by his manager - a claim for which there is minimal, going on for no, justification.

It's not just the beauty of the journalist's relationship - man to man - with the footballers he writes about which makes Arthur Hopcraft's The Football Man so incredibly fine, but the fact that his subjects really are working-class heroes. They're struggling to escape the penury and poverty of a working man's life, fearing what they will fall back into if they fail, and yet they are not afraid to claim what is rightfully theirs. Hopcraft recalls one of the players' meetings at Belle Vue in Manchester when the press were invited to sit in on the vote for strike action over the maximum wage, in 1961. "There was a certain amount of private ridicule among the reporters covering this prolonged story," he writes. "The impression of professional footballers as Neolithic mumblers with their hands held out, palm upwards, never had much substance, but its suggestible comic qualities had persuaded credence in some quarters though." Then Jimmy Hill stood up and astonished the press corps with his lucidity, much of it so quotable, and the players voted, to a man, to strike. "The meeting was serious, bitter, orderly," Hopcraft reports.

They won their battle. In January 1961, three days before the strike notice was due to expire, the Football League capitulated and soon afterwards the feudal retain and transfer system went the same way, too, through the indefatigability of George Eastham, the Newcastle United schemer whose acrimonious dispute with his club meant that he did not play football for an entire year. There were other men like these.

Just ask Sir Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Armfield about Tommy Banks, the former Bolton Wanderers and England left-back whose birth as a miner's son in 1929 - just as the Wall Street crash had hit - was so desperately unpromising. Banks, the only breadwinner in his household, was down the pit by 1945, the year his father died, and up on his feet during a landmark meeting of the Professional Footballers' Association at Manchester's Grand Hotel, in early January 1961, when another player had suggested that striking was wrong, because his own father, a miner, did not earn as much as he did. "I'd like to tell your father that I know the pits are a tough life," Banks said. "But there won't be 30,000 people watching him mine coal on Monday morning, while there will be 30,000 watching me trying to stop Brother [Stanley] Matthews here."

Banks brought the house down. Neither articulate nor educated, his Lancashire vernacular that day was virtually incomprehensible but he did his own talking regardless. A contrast, it might be said, to Wayne Rooney, who apparently has not even had the conviction to speak his mind, allowing third parties - the ubiquitous "Sky sources" - to do it for him this week.

In 1961, the players were the  heroes and the establishment clubs were the villains. Rarely can the modern Manchester United be characterised as victims but they are the ones who have been wronged. It is impossible for many to avoid the conclusion that Rooney is confecting a sense of injustice to manoeuvre himself a transfer, bastardising the liberties that Hill and Banks secured for him.

Those men would say a contract is a contract, once signed. The disrepute and trouble Rooney has heaped upon United by allowing the "sources" to do their darnedest ought to be a breach of that contract which, incidentally, offers a club minimal protection against him upping sticks whenever he pleases. The sports lawyer Ian Lynam, from the Charles Russell practice, has observed through Twitter this week that by putting in a transfer request Rooney would not be jeopardising his wages or even any loyalty bonus due to him. Only any unpaid instalments of a signing-on fee would be lost if he leaves. The significance of transfer requests is overstated in the media. "Without talking about specifics, players are very well protected with their contracts, and sometimes overprotected in my view," the outgoing FA chairman David Bernstein observed last year.

Hopcraft observes that no other events in football did as much to lift the general standard of play as the fight to abolish the maximum wage and the retain and transfer system. He reflects the view that England might not have won the World Cup without those campaigns. To think that the fruits of their labours have delivered us to this.

Topics:  opinion premier league soccer wayne rooney

Men of league hit the greens for community

Barry Hancock and Kev Embrey of the Fraser Coast at a recent Men of League Bowls Day.

Tweed to gather on Coolangatta greens.

Crowning bowls champions

CHAMPS: Mark Casey, one half of Gold Coast champion bowls pair with Jayden Christie, play on Monday.

Who will it be?

Local Partners

Family's new arrival in face of tragedy

MEL Small had already gone into labour when she learned of the tragic fate of her sister Jodie Spears.

Barry Gibb is coming to Bluesfest 2017

FANS: Barry Gibb talks to a fan next to a cardboard cutout of his young self.

Aged 70, Gibb has re-launched his solo music career with a new album

Declan Kelly and the Rising Sun to shine bright at festival

Declan Kelly & The Rising Sun is one of the headlining acts at this year's festival.

Main stage set to pump with radiant reggae and dub vibes

Expert's talk on Olley's life is not to be missed

THE ARTIST: Artist Margaret Olley at the Tweed Regional Art Gallery in 2006.

RARE insight into the life of one of most cherished hoarders

Shannen Doherty reveals fear of dying in post on chemo

Actor Shannen Doherty shared this image of her lying in a hospital bed after a chemotherapy session.

Actor has been fighting cancer since 2015

Eddie Redmayne's stage fright on latest Harry Potter film

Actor Eddie Redmayne stars in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Actor felt like kid again when he got to film with a wand

Salma Hayek: 'Trump planted story because I turned him down'

Actor Salma Hayek is the latest woman who says U.S presidential nominee Donald Trump acted inappropriately.

Salma Hayek latest woman to accuse Trump of misconduct

Leonardo DiCaprio nearly drowned while filming

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio

Oscar winner almost drowned in Galapagos

Miranda Kerr to wed next year

Supermodel Miranda Kerr

Supermodel and Snapchat founder to wed

What's on the small screen this week

Georgia Love pictured in a scene from The Bachelorette finale.

TWO big reality shows wrap up this week while

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals

Cherrabah's mega resort plans axed

PLANS for a massive development at Cherrabah have been scrapped.

Dusit Thani finance crisis 'just a small hiccup'

ON TRACK: Springfield Land Chairman, Maha Sinnathamby, Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, Developer Richard Turner and Springfield Land Deputy Chairman, Bob Sharpless, at the recent resort sod turning ceremony.

Property developer says project remains firmly on track

Heavyweight enters real estate market

Des Besanko principal and director of Raine and Horne Springfield.

Major rebranding which has seen two big name brands merge