Yesterday Liverpool announced that Steven Gerrard would be returning to the club taking a full time coaching position in their academy.
The former Liverpool captain only retired from football at the end of November last year, and within a couple of months has already agreed to rejoin his boyhood club as a full time academy coach. As predicted, this has led to a lot of Arsenal fans moaning that so many of our ex-players, so many legends of the club, are not on the coaching field of London Colney or Hale End.
This ignores the fact that the likes of Steve Bould, Freddie Ljungberg and Robert Pires are involved with the club. Lesser known ex-players like Giles Grimandi, Ryan Garry, Danny Karbassiyoon, Steve Gatting, Greg Lincoln, Steve Morrow and Kwame Ampadu also have possessions at the club.
Some people act like we can have hundreds of ex-players of coaches, and they should be coaching at the club, no matter how good a coach they are.
Of course, like anyone, I do wish the likes of Thierry Henry, Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp were at Arsenal. But they have all chosen to take their post-playing career elsewhere.
Martin Keown, Lee Dixon, Ian Wright & Ray Parlour have all decided to take up a career in the media. It is a lot easier earning your money speaking once a week on Match of the Day, a few times a week on Sky Sports, or for a few hours every morning on TalkSport, than working 7 days a week, getting to Arsenal’s training ground at 7am to coach, not leaving till 5pm, and having night games.
Coaching is not easy, it is not well paid. You can get as much money appearing once a week on Match of the Day as you can being a coach at a top club. Less work. Same (or in many cases, more) money.
We do have many players who decided to stay in the game. Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars, Gilberto & Edu decided to return to their home countries, Holland and Brazil respectively, to ply their trade. And some of the cases, it was also a return to their boyhood clubs that they supported.
Patrick Vieira was offered a big money contract when he retired for Manchester City, moving into an ambassadorial role with the oil-rich club. He is now managing Man City’s sister club in American – New York City, where he has a 40% win percentage.
Then we have Tony Adams. My first Arsenal hero. A 14 year old me in 2000 would have had him down as Arsene Wenger’s replacement at Arsenal. At that age, it did not matter that he might not be a good manager, he was Mr Arsenal. As it turned out, he was an awful manager who took both Wycombe Wanders and Portsmouth backwards. He was last seen in Azebaijan. Being an Arsenal legend does not mean that you should automatically become Arsenal manager.
Finally we come to Thierry Henry, and this is where we compare him to Steven Gerrard.
Henry was offered a job at Arsenal, similar to that which Gerrard has taken up at Liverpool. Involved in the academy, Henry was offered a full time job coaching Arsenal’s Under-18s. He turned it down as he wanted the role to be part time.
The reason behind him only wanting a part time role was purely a monetary one. In 2014, he signed a six-year deal with Sky Sports worth a staggering £4 million a year. £24million. It was impossible for him to work full time for Arsenal and full time for Sky. He was never going to break his Sky contract to take a full time job at Arsenal for a lot less money.
Instead Henry joined Roberto Martinez’s Belgium set up, on a part time deal, which did not affect any of his work with Sky.
Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville have also decided to take the big money on offer from Sky than return to coaching – Neville did it for a bit with Valencia but soon returned to the comfy Sky Studio.
Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard has shunned a media career. He could have easily have got a job with Sky Sport. A recently retired legends, an England captain, he could have negotiated himself a deal close to that of Henry’s. But he did not. He loved Liverpool, and clearly wants to coach Liverpool, even if it means harder work and less money then he would get sitting on a TV sofa.
And that is the difference between the two. Gerrard has become part of Liverpool’s academy set up because he loves the club. Henry turned down becoming part of Arsenal’s academy set up because he loves the Sky money.