Naive is an obvious description for Charlie Taylor but he’s old enough to know the consequences of the decision he took last weekend. No doubt his refusal to play at Wigan came on the advice of people around him but he’s old enough to understand the line he was crossing.
I can’t put myself in his shoes entirely because I wasn’t good enough to refuse to play for anyone. Yes, there were times when I rejected contract offers or made a move which turned out to be the wrong one but I’d never have downed tools. The bottom line in what is a nuanced situation is that a player with a contract and professional pride cannot refuse to play.
You can imagine, though, the discussions that went on between Charlie and his agent or perhaps with family. The season is over in a competitive sense.
Your contract is up in the summer and – as seems glaringly apparent now – you’ll be leaving Leeds United when is ends. So why risk playing at Wigan where you might get topped and break your ankle or sever your cruciate? Why gamble what I assume will be a move to the Premier League?
To play devil’s advocate, it’s a bit surprising that he was going to be involved at all. Leeds are in line to get a decent whack of compensation and I can see an argument for protecting that money by leaving him out of the team.
But that’s me talking without the emotion involved. Football’s an emotional game and players have to appreciate that. Charlie will have his reasons and he might feel justified in doing what he did but when the fans flick onto the internet or pick up the ‘local rag’ and read a headline saying ‘Taylor refused to play for Leeds’, they’re hardly going to praise him for putting himself first.
In the heat of the moment, the comments made by Garry Monk carried a hell of a lot of negative connotations and Charlie will find those difficult to shake, certainly locally. Maybe he doesn’t care and maybe he thinks his decision was justified but any time he’s back playing in these parts he’s going to have to be ready for a reaction.
And unfortunately for him, it’s not merely the man on the street who’s able to communicate with footballers these days. Something tells me he’ll have left his Twitter account alone since Sunday. It won’t make for pleasant reading.
From Monk’s perspective, he’ll dislike the message that Taylor’s behaviour sends out. Leeds are the sort of club who players will crawl over broken glass to play for, even in the bad times, but he’s guided them into genuine contention in the Championship this season.
It’s been an excellent year for the club and Taylor’s refusal to play leaves a bitter taste at the end of it.
Handled differently, something tells me that Monk might have done right by him anyway. But to simply tell a manager that you’ve been advised not to play, which is what Garry says Charlie told him, is a red rag to a bull.
What role have Charlie’s advisors had in all this? I can only guess. Agents are funny individuals. Much as they’ve got a terrible reputation, I’ve met plenty of cracking people who work in that field. All the same, I’ve never met one who is entirely altruistic. Agents do what they do to make money.
Their priority is to maximise the earning potential of their clients and push their careers as far as they can. Quite often, their idea of what’s best for a footballer is totally at odds with the views of a football club and there’s rarely any sentiment involved.
If Charlie is going to the Premier League, the move could set him and his family up for life.
He’s seen others of his ilk do the same – Lewis Cook, Sam Byram – and it has to be said that this is the first year for a while where Leeds look like they’re going somewhere. Had he played at Wigan, I think most fans would have been willing to wave him off and thank him for his effort. He’s a good player after all.
But they’ve invested emotion in him and the club have invested money in him. Whether he wanted to travel or not, he should have been there and he should have done what was asked of him.
Some players will condemn him and others with empathise because no-one ‘gets’ a footballer like another football.
But 99.9 per cent of us realise that you can’t get away with refusing to play for a club who are paying you. It’s not the done thing. If I was Garry Monk I’d have told it like he told it on Sunday and said what he said.
It was harsh but it seemed fair and Taylor might see it that way one day. Then again, one day he might have five years of Premier League football behind him and enough money in the bank to think that the condemnation was worth it. Even lower-end top-flight clubs can make millionaires very quickly.
Just don’t expect the people who’ve paid to support you to ever swallow that.
Upcoming Sky-televised Championship play-off fixtures:
Tonight: Fulham v Reading , Sky Sports 2, 5.30pm.
Sunday: Huddersfield Town v Sheffield Wednesday, Sky Sports 2, noon.
Tuesday: Reading v Fulham, Sky Sports 3, 7.45pm.
Wednesday: Sheffield Wednesday v Huddersfield Town, Sky Sports 3, 7.45pm.