Run a toothcomb through Ryan Hall’s Twitter account and you’ll find more than just his take on how estranged footballers should treat their work.
His “business head on” monologue led to a two-week suspension from Leeds United on Monday but telling the world that the time had come to sit back and take the money was not as misjudged as his series of retweets over the weekend of October 12.
That particular weekend was nothing special. Leeds were in the middle of the international break and Hall, on loan, laid on a goal for Sheffield United. They lost at Coventry City and stuck fast at the bottom of the League One but no matter. An assist is an assist.
And so the retweets: “we need you on the wing at Elland Road”; “lufc are desperate for a winger, give him a chance”; and the pièce de résistance, “wake up McDermott”. If you need convincing of how poorly Hall grasps the machinations of professional sport, it’s there in a direct challenge to his manager’s authority. Whether Hall endorsed the comments is an argument over semantics.
No doubt he meant what he said when he spawned a slogan for Britain’s 2.5million unemployed by tweeting “if your not getting played take the L out and get payed.” It was that and subsequent remarks which tipped the apple cart. Hall was hauled from the gym at Thorp Arch on Monday morning, read the riot act and sent him home for a fortnight on full pay. His wages are intact but his prospects are not. Hall looks finished at Elland Road, if indeed he ever began.
A resolution to the dispute will be found, naturally. His contract permits a maxiumum two-week suspension and he will be free to return to the training ground a week on Monday. He has the PFA in his corner and, in the grand scheme, taking a salary he’s entitled to is not murder one. It’s a dense and insensitive attitude but footballers have done worse. Hall will likely receive no more than a fine. But out of kilter with the ethos of his club, there is little left for him here. Apart from the many months on his contract.
Comparisons were drawn between Hall’s misdemeanour and the tweet by Davide Somma in 2011 which brought an outright ban on players at Leeds using Twitter. You could say both players were too honest. But Somma’s mistake was honest, an innocent comment about the severity of his knee injury made before the club had spoken themselves.
United might have said nothing had it not been the case that as Somma’s tweet went live, Simon Grayson was sat in a supporters’ function in Stirling telling the audience that he was still waiting to receive the results of scans on the striker’s knee. The embarrassment oozed and Somma heard about it that night but even Grayson conceded that the world was still spinning. “I wanted the news to come out in the right manner,” he said. “But Davide’s a good lad.”
Can McDermott say the same of Hall? The signs so far have not been encouraging. The winger returned from the summer in mediocre shape – “not as fit as he could have been,” to use McDermott’s words – and played no part in United’s pre-season tour of Slovenia. His partner was expecting a baby at the time but reading between the lines, he would have stayed at home regardless. Hall, more than any other player should have appreciated the significance of the close season; a fresh start with a new broom for a winger whose entire spell at Elland Road has been a mystery.
In that respect you sympathise. Hall is not lumbered with a dead-end job but he is at a dead end. Who knows if he has had a chance? Neil Warnock, the coach who signed him, saw no reason to play him and McDermott is even less obliged to do Hall a good turn. United invested £150,000 in the transfer and more besides in a two-and-a-half year deal but there has never been so much as a pretence of painting him as a star in the making. A passenger would be closer to the truth.
Signing Hall was altogether without sense. He is 25 and has nothing in the way of time on his side; certainly not enough to kick his heels. He also has the sort of chequered history which clubs only gamble on in cases of extreme talent. Put bluntly, you wouldn’t sign Hall for his personality. You’d sign him to tear up the wing.
The pages of today’s YEP are juxtaposed: on one, a model professional in Fabrice Muamba who lost his livelihood aged 23 and counts himself lucky to be alive. On another, Ryan Hall who seems to think he has nine. Football’s a short career according to Hall. It is when you treat it like he does.