Reading manager Steve Clarke has come out and publicly defended Russian target man Pavel Pogrebnyak, saying players shouldn't be criticised because of the cash he's paid.
GetReading published his quotes:
"I don't think people should ever be criticised for earning a lot of money," said the Reading manager.
"The public can criticise for poor performances, not for how much somebody earns. I think that's wrong.
"Pav has got something to prove. He's a good player who came here with a big reputation.
"And I look forward to seeing him making a contribution to the club going forward."
The Tilehurst End Assistant Editors @BucksRoyal and @RoyalHoops have each taken one side of the argument surrounding those quotes, namely whether players should in fact, be judged on their wages.
Bucks: No, players shouldn't be judged on wages
Wages in modern day football are defined by the spending power of clubs. With richer, more ambitious owners, teams are desperate to achieve levels of success that previously would have seemed ridiculous. Naturally, the wealth of owners means that they are prepared to hand out large sums of money so that their managers can strengthen the squad. Because of that, crazy sums of money are now circulating around the sport, and wages have gone up pretty much universally. And with the sport becoming increasingly popular on a global scale, I don't see wages going down any time soon.
So how does that affect the players themselves? Obviously, they love the higher wages as much as anyone would in any profession, but they didn't set those wages themselves. In our case, extortionate contracts were handed out by Anton in the last regime to players we wouldn't have dreamed of signing a few years ago. The man in the example that triggered this piece - Pavel Pogrebnyak - was headhunted by Anton himself. The size of the Pog's wages says more about the broken state of our ownership of late than it does about the Pog.
Ultimately, wages are representative more of how much an owner is willing to pay than the actual quality of a player.
Having such high wages, which the player has minimal part in getting besides signing the contract, distorts the debate over a player's quality. For example - which player has been worse over the last year or so: Pavel Pogrebnyak or Hal Robson-Kanu? I'd argue that the Pog has been better, but he'll be judged more harshly than Robson-Kanu... because of the wages he was given by the club.
Of course, bigger wages inspire bigger expectations from the fans, but how exactly does a player fulfill those expectations? How does a player show that he's worth wages of, as in the Pog example, £65,000 a week? Those were ridiculous wages when they were given out so, for Pog to justify them, he'd have to put on ridiculous performances.
If an expensive player puts on a cheap performance, don't just be disappointed with the player: be angry at the owner who agreed to pay him that much.
Hoops: Yes, players should be judged on their wages
I beg to disagree with Steve Clarke. Players should be criticised for earning high, disproportionate wages.
Firstly, let me start by agreeing that some of the blame can be placed on the men (ahem, Zingarevich) responsible for handing players such high wages; for that players don't deserve to be criticised. You can't begrudge anyone grasping an opportunity to earn a wage way higher than their ability, it's like being given a CEO's salary for working as a receptionist—nobody would say, "no, thanks, I'm OK."
Everyone knows that in football wages represent expectations. The higher your wages, the more a club values you. Broken into the team and proven you're an indispensable player? Wage hike. Player who has shown to be a key cog of the team? Wage hike. Player interesting rival clubs, but you want to get more money for them? Wage hike. Player with a good history of being a top-level player? Big wage. If a club is giving you a massive wage—shall we say, £65,000 —they have every right to expect a reasonable return on their investment, they didn't put that contract in front of the player for no reason.
In the case of Pogrebnyak, he simply hasn't lived up to expectations set of him when he signed that contract. With a rich history playing (and scoring) for top-level sides like Spartak Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg and Stuttgart you would be forgiven for thinking he deserves a big wage. Unfortunately, those wages look like money poorly spent, with Pogrebnyak consistently looking poor when taking to the pitch, this in the Championship.
That receptionist isn't going to leave any time soon, and unless they up their game they deserve all the criticism they get.