I’m not overly keen on criticising our own players but sometimes it’s hard to avoid it. I got a lot of stick for criticising Cristiano Ronaldo last season but it’s rare that I would really lay in to one of our own players.
I’m afraid I have to get something off my chest today though.
Rio fucked up massively a few years ago and I was more than happy to voice my dislike of him. He didn’t seem like a ‘United player’ in the sense that we recognise so many players who haven’t come through the youth system but are adopted by us to become one of us. He was a cockney bad boy who fancied himself quite a bit.
Rio took an independent drugs test the day after missing the official one which showed him to be clean, but that’s all irreverent now, given that he was banned for eight months and our season fell apart. Still, for those eight months he was earning a nice wage from us.
For him to then stall on a contract was unforgivable for much of our support. FC United fans sing about him and I understand why. For a long time he represented the bad things about football in the Sky era, money grabbing and forsaking loyalty to the club for the sake of an even more extortionate contract.
He has generally improved since then though and has spoken about his commitment to and love for the club fairly regularly. Talk is cheap, I know, but by and large he has shown that passion on the pitch and has played a crucial role in our success over the past few years. He’s a winner and a perfectionist. Check Rio’s reaction to any crucial goals over the past few seasons and you’ll see he’s as barmy as the fans. You might expect that of all footballers but Harry Redknapp revealed last month that this was a rare quality in today’s football.
There has been the odd blip since then, namely that horrendous Christmas party, but all in all, he has managed to win over the majority of our fan base.
But the irritations do start mounting. As much as you like a player, it’s still irritating to learn that they have a magazine and a restaurant and a record label all on the side which all detract from their game. We’re paying him something like £120k a week so surely these other ‘ventures’ can be considered moonlighting. I don’t want him spending his time away from the pitch thinking about colour schemes for the restaurant or wondering which celebrity to interview next. I realise all players are going to have distractions off the pitch but Rio seems to go out of his way to find new ways of making money, and given his concentration isn’t the best anyway, it is a concern.
We learnt about Rio’s new film last year, in which he has teamed up with Ashley Cole to make a £2.5m British gangster movie, called ‘Dead Man Running’ and the première took place yesterday. He’s opening himself up to criticism by being involved in so many other things off the pitch, regardless of whether they effect his game or not. Every mistake he makes will be scrutinised that bit more and why shouldn’t people question whether these other activities are having a detrimental effect on his career.
So yeh, it’s another distraction, but isn’t it totally hypocritical too? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all for censoring the media and computer games, but isn’t it a bit rich that Rio, an anti-gun crime ambassador, would make a film which is all about gangs and guns and violence? He became somewhat of a spokesperson for knife and gun crime after Damilola Taylor was killed in Peckham, where Rio himself grew up.
“As soon as I saw what happened I thought there must be some way that I could help,” Rio said in 2000, after the murder of Damilola Taylor. “If I can do just one small thing to help find out out what happened to Damilola then I have to do it.”
Making films which promote gangs and make violence look cool probably isn’t the best way of deterring youngsters from picking up a gun, eh Rio?