James Tarkowski’s refusal to play for Brentford against Burnley last Friday, after the Bees turned down a £1.7 million bid for the centre-back from the Clarets, was considered beyond the pale by fans and pundits alike. Tom Simmonds agrees that the player handled it badly, but cautions against over-emotional responses.Embed from Getty Images
First up, I should state that I think James Tarkowski’s actions were wrong. However, it is only fair to say that the Mancunian has honourable reasons for wanting to move back north, as he wants to be closer to his sick mother. Nobody should condemn him for that. The first realisation that your parents aren’t invincible is a heavy thing to deal with. Tarkowski is only 23 years old and is living a significant distance away from home. That is emotional pressure that would have an adverse effect on anybody.
However, this is not to say Tarkowski should escape censure for refusing to play. The way he and his agent handled the situation on Friday was clumsy and disrespectful to both Brentford and their fans, but it should not have escalated to the extent that it did.
Players being dropped because their heads have been turned by transfer talk is nothing new. Brentford manager Dean Smith will have encountered situations with unsettled players many times during his five years in charge at Walsall. It is possible that had Tarkowski been slightly less direct in his approach to the situation, Smith would have made the decision that the defender ultimately made for him and spared him the opprobrium of Brentford fans and outsiders.
In fact, when compared to other instances of players ‘going on strike’, Tarkowski’s example doesn’t compare to some of the worst. All it took for Dutch centre forward Pierre van Hooijdonk to withdraw his services from Nottingham Forest for the first three months of the 1998-99 season was for him to mutter darkly of “broken promises” when Forest sold Kevin Campbell to Trabzonspor in pre-season. Van Hooijdonk, a man who had previously said that a £7,000-a-week contract offered to him by Celtic was “good enough for the homeless, but not for an international striker”, was ostracised by his team-mates, who refused to celebrate his goals with him upon his return to the side.
A more contemporary example of such petulance is Carlos Tevez refusing to come off the bench for Manchester City during a Champions League tie at Bayern Munich in 2011. Then Blues gaffer Roberto Mancini claimed that Tevez’s actions had “finished” their working relationship, which he conveniently backtracked on when he realised the striker was a bit too good to be made an example of.
Returning to Tarkowski’s situation, there are several parties here who do not come out of this well – most of all Burnley. They will almost certainly have knowledge of his personal situation and have attempted to exploit it by putting in a bid for him that is significantly lower than the £4million offer that the Bees turned down in the summer.
Tarkowski and his agent could have handled the situation a lot more sensitively too, but some empathy with a young man facing a challenging time in his life is also called for. Should the transfer not go through before the end of the window, then we will see the extent to which he has burnt his bridges with Smith, his team-mates and the Brentford fans. If all he is guilty of is making a poor judgment – guided by emotion rather than the avarice people assume is a footballer’s default position when it comes to transfer time – then the Bees should consider whether this really is worth freezing him out over.
Do you think that Tarkowski’s actions were unprofessional or refreshingly honest? Is there any way back for him at Griffin Park now?
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