The value of loyalty – the Steven Gerrard factor

What price loyalty? Football pundits have been asking this question in relation to footballer Steven Gerrard’s much-heralded departure from his beloved Liverpool FC after a sparkling one-club career.

We are told that since he made his debut on 29th of November 1998 against Blackburn he’s turned down many lucrative offers to play at other more successful clubs – Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Real Madrid…and maybe a few more that we don’t know about.

What kept him at Liverpool we are told by journalists, friends, colleagues and fans of the midfielder is loyalty.

His manager Brendan Rodgers told the BBC “He’s irreplaceable…he will be missed…he loves his city…Liverpool is his home…he’s a wonderful symbol to the people here..”

Such loyalty to one club in modern football is rare and becoming rarer by the season. The one-club star players like Gerrard, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher are allegedly a dying breed. Now that Raheem Sterling has gone to Manchester City for £49 million, the forums and phone-ins are full of debate about loyalty again.

Some Liverpool fans feel aggrieved for various reasons and others are delighted. Both will do well to recall all clubs in the modern era have gone through similar scenarios. Many recall the departure of Kenny Dalglish from his beloved Celtic to Liverpool in the 1970’s, to replace Kevin Keegan who had just done the unthinkable deed (at the time)by leaving Anfield for Hamburg.

What goes around comes around, eventually.

Back to Steven Gerrard, we could all be forgiven for speculating that if in his reflective moments he doesn’t wonder if he may have made the wrong decision to stay with Liverpool during his illustrious career? It’s too late to worry now but he’d be only human if he did ponder that thought occasionally. Something we all do in our respective roles,no doubt.

Indeed outside of football the one company man/woman syndrome is also said to be a dying breed but for very different reasons.

Yet loyalty to your employer/employees is arguably more valued than ever – probably because, as in the world of soccer, it’s much rarer than it used to be.

Nowadays far more of us move from job to job more regularly than used to be the case…for more money, a more satisfying job, economic necessity, promotion, job satisfaction, redundancy. Many industry experts say this is a trend which will continue.

A pat on the back

My grandad worked for more than 40 years in a Liverpool bakery. He reluctantly retired in 1972 to look after my ailing grannie. He was 83 and the bakery’s oldest employee by some distance. On his departure he was lauded for his length of service. And his loyalty. They gave him a watch and the next day he was no longer a baker.

I didn’t ask him why he’d continued working for so long but I suspect he would have said something along the lines of ‘because I like the job, the people I work with and ‘erm the money helps’. He certainly didn’t stick it out from loyalty to the bakery, even if they were good employers which I think they were.

And yet there was presumably SOME loyalty there otherwise he would have cleared off in the 60’s and collected his pension.

“Loyalty and respect goes both ways. If they don’t return it they don’t deserve it’. [anon]

I’ve recently left the BBC after 30 years and I’m certainly fond of my former employer (for all its faults, I feel obliged to say]. If someone criticises the Beeb unfairly I’ll immediately jump to its defence – out of loyalty. I’ll defend it to the hilt. Unless of course the other person comes up with a better argument and then I’ll go back to basics and maybe look again at my stance. But the next time round my reaction will probably be the same because the BBC is still a big part of my life and I’m still loyal.

And I will occasionally wonder, perhaps like Stevie G what might have happened had I have taken another career turn instead of staying with the Beeb (that’s where the comparisons end unfortunately) but my loyalty isn’t compromised by that because blind loyalty to a cause, a party, a belief or a company is a dead-end street.

In today’s society there are still one company women/men and one would hope that they are rewarded and celebrated as appropriate [do they still give away watches? more likely to be a whip-round from colleagues] but I can’t help feeling that loyalty as a virtue isn’t quite as esteemed as it used to be even though it’s a much rarer commodity than it was in 1972.

Now we want creativity, enthusiasm, commitment,passion….on and off the field. But loyalty? How high up the list of job spec requirements does that come?

The Canadian motivational speaker Grant Fairley has an interesting take on the subject and I can’t quite work out if it’s directed at managers or employees, or both.

Either way it leaves a bitter-sweet aftertaste.

“If you want loyalty get a dog. If you want loyalty and affection get a smart dog”.

What I take that to mean is that from an employer’s point of view you will only get loyalty if you treat your employees well and inspire them ; that there is much more to be being an effective boss than simply demanding loyalty because you pay the wages….and that only a dog shows blind loyalty.

From a worker’s perspective, it may mean that you shouldn’t expect your boss to be loyal to you for no reason other than the fact that you work for him ;you’re a human being, so give more and you’ll get more.

And don’t forget that in either case you must have both done something right to deserve the loyalty shown to you in the first place.

For Steven Gerrard, his talents, including his loyalty, could be rewarded in the future if he returns to Anfield in a non-playing capacity.

So to stretch the canine metaphor much too far, don’t bite the hand that feeds you because one day you might just get a pat on the back.

Raheem Sterling might do well to reflect on that over the coming years.

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