N'Zonzi stand-off no benefit to Stoke

Posted by James Whittaker

Steven N'ZonziGettyImagesSteven N'Zonzi has had a transfer request refused by Stoke

Since Steven N'Zonzi handed in his transfer request, which was flatly refused by the club, there have been some embarrassing reactions across social media, with an entirely disproportionate level of abuse aimed squarely in his direction.

Abusing the player because of one's own interpretation of events is foolish; to discount his ability in an attempt to justify that, even worse. N'Zonzi was a revelation upon his arrival form Blackburn last summer and his ability on the ball is better than any of his team-mates, despite the midfielder's dip in form, which appears to be related to his dispute with the club.

- No Stoke u-turn for Nzonzi

Nzonzi's determination to leave is reported to be over what he believes are broken promises concerning a new contract. He maintains he was given a verbal promise of a wage increase, scheduled for January, but it failed to materialise.

His initial salary at Stoke was way down the club's wage structure and he was asked to prove himself over the first half of the season with the plan to increase his wages should he perform well. Nzonzi made an impressive start to his career at Stoke, but fell away dramatically in the new year when the pay rise he believed he had earned was not awarded to him.

But whilst a player's contract forms the terms and conditions of his employment with the football club, it plays but a minor role in the day to day management of the team. In reality, conversations, feedback and assurances play a much larger part in the setting of player expectation; from encouragement in training by dangling a first team berth in front of them to promising them a day off should they get an important result.

If a player has been given such assurances, whether they be financial or football related is he not justified in feeling somewhat aggrieved when they are not fulfilled? How many times have we heard stories of managers saying they will give a player a new contract if he trains well and proves himself on the pitch?

IF that was indeed the gist of the assurances given to Stoke's Young Player of the Year, you can hardly blame him for his reaction, having established himself as one of the club's key players in his first season as well as claiming the aforementioned title.

Yes, the player had a drop in form around the New Year, but despite that he was still one of the few shining lights from a campaign most are delighted is over. Many questioned his desire in the latter stages of the season when the side was desperate for a win, but he put in a number of strong performances to put the notion he is not 'up for a battle' firmly to bed.

Compare that reaction to that of Asmir Begovic when he had a disagreement with the club early on in his City career. Stoke had reportedly rejected a bid from Chelsea for the goalkeeper, who swept last season's awards, and Begovic then refused to play in a cup game against Shrewsbury. His behaviour led to an internal disciplinary action, the PFA getting involved and, at the time, little hope for the kind of reconciliation that fortunately followed.

Much as they did with Asmir, Stoke now need to work equally as hard to convince N'Zonzi to stay and do enough to ensure he starts the season happy and in their midfield. Players want to leave all the time for myriad reasons, 90% of which fans never hear about, but it's usually sorted out amicably and with the least fuss possible. Whilst this story is now public, it presents the new manager Mark Hughes, and indeed the club, with a great opportunity to kick start the revolution with an announcement that one of the side's best players is staying.

The fans should be sensible, pragmatic and appreciate the fact that the club are unlikely to get a player of that quality with the money they would receive from any sale. In the absence of any facts we all need to be willing to reserve judgement and let the club deal with it.

If it transpires that the player IS being unreasonable and he ends up leaving the club then that's fine, and could even be seen as a positive in as much as the manager setting his stall out from a discipline point of view.

It's enough of a win/win that people shouldn't get so fervent in their response to the situation, though I for one will be hoping it all gets sorted as I'd rather have a side with N'Zonzi in it as opposed to not, especially when it looks like he'll get more movement around him and be freed of the midfield 'cage' under the new manager.

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