Poor old Nathan Dyer. As if looking like Chris Tucker wasn’t bad enough, his teammate denied him the personal glory of scoring a hat-trick at Wembley last weekend. We were then treated to the sort of argument about who was going to take a penalty that you tend only to see in games between children. In fact, I think I saw a similar dispute at Parker’s Piece on the way to watch the match.
You can understand how he feels. It’s not every day you get an opportunity to score a hat-trick at Wembley – especially if you play for Swansea – and to some extent, sport is about personal rather than collective glory. Sure, Sunday’s match will go down in the record books as Swansea’s first major cup victory, but without his hat-trick, it’s only a matter of time before Dyer’s name fades from the memory of all but the Swansea faithful.
Perhaps this is especially true in professional football these days, where players have little connection to their club. Only two of Swansea’s side on Sunday were from Wales, let alone the city itself (one of them was born in Wolverhampton). It’s a common complaint now, that footballers are just mercenaries in it for themselves and not the club. Hence the surprise when Joe Hart seemed on the verge of tears when Manchester City lost to Madrid in a game they should have won earlier this season. It seemed like he genuinely cared about the club, and maybe he does. Or maybe he was just disappointed in himself.
I’m not sure it really matters, though. The important thing is that the fans have a sense of collective belonging (a prominent part of the Bradford City story – it’s amazing what a good cup run can do). If the players are entertaining, then it’s not too important what drives them to play that way. Besides, in a team sport, the best way to ensure personal glory is to gel with your teammates. This is true from the top of the professional game to the student level. Those playing for the university are in a sense competing with their teammates for a varsity team spot as well as with the opposition for victory. Still, coaches want winning teams, and they are those that can work together – selfishness won’t win you a Blue.