Friday, 4 January 2013

Zebgate

This blog post was going to be all about the Oxford game - but subsequent events have rather overtaken the 90 minutes of tepid fare we saw at the Kassam.
When I saw the teamsheet, the first name I spotted was Sam Deering, restored to the 18 after being somewhat surprisingly left out against Wycombe on Boxing Day.
So who was missing ... Chris Zebroski.
At the same moment as I was scanning the teamsheet, my phone buzzed with two texts from people in the away contingent at the Kassam saying much the same thing - is it true that Zeb hasn't turned up again...
That was followed by some tweets asking the same thing.
It seemed that was the case - and that was a question for Yatesy after the game.
Ah yes, the game.
Well, it wasn't very good. Neither side did much, they got a penalty, sat deep for the rest of the game, and we couldn't break them down despite having a lot of possession.
Darren Carter went off injured, having played quite well, Marlon Pack came on and was the most likely to pick the pass to break through their yellow wall, and Jermaine McGlashan nearly scored at the end.
But neither goalkeeper made a save of any note at all.
That sums the game up, and to be honest I was more interested in how Yatesy would respond to the question about Mr Zebroski.
The answer was that he flat-batted it with all the aplomb of Alastair Cook frustrating the Australians.
"I got a late call," he told Ian Randall. Later, to Jon Palmer, he said "I don't want to talk about Chris Zebroski. Ask me about the 18 players who were here."
The annoyance and frustration were evident.
Let's face it, it's not the first time that Zebroski's name has been a late omission from the teamsheet this season.
The other three times were Saturday home games, and each time he has been restored to the side for the following game, but this no-show seemed different.
Yatesy seemed more cross about this one. It seemed like he had reached the end of his tether.
More will come out later in the week, he said. And so it has turned out.
We were told that Chris said he had been assaulted on New Year's Eve and had hospital treatment that night, which meant that he was not fit to play. Yatesy was told he was not going to be at the Kassam at 10am.
I am afraid that the player has history. At Plymouth his contract was terminated for gross misconduct after an incident involving Paul Wotton and a glass water jug in a restaurant on their 2006 pre-season tour of Austria.
I am sure we knew all about that when we signed him.
I must admit I was expecting a fine, maybe a suspension and certainly that he would be transfer-listed. When I saw he had left, I admit I was shocked.
To be fair there can be no complaints about his attitude and effort on the pitch. He had scored six goals, including a winner at his old club Bristol Rovers, and I thought he was the driving force in extra time at Hereford.
But I am afraid you cannot have players not showing up for matches. That is short-changing the club, manager and fans, and cannot be allowed to continue.
I would love to know what his team-mates thought when he was not showing up, then got his place back in the side the following week? Hardly conducive to good team spirit, and it doesn't send out a good message.
Zeb's departure has been described as a 'mutual termination'. My question about this is whether we have had to pay him off or not. I hope not.
My hope is that he has been fined and warned in the past for his previous no-shows, and therefore this latest misdemeanour leads to breach of contract, and therefore he has been effectively sacked.
I don't like the thought of having to shell out lots of money to someone who didn't want to do his job properly.
Some disappointment has been voiced about us effectively "wasting" a five-figure transfer fee by cancelling his contract - but how many clubs would have been willing to pay us to take a player who had shown his unreliability on so many occasions?
Anyway, why should we continue to waste a (very good) wage on someone who seems hell bent on disrespecting our club, and the shirt many of us would walk over hot coals to wear?
I think the club has shown swift, decisive management by nipping the problem in the bud, getting him out of the club so he can find a new club this month and we can look for a replacement. Suits both parties.
He was reportedly the highest-paid contracted player, so it will no doubt give Yatesy more scope to play with in the market this month.
Yes, for now his departure and Lawson D'Ath's return to Reading leaves us a little bit short on numbers for the big Everton game on Monday, but at least we know the 18 who are on duty are committed to the cause.