• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 9:08pm
Column
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 3:14am

'Mr Marmite' the epitome of bad taste

Former EPL midfield star turned pundit Robbie Savage's cheaters' charter for ensuring a transfer lands him in the gutter

BIO

Peter Simpson is a China-UK based journalist and the SCMP’s former Beijing 2008 Olympics news editor. He has covered major international news and sporting events, most recently the London 2012 Olympics and Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Peter is a Premier League season ticket holder at newly promoted Southampton FC.
 

There is a staple British food, spread daily on to toast and bread, called Marmite. The Australians have a version called Vegemite, which is somewhat sweeter to the acquired palate but is made of the same stuff - yeast extract.

The texture is thick, sticky goo-like tar and its taste akin to licking the rim of the Caspian Sea; such is the strength of its industrial salt-laden savouriness.

To many, it is the only thing to spread on their breakfast slice. To others, a mere whiff causes violent retching. "Do you love it or hate it?" ran one successful advertising campaign slogan.

Former EPL midfield star turned-pundit Robbie Savage has adopted the spread's motto as his calling card. He has dubbed himself "Mr Marmite" because he divides opinion with the subtlety of an axe chopping a party balloon.

Savage was released by Manchester United as a youngster and became a journeyman, playing for mediocre clubs including Crewe, Leicester, Birmingham, and Blackburn and ending his career at Derby.

He is an effective pundit. His insight often threatens on genius and his delivery mirrors his playing style - brutish, overly stylish and contrived to cause controversy.

With his flowing blond mane, designer stubble and atypical mannerism of a moneyed, vain footballer, he has a gift for loudly opining at any opportunity. And given his ubiquitous presence, he has ample airtime to express his views, occasionally lifting the lid on the goings-on inside dressing rooms.

Much of soccer is pantomime, after all, and we all adore a bad guy, but this week he belligerently barged his way across the Rubicon. He revealed a "how to" list for disgruntled players who want to engineer a transfer out of their club.

It was a timely guide given current frustrated escapees in waiting - Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale among them - and the soon-closing summer transfer window.

Yet on reading his pitiful, blasé 11-point exit strategy you felt like those millions who detest Marmite - queasy and quite wretched.

"Sulk" topped Savage's shameful list. "Sulking is horrible and can have a really negative impact on your teammates and the club as a whole," he wrote. "When you sulk, your whole demeanour changes and you bring people down with you.

"I came across it all the time when I was a player and at times I could be one of the worst offenders because I couldn't hide my emotions. When I was unhappy, it was obvious. My mood would change completely."

Number two was "stop communicating". "Clamming up and staying silent is a very effective tool," Savage said. "It was a tactic I adopted on occasion. Normally, I am a fun, happy-go-lucky guy, so if I stopped communicating, people knew straight away that something was up. I just wouldn't speak to anybody."

Option three is "faking injury".

"Feigning injury is probably the most popular way of letting a club know you aren't happy. I've seen quite a few mystery injuries in my time. Some players could be sidelined with a twisted sock if they wanted to. It used to be so easy to fake an injury, but that has changed now," Savage said.

"If you get an injury, you are usually seen by a physiotherapist and have a scan within an hour. You can't kid people as easily, but you can still fake a niggle - and they can last for ages. When you feign an injury, there is no need to limp or play act. Just say you're not right."

You can see where this is going - into the gutter.

Making up stories, using the media, undermining the manager, fighting with teammates, moaning to backroom staff, "being a bad influence", refusing to put "any effort in" and letting other clubs know you want to move, were the other risible advisories in his cheaters' charter.

It made for appalling reading and not only confirms our distaste for many of the stars we pay to watch but also casts Savage in a light very much unlike his beloved Marmite - very unsavoury.

As much as Rooney wants out from United, his professional display last week proved not all are so easily corrupted, despite their desire to move on. Most respect the game and the fans too much to stoop so low.

Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley is one who has embraced Savage's philosophy. guide however. Clearly seeking a swift exit from Paolo Di Canio's team, he tweeted after last week's 2-0 loss to Fulham: "Great opening day - Hahahahahahah X".

Charming. He subsequently was told he was not welcome at the Black Cats' training ground and we must imagine he is on his way out, though which fan would want such a rake signing for their club?

Savage's exposé also throws the spotlight back on the power of the agents who coerce their clients into chasing the best financial deal at any cost, even to their and soccer's reputation.

But what of Savage? He has admitted to serial cheating and made a mockery of us and all who backed him.

Is he not a prime example of a game in danger of becoming morally de-populated, if it hasn't become so already?

Should he not be investigated, and if found wanting, punished retrospectively like other sport stars who have brought their disciplines into disrepute, Lance Armstrong for instance?

Mr Marmite - the man you love to hate.

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