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When Do You Draw the Line?

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After Luis Suárez's latest transgression, the spectre of player and club loyalty shifts into focus.

I'm so glad the TLO staff didn't use this picture for an article yet because it's just delicious. Sink your teeth into that people.
I'm so glad the TLO staff didn't use this picture for an article yet because it's just delicious. Sink your teeth into that people.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

To most, the obvious answer is affirmative and the question can look silly in the extreme. If a player commits the most heinous crimes known to mankind or perhaps not yet discovered by humanity, scores of fans will vow never to utter a former favourite's name with any joy.

A star player cannot kick innocent animals that are soft and cuddly for home videos nor can he engage in terrorising elderly folk in supermarkets thinking that the CCTV camera didn't pick up his clandestine act of bullying. Well he can do those things but if he is caught doing so there will be little defence available to his allies. Yes, there is a line we will draw when it comes to our most important players.

Of course, we know that those termed as "garbage" or "flops" won't be afforded the same kindly patience as the far more useful elements in the playing squad. That is the harsh and unforgiving nature of fans. It's an unwritten rule and managers as well as boardroom directors fall victim to this. Survival of the fittest indeed.

Yet there have been many players whose futures were not affected at some of the biggest clubs in world football. Serious allegations involving the physical and mental wellbeing of spouses and/or girlfriends, court cases, insubordination, disloyalty, excessive self-aggrandisement with the unscrupulous assistance of agents, and many more have been disregarded in support for players instrumental in the future of one's much cherished club.

Luis Suárez is not the devil nor has he committed any act that is worthy of jail time, incessant moral outrage, or endless soul searching. It's just another act that has flagrantly disregarded the idea of sporting behaviour on the football pitch involving a "harmed" party whose injuries are unlikely to be of a permanent or debilitating nature.

Still, recent events have shown that Liverpool's best player is a liability on the field for Liverpool irrespective of whether he is sporting club colours. This isn't going to be a lengthy effort delving and weaving into an issue, one that has often been met with exasperation from observers unconnected to the sport.

It is more of an open question not a pointed finger at those defending Liverpool's number seven and it isn't an attempt to mock anyone who thinks recent developments are quite simply an outrage. Maybe it is and I'm just too polite to admit this openly. Can something relatively mild but repetitive in nature result in a player effectively being distrusted to act reliably as a representative of the club?

When players repeatedly give the ball away over the course of season it may lead to him becoming the resident scapegoat for a club's ills or losing the trust of a manager. Repeated actions can have a positive or negative effect. Obviously. A continuation of actions related to player performance is acceptable largely because players are supposed to commit actions on the field and any particular player's quality and/or mentality will determine the success of those actions.

Controversies occur sporadically and each club will eventually face its own day of reckoning. Some people draw the wrong attention to themselves more than others and as such, should be avoided unless a club can soberly live with the risks involved in holding the registration of that particular player. Sometimes these risks are evident before purchase or they unexpectedly emerge when no history of "hold on I'll have to call you back because I think I heard he's done it again" surfaced at previous clubs.

Fans often have favourites within the squad and even among players of similar footballing abilities, such a favourite will be afforded greater patience because of a perceived connection with said player. That's something all fans are entitled to but does there come a time when the onus is on the player to drastically reduce the likelihood of controversy through a sensible approach on and off the pitch?

Where and when will fans feel that a relationship with a cherished player is broken without any possibility of repair or regeneration to former sepia-tinged times? If there is always an excuse and/or reason for or a seemingly redeeming footnote to whatever a player does then that is simply absolving him of any responsibility at all times. Never culpable and forever loved until he expresses a wish to leave your cherished club, which will be where the true line reveals itself.