Determined Pienaar will be committed to the Ulster cause to the very end
With Ruan Pienaar seemingly on his way to pastures new come June, some have already begun to wonder about his commitment to Ulster from now until his contract expires next June.
I offer a word – literally – of advice: don't.
Because let me tell you a true story; I was a student in Liverpool during Kevin Keegan's final season as a player for the club bearing the name of that wonderful city.
Everybody knew he would be on his way at the end of 1976-77, because at the start of it he told them so. Thus everyone knew where they stood – Liverpool, his soon-to-be new employers Hamburg and those on the Kop whose hard-earned money at the turnstiles had enabled the Reds to pay him a wage greater than that of any of those adoring fans, who begrudged him not one penny of it, incidentally.
In Keegan's last match for Liverpool, they created history by becoming the first English club to win the Football League and the European Cup double.
In the final at Rome's Stadio Olimpico on May 25, 1977 they beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1. Keegan displayed the same fearless fight and enthusiasm he had shown at Anfield on August 14, 1971 when he scored 12 minutes into his debut against Nottingham Forest.
He ensured he left Liverpool – and West German international left-back, Berti Vogts – with something by which to remember him. At the time, Vogts was reckoned to be the best man-marker in world football. Liverpool's lead was a slender 2-1, so with eight minutes remaining, the match in the balance, Keegan's leaving gift saw him outpace Vogts into the box, leaving the German to let him shoot and almost certainly score, or foul him at the cost of a penalty. Vogts chose the latter, Phil Neal scored from the spot and Liverpool were champions of Europe for the first time.
I tell that story because Pienaar is like Keegan – a great sportsman and an even better human. And that is why Ulster supporters need not worry about the remainder of his time among them. He will not give less than his best because that is not in his nature. As with Keegan, so shall it be with Pienaar. He will do the job to the best of his awesome ability, until his contract's end.
Keegan had been a prince. With David Humphreys being a Liverpool supporter, I just thought he might appreciate the parallels.