Will we strike? Probably, and no one will benefit

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Should we strike? And if we do what are we really striking for? Money? Power? Would public opinion, the one thing that allows the players and the game so much money, turn against the players, the organisers or both? Or if we fail to take action now, are we storing up bigger problems for a year or two down the road?

Should we strike? And if we do what are we really striking for? Money? Power? Would public opinion, the one thing that allows the players and the game so much money, turn against the players, the organisers or both? Or if we fail to take action now, are we storing up bigger problems for a year or two down the road?

Players are asking themselves these questions when they should be concentrating on results, formations, and form. How did a sport that generates so much money end up with such an unedifying squabble? If it continues it will damage the image of the game in England, not necessarily long-term but definitely short-term. The players' union wants the TV money it receives to remain at five per cent, the level it has been for many years, and the Premier League doesn't want the amount it gives the PFA to be a fixed percentage. I'm sure you'll agree this is hardly cause for the slanging match that has taken place via the media.

I won't list what the money is used for. That is done below and would unnecessarily bias this piece and besides, I can honestly agree with both parties as the players do receive a lot of the TV money from the clubs in the form of wages. That is why I firmly believe that there is a solution if both groups are prepared to negotiate and concede a little. The problem now is that egos are preventing either side from backing down and seemingly losing face. The battle has turned personal and that is the biggest stumbling block to solving the problem. A successful negotiation leaves all parties with a victory and pride intact. It is time for the proper discussions, behind-closed- doors discussions, to start and the cheap shots and sniper tactics to cease. They have about a week before the players start receiving the ballot papers. Will we strike if forced? Probably, and the sad thing is that nobody will benefit. The PFA, Premier League, players, former players, clubs or the public.

However, one area which needs to change whatever the outcome of this dispute is the amount of subscriptions the players pay. Players in the higher leagues earn a lot of money and I feel that subscription levels should be linked to wages up to a set maximum. At the moment we pay about £64 a year, a paltry amount and well below the levels other unions charge. Yet we are high earners.

Odd to be discussing industrial disputes having just spent a week in Moscow, the former stronghold of global Communism. I was really looking forward to going there and my first and last impressions are what a stunning city. After training each day the Ipswich players would splinter into little groups and explore. Then whenever we were together again the conversations were dominated by excited chatter of what we all had found. For instance, the first thing that struck me was the cleanliness. There was no litter, no dustbins or bin liners waiting for collection and absolutely no graffiti. In fact so clean as to be almost sterile, but how could it be with Red Square and buildings like the Kremlin and St Basil's Cathedral? And despite the unblemished façade, corruption is rife. One of the cameramen following us stubbed a cigarette out in Red Square, was promptly arrested and charged £70. Another afternoon Marcus Stewart and I visited Lenin's Tomb. Marcus had a camera with him and the guard said they weren't allowed and we could not enter. He then waited a couple of seconds before adding "for US$5 you can go through but no pictures''. The founder of Communism being hawked like chestnuts on a street corner. Wonderful!

Moscow has also developed a reputation for violence and our guards warned us not to go out at night. As ever we obeyed and then laughed as our escort through this "dangerous" city to the Olympic Stadium was a single Lada. Inside, security was different, however, and the 1,400 police made up the majority of the crowd. Before the game I had asked Marcus if he wanted to take any penalties having missed one in the first leg. "Anything up to 70 minutes is mine,'' he said, "but after that I'm not sure!''

When the referee pointed to the spot I searched for Marcus but he was already clutching the ball. I walked up so it was just him, me and the keeper in the area and asked him: "Are you OK? Do you want to take it?'' I think he'd forgotten our conversation of earlier because he looked at me as if to say "Get lost, this is my goal". That's the kind of confidence I wanted to see, so I had no doubt about him scoring and effectively winning us the tie.

In the hotel bar we happily celebrated the first stage of our European journey and then it was up for training in the morning, afternoon flight home, training yesterday, Leeds United today and then to Ireland for the final group stage World Cup qualifier – a hectic schedule that gives no time for filling out strike forms. Let's hope none of us have to and that the problem is solved with honour, integrity and dignity. After all, that is what they ask of the players and fans.

In an interview with Iain Fletcher

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