***Update – I wrote this in a rush before finishing work today, and have obviously not been as clear as I wanted to be. Thank you Mat for commenting. I totally agree with your observation that working class+money does not equal disaster. And if anyone wants to give me a hundred grand, I will do my best to prove this. I guess I’m wrong to write with a focus on working classes and should say young guys from any background will struggle when they’re suddenly in the situation of a high profile football player. Even the child of two surgeons will only have known their parents to earn a couple of hundred grand a year. To suddenly find yourself earning that each month must mess with your head. The point I was trying to make was that the public and the media can’t be too surprised when it goes bad. The FA and the clubs need to look at how much support is offered to players and what it does to the likes of Terry, Gascoigne, Merson, Adams, Best, Greaves, McGrath, Collymore, and a host of others. Hope that clears up my thoughts a bit.
John Terry – the real issue
John Terry was just dropped as England captain by manager Fabio Capello. Terry cheated on his wife with the girlfriend of a team-mate, and possibly other women. The tabloids have had a field day, and I suspect they’ll continue for a while to come. Max Clifford has gotten involved, as is usually the case. As soon as news of my sex scandal with prominent female goes public, I’ll be on the phone to him. Not sure how everyone finds him so fast, but it must be fairly easy to do. There is a case on both sides of the should he go or stay argument and they’re both valid. I think it’s probably right that he went. Whether players like it or not, they are role models for the young and, in the case of players who make it to the very top of the game, idolized by millions. As such, they have to be above reproach or as loveable as Paul Gascoigne. John Terry, it turns out, is neither of these things. But, he’s not the first and he won’t be the last.
At this point, I feel I have to declare a bit of an interest. My cousin is a professional footballer for a team in the northwest of England and has played for his country. He’s living the dream. But as far as I know he’s happily married and his wife would kick the shit out of him if his eye wandered too far. He gets asked for autographs, his face is on coffee mugs and pencil tins, but he’s just an ordinary kid from an ordinary estate, and was crap at conkers. And this is part of the problem. Most footballers come from working class backgrounds, with average incomes, a nice semi in the suburbs. Some have had hard upbringings in poor areas, the children of single parents, or (like Nile Ranger at Newcastle United) been involved in gangs, or with other troubled pasts.
Then at 16 or 17 they’re suddenly thrust into the limelight and payed £50,000 a week and people latching onto them for whatever they can get. Of course this leads to problems. Temptation is thrown at them from all angles and some people will succumb. It’s inevitable. We all know players who’ve had problems with alcohol, drugs, gambling, women, and fame in general. Most of them are not given advice on how to deal with sudden wealth and fame, they just have to sink or swim. That’s one of the things that the FA and the clubs should be addressing. Young guys thrown to the wolves and left to get on with it. John Terry was wrong to do what he did, but we shouldn’t be surprised that it did happen.