One of the most hackneyed phrases in football is “they’re on the beach”. Directed at any side with nothing to play for at the end of a season, it’s assumed minds are elsewhere, wishing the bodies were too.
And Good Lord we were the prime example of it the other Sunday at Hillsborough. Supporters wear fancy dress, foreign team kits, everything. Even flippy floppies if they want to risk a bone break in their feet.
I once wore a Real Mallorca top and Darren Huckerby’s shorts (don’t ask) when we played Coventry at home and the entire Barclay mocked the returning Sammy Clingan for large segments of the match. Many others were more outlandish than me in their attire.
Most people think footballers are overpaid, spoiled precocious little creatures. But when you think about it they only get one month off a year and much of that is severely restricted in terms of how they fill their boots on holiday.
Yeah, they might go to Dubai, Mauritius or the Seychelles while I walk half a mile from the “summer residence” to Trimingham beach. I also do that in spring, winter and autumn but that’s by the by.
When we take the dogs to our beautiful but unglamorous local seashore there’s always some food and water for them, but I invariably indulge in a couple of cans of Scrumpy Jack which Mrs P shares and sometimes enjoys a sandwich or whatever she’s cobbled together. We can do what we like because we’re 60 and not professional footballers.
When we get home, we can indulge in the full cholesterol – simulated Tandoori chicken, home-made chow mein, even old fashioned pancakes with sugar and lemon. We eat whatever we choose, because we are not professional footballers, are not overweight and couldn’t give a rubber duck about a calorie count.
But the more responsible of the young NCFC lads cannot do what we do – or if they do there’s a big fat bass drum banging in their head to tell them they’re doing wrong.
While I do not know for sure, I would imagine that family men such as Wes Hoolahan and Russell Martin conduct themselves extremely sensibly simply by virtue of being in their 30s and having children on board. Most of us have been there – you can’t get bladdered when you’ve got kids in tow.
But how about the youngsters, particularly those in the Academy?
You’re 17, 18 or whatever and signed to a football club. Without being in any way sexist, if that isn’t “pulling power” I do not know what is. You will attract a plethora of people of all sexes whether you want to or not.
And you’re going to make the most of it. Late nights, too many drinks and something of whatever takes your fancy. You can’t go wrong unless you upset a local and you might get a slap I suppose – it happens. You’re a pig in that stuff as long as you’re not over-the-top flashy.
Until it’s time to report for pre-season training. I would seriously suggest these guys only actually get four weeks off in a season. Healthy young athletes can easily and quickly offset the effects of overindulgence, but they cannot fool the sports scientists. And the consequences of returning for pre-season in the wrong shape are becoming more serious by the season.
Whatever your job – office, factory, self-employed – you don’t have to worry about the consequences of your summer break.
But as highly paid as these guys are, I have a little sympathy for them.
Getting wrecked on holiday should be a human right.