Bradley Johnson definitely has them. Roy Keane? Don’t think so.
Kyle Lafferty I think has them. Alan Shearer? Definitely not.
That’s the case for the prosecution. It’s over to you… the jury.
What in blazes am I jabbering about? Let me set the scene:
One line of business which seems to have escaped the economic dip and indeed has positively boomed in recent years is that of the tattoo parlour. And that, to a large extent, is thanks to the world of football and its ridiculously highly paid employees (yes, I know it’s an entertainment/market-led business and they are being paid the ‘going rate’ etc… but still).
Tattoos, after long being considered a bit tacky and ‘common’ ever since the days of jolly jack tars and salty old sea dogs, are now bang in fashion, not least because of the current trend amongst celebs including footballers.
David Beckham is probably the godfather of the sporting tattoo world. Partners’ names, babies’ names, dogs’ names and obscure Eastern philosophy mantras all seem to be in vogue.
It’s down to the individual of course as to what they do with their body and their money but for me the rise of such inky ‘body art’ correlates directly with the decline in the sporting hero – a colossus whose efforts inspire all ages and over all times.
Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham, Bryan ‘Captain Marvel’ Robson and Daley ‘No Nickname’ Thompson; just three male British sporting heroes from my formative years – men who epitomised endeavour, guts, talent and ultimately success on the field of battle. None of whom, as far as I’m aware, ever got tattooed.
But who is there today to fill this role? Bradley Wiggins, Johnny Brownlee and Mo Farah possibly (although the latter’s genius lies largely in genetic material originating from a distant land).
Maybe you can suggest others but it’s a pretty second rate list of ‘heroes’ compared to previous times. Maybe not quite as the Stranglers asserted in their catchy tune of the punk era, but not far off.
Certainly no current footballers make the grade on a national scale like say a Stuart Pearce or a (dare I say) Terry Butcher did back in the day. Leighton Baines and Gary Cahill are good enough, but no heroes.
Of course, it’s perfectly possible that footy fans of my current age thirty years back lamented the lack of a Bobby Moore or a Tom Finney but hell, with Roy Hodgson reduced to handing the captain’s mantle to Wayne Rooney (who is partial to wearing his world philosophy on his skin), what is the world coming to?
Naturally, individual clubs have their legends but as much as we loved Grant Holt, no one else gives a monkey’s, especially the people of Wigan where, under Uwe Rosler, he spent most of his time with the kids in the development squad.
The likes of a Giggs or a Gerrard or a Terry are rightly admired for being loyal to their respective clubs for a generation but beyond their locale, they do not command wider reverence and therefore are not sporting heroes in the true global sense of the word.
It’s a middle-age perk (which I’m clearly taking advantage of) to bemoan the current generation of pampered late-teens/early twenty-somethings with the world at their pink and yellow-booted feet. They have the big contracts, the new model Ferrari and the plush, if gaudily decorated mansion.
However, the vast majority of this ‘club’ has won nothing yet – the latest so-called ‘golden generation’. My advice would be: ‘Lads, keep those tattoo dreams on hold until you can have Champions League winner or (even less likely) World Cup winner engraved for all to see’.
There are culprits of international standard abound at the big clubs, such as Arsenal and Liverpool, but the star exhibit has to be Nile Ranger; now part of the League One bound Blackpool side. Not only does he have his own name emblazoned on his head but also a cheeky little smiley-face on the inside of his bottom lip. Top of the class.
The ‘godfather’, Beckham has the medals (if mostly earned as a bit part squad member after Old Trafford) and the caps, but still the sight of him prancing and preening in his tattoos while flogging underpants at his advanced age is thoroughly disheartening in a world looking for sporting heroes based on character and resolve (back to Keane and Shearer) rather than money and celebrity pals.
But I’m not putting all the blame at the door of the tattoo parlour. Other factors clearly contribute, such as earning more money in a month than most can in a lifetime, media over exposure and those damn fluorescent boots. All can be cited for the current dearth of heroes.
There, I’ve now had a good après-Christmas moan. I expect some to empathise with my tattoo-fuelled grumblings while others will brush me off as an out-of-date relic who is overly precious about the skin I’ve been given.
I’m old enough and ugly enough to take the hits and slightly encouraged by the reported phenomenon of ‘tattoo remorse’ , with increasing numbers of tattoo-ees realising the folly of ‘the needle and the damage done’ and returning their skin to the state nature intended.