17 March, 2008

Wright and Wrong

I’ve always felt pretty sorry for Bradley Wright-Phillips; he’s nowhere near as decent a player as his actually-not-very-good brother, and he’s not even worthy of mention in the same sentence as his father. Now it turns out however that my sympathy was misguided, as last weekend he was caught on CCTV stealing from barmaids’ handbags in Bar Bluu in Southsea having enjoyed luxury VIP treatment all night to watch grime MC Kano.

News broke of an ‘incident’ on Sunday, and Southampton manager Nigel Pearson very publicly condemned the fact that Wright-Phillips and team-mate Nathan Dyer were out on the town before a game causing trouble, but now the whole truth has been revealed. Wright-Phillips earns a frankly depressing £8,000 a week for warming the bench at the struggling Saints, while partner-in-crime Dyer is on £5,000, and yet they still feel the need to steal mobile phones and cash from bar-staff who are probably on minimum wage?! Wright-Phillips and Dyer are nobodies, taking advantage of an indulgent lifestyle where they simply believe they are above the law. What other explanation could there be; they certainly don’t need the money, and presumably they weren’t doing it just for an adolescent rush of excitement?

18 year old Emma Parker, whose mobile, cash and even cigarettes were stolen had these cutting words: “I can't believe they would have the cheek to steal from someone like me. They are arrogant beyond belief to do this. They have obviously done it for kicks because they don't need the money. They have acted in a really callous way. They are treated like heroes but this shows they are actually scumbags.” As is, this is an actual crime so hopefully the police will take action and they can just be filed away as a minor footnote at the bottom of football's lengthening rap-sheet that now includes far too many convicted criminals.

The number of seemingly respectable stars seems to be ever dwindling, with the publicity-shy and sensible likes of Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville very much in the minority these days. Even Glen Johnson, who’s new-found maturity and professionalism I have been thoroughly impressed with this season, was actually caught stealing bathroom fittings from a B & Q in Dartford late last year. A guard spotted him putting a toilet seat into a box with a cheaper price tag, and also hiding a set of taps underneath a sink at the check-out to avoid paying for them. “He seemed to find the whole thing quite funny,” a store worker said. “He couldn't stop smirking even after he had been arrested.” This was the same response given by Wright-Phillips; not only was he laughing and joking during the actual theft, but on being confronted with the CCTV footage, he simply said he was very relaxed about the whole situation.

It’s an attitude that is unfortunately pretty epidemic throughout the country these days, and claimed links with the national team’s under-achievement over the last 40 years are not that outlandish if you think about it. Very few players are able to finish proper education, and simple values of responsibility and morality are not taken on board. Add into that mix inflated egos, press coverage and buckets of money, and you have a recipe for disaster time and time again. Even the most basic attempt to give young players a sense of perspective and hierarchy has been removed at most clubs, as it is apparently now rare for junior players to be expected to look after senior players’ boots. It sounds like a small thing but it establishes respect and gives some much needed perspective to kids who at 16 are now being told they are the next Pele.

It is symptomatic of escalating trends within the game that even so-called ‘new school’ managers such as Paul Jewell can get mortally frustrated by their players’ behaviour. He summed up the job as he saw it earlier this year to The Mirror:

“To be a manager, you've got to be a boss, a friend, a money lender, a marriage guidance counselor. The only thing you haven't got to be is a gynaecologist. But then again, you are dealing with cunts every day.”