When a promising kid was signed up by a professional club, often being uprooted from home for the first time, there was never any question of the youngster running off the rails in the big city.
A tried-and-tested system was in place to provide apprentices with good, basic accommodation and a hearty diet; also, to ensure they were up in time for training and in bed before the pubs shut. The lads were given free rein once their bootroom duties were over, although subtle checks were in place to ensure they didn’t spend too much of their modest apprentice’s wage on booze and fags, or too much of their free time in the company of the wrong kind (which is to say, any kind) of young lady.
The name of this multi-functional system was ‘the landlady’ – long replaced with a 5-star hotel suite, a personal minder, a club taxi on 24-hour call, loneliness, temptation and delusions of grandeur, all on a limitless budget.
Ooh, I can tell you if she’d had that El-Hadji Diouf in her digs, she’d have given him a thick ear for putting his elbows on the tea table. But she’d have forgiven him with a mumsy cuddle when she took him up his cocoa, and that would have made all the difference.
“Could you kindly set the table, Mr. Hernandez? It’s kippers for tea tonight – your favourite. And then you and Mr Smalling can come through into my parlour for a nice game of cribbage, for matchsticks.”
This is an extract from our big catalogue of what has gone all missing from football – ‘Got, Not Got’, which you can buy from branches of WH Smith and Waterstones or online here…
We have now finished writing the follow up book – ‘The Lost World of Football’ which will be out this autumn… pre-order here…