MEHSTG Vol. 2 Issue 15  -  August 2000

The Internet is a wonderful thing.  Everybody is getting in on the action with his or her own sites.  Even “My Eyes Have Seen The Glory” has one !  The latest trend has been for players to develop their own sites to inform fans about how their day goes, what they feel is happening with their and the team’s form and about their wonderful lifestyle.  I suppose it is a chance for players to find a bit of cyber-space to run free into.  At the forefront of this trend were the Norwegians.  Apparently much more computer literate than their English counterparts, most of them had a site, including our very own Oyvind Leonhardsen and Steffen Iversen.  You may remember that Derby County’s Lars Bohinen was the recipient of a club fine for stepping out of line when he made commented on decisions made by the manager !  Surely a case of bringing the game into disrepute on the Net rather than on the field. 

The latest addition to the cyber-geeks adding their thoughts to the World Wide Web is Ian Walker who has his own site at  Most players have their websites hosted by sportsprofile and the design of all the Norwegian players’ sites is standard.  Walker’s is a bit different and you will find an autobiography, all his previous postings, some links to other sites and there is a photos page that is yet to be developed.  Ian appears in the corner of each page peering through his curtains-style haircut and smiling in the way which angers so many Spurs fans for some strange reason.  The really enlightening comments come in his news of early July, when he comments about being back in pre-season training, entitled “Running, running and more running”.  For most fans, the image of pre-season training is one of players doing shuttle runs or running up step hills and sand dunes to shift those few extra pounds that have gathered due to the summer’s inactivity.  That and players throwing up because they had had a break Even in the days when you were allowed freely into the training grounds at Cheshunt and Mill Hill, the only thing you ever saw in the month of July was players running around the pitch time after time.  Only when you got near to playing friendlies did a ball appear.

The tales of Gerry Francis’ pre-season training schedules were truly frightening for players and fans alike.  He even maintained this during Tuesday’s in the season, which became known for their dedication to literally running players into the ground.  There is no doubt that this does make your players realise the importance of being able to last the full ninety minutes, but surely they must still be able to walk at the end of the week to do that !  George Graham’s reputation as a disciplinarian and an “old-school” manager means that this type of training still has a place in his build up to the big kick-off.  Not as much as Francis might have relied upon, but the elements of fitness are uppermost in manager’s thoughts at this time of year.  This has been confirmed in Ian’s website, which informs us that he quite enjoys pre-season training, although it has left him with sore legs and not being able to return home until 5.30 p.m.  Well, welcome to the real world Ian.  Most people are up a long time before you to go to work and don’t get home until considerably after 5.30.p.m.

Now I am not comparing the type of work that Walker does with the average Joe, because most of us don’t have 30,000 people criticising everything we do during our working day.  However, it is indicative of the pressures that players are under from expectant fans (no, not those who are pregnant) that regard them as not pulling their weight for the huge salaries they get.  It is not a bad lifestyle, playing a game you love and getting paid handsomely for the privilege albeit with the public eye being on you the whole time.  I don’t suppose that Ian was complaining that getting home that late was a terrible thing, but the mere fact that it happened was unusual enough to mention.  If it ever happened to most of us we would comment on it for the opposite reason ! 

So are the pampered stars of today any different from those of days gone by ?  Well, it is only forty years or so since players used to travel to games on the bus carrying their boots, as some of our older readers might well remember.  Thirty-five years ago and it was the start of players really having the earning power to own their own cars.  Twenty-five years ago and players were still drinking in the Corner Pin after training and games.  Nowadays, you rarely see a footballer out in public and if you do, it usually comes as a bit of a shock.  (If any of you ladies see any England Under-21 players while on holiday in Ayia Napa, steer well clear is my advice)  I have had people tell me that they have seen Oyvind Leonhardsen out shopping in Sainsbury’s (not something he mentions on his website I hasten to add) and Les Ferdinand watching his son playing football on Sunday mornings, but that is the exception rather than the rule.  There is always the person who would be ready to have a pop at you just because of who you are, so it is often easier to remain in the background rather than put yourself in the spotlight in public.  Some stories of footballers from other clubs who seem to go out of their way to be the centre of attention appear to be quite sad if true.  The gap between the players you see on the field and those who watch from the stands has expanded so rapidly in the last ten years since the TV money in football has boomed that there is not a hope of one understanding the others position.  The new deal to start in 2001 will see that gap widen even further and even in the Nationwide League, the same thing will begin to happen.  Leyton Orient Chairman, Barry Hearne said that the money must not all go into players bank accounts, but if he believes that, he is living in cloud cuckoo land.  Every Chairman in the Football League will be looking to get their side into the Utopia of the Premier League, where the fixtures are paved with gold.  And how will they manage that ?  By paying lots of money for and to players to drag their team out of it’s division and upwards to the top of the money tree.  Don’t look at clubs becoming solvent or grounds improving from their post-war shabbiness, look for the W-reg cars appearing in the car park.

But, good luck to them.  It’s a short career and then you have to mend and make do. And to be fair, Walker did say on his website that while on holiday in Bermuda, he did do some exercise to keep fit to prepare for the arduous sessions to come.  So, as you can tell, it’s not all fun being a professional footballer !

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