Football supporters

Tributes to Gary Speed

The tragic death of Gary Speed, has, according to Peter Kay, Chief Executive of the Sporting Chance Clinic, prompted other footballers to become conscious of help they need to cope with the issues of footballers’ lives. Kay saysFootballers suffer illness in exactly the same way as the rest of society. They can become more detached from the outside world because of the money they earn. They are as vulnerable as the next man. In the light of Gary Speed’s terribly sad death I hope players who recognise they have a problem will put their hands up to ask for help”.

The issues of footballers’ lives was explored on White Lines with reference to an article on Nigel Reo-Coker’s working week featured in Guardian Money. White Lines summarised the working week:

Monday: A “warm-down training session. You’d probably be out there on the pitch for and hour, an hour and a half.” This runs between 10.30 a.m. and 12 p.m., and is followed by lunch (“prepared by chefs”). After lunch, “the rest of the day is yours”. By 1 p.m., he’s gone.Tuesday: As for Monday.Wednesday: Day off.Thursday: As for Monday and Tuesday.Friday: A light training session, “an hour maximum”.

Entrance to castle at Castle Eden
The drive to Castle Eden

So much time. So much money. So much possible isolation. When Roy Keane was looking for a house for his family in the north-east while he was manager of Sunderland, the Sunday Sun ran an article suggesting that Castle Eden would be worth looking at. One look at the drive shows that there’s not much in the way of neighbours. The house looks the perfect fit for the Downton set, but Downton is anachronistic. The castle of former times would be home for a whole community. Now the castle has been nuked with the nuclear family being king of the castle in isolation from any supporting cast.

The idea that wealth is the cause of isolation is explored by Charles Dickens in Great Expectations and by Fitzgerald in the Great Gatsby. The gated communities of East Cheshire, home to many famous footballers, may be the envy of many, but they are gated communities (if they can be called “communities” defended against others, whether neighbour or prying reporter.

Castle Eden
Castle Eden

We isolate our footballing celebrities on such dangerously high perches. Football supporters cheer them on for their performance. But that support is only for the team. The team members are only cheered for their part in the team’s win. Then adrenalin buzz of turning it on for 40000 people must give such a high, but also be so scary with the knowledge that the winning streak has to end and the recognition of the risk of a slide down the divisions into oblivion.

What are we doing as football supporters? I would suggest that every sad footballing story (and there are so many) should encourage us to become footballer supporters recognising the complications of wealth, time and isolation. Many footballers and celebrities are able to take care of themselves, their time and their wealth. Many have set up charitable foundations, and many prepare themselves for careers beyond their playing days. But others are not so lucky.

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