English footballer Gary Lineker of Leicester City FC, circa 1980. Photo: Simon Miles/Getty Images
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In ye olden days, retired footballers set up market stalls – or sold toilet rolls

I can think of only two players in my lifetime – who played long before the birth of the Prem – who did manage to make real money after their playing days.

Ex-footballers rarely go on to become multimillionaires, making fresh millions after they have retired from football.

Yet any average Prem player is able to finish football today as a millionaire, which you might think would give them the capital and the spur to go on to achieve greater wealth. David Beckham and Gary Lineker are exceptions, though in both cases their success is football-related. Becks is carrying on the glow he acquired as a player and Gary is still directly involved in football, as a presenter.

In ye olden days, forget it. They earned little and retired with nothing, their best bet of an income being a paper shop or a pub.

I can think of only two players in my lifetime – who played long before the birth of the Prem – who did manage to make real money after their playing days. Francis Lee was a star of Man City and England in the Sixties and Seventies – and still holds the record for the number of penalties scored in one season, hence his nickname Lee Won Pen. He became big in toilet rolls, thanks to a very successful business in paper recycling.

Dave Whelan, also a top player – though he never played for England – was another who later made success in business, and went on to put his money into his home-town club, Wigan Athletic, taking them from the Third division to the Prem and building a magnificent stadium for them along the way.

I met him two weeks ago in Barbados. Strange that. Not me being in Barbados (where else does one go in January?) but the fact that my first job in journalism was in 1958 on the Manchester Evening Chronicle and for a month I was sent to work in the Wigan branch office. I must have passed him in the street loads of times.

I happened to be invited for lunch with him at the very fashionable Lone Star restaurant, which Dave has recently bought, one of his many investments and amusements in different parts of the world. He was moaning about the lack of shepherd’s pie, the sort of stuff he would really like on every restaurant menu. Hear, hear.

Dave played for Blackburn Rovers from 1956-60, breaking his leg in the FA Cup Final of 1960 against Wolves. He did stagger on for a while, turning out for Crewe, but his football career was as good as over.

Looking around for something to do, he worked for a while, unpaid, on a market stall in Blackburn. He saw how well it did, realised there was not a street market in Wigan, approached the council for permission, and started his own stall: “After a few weeks, I had made £10,000 – which I kept under the bed.” He moved into discount grocery stores, built up a chain of 20 in Lancashire, which he sold to Ken Morrison (of Morrison’s fame) over in Yorkshire. With the £1.5 million or so he had made, he went into sports shops, acquiring a small shop called J J Barton, which he built up into a mega chain, JJB Sports.

Any road up, enough of the boring business chat, did you ever play against Stanley Matthews, Dave?

“I certainly did – and I can remember it exactly. It was 1958 against Blackpool. I was full back for Rovers. He gave me the right run around for most of the first half. I must have failed to stop him about ten times. I then decided to move the opposite way he expected – and I really clattered him. As we walked off at half time, he asked me why I did that. ‘It’s my job’, I said. ‘And in the second half I will kick you again.’

“At the end, I went to the Blackpool dressing room, knocked on the door and asked for Mr Matthews. He appeared and I asked for his autograph. He gave me a funny look – but gave it to me. I took it home and gave it to my mother. She put it inside a book she was reading – and then lost it.

“I also played against Tom Finney. This was after I had broken my leg and was trying to get back. I managed to get the ball off him every time, which I couldn’t believe. At the end, he said to me ‘I wanted you to get your confidence back.’ Imagine that happening today . . .” 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 06 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, An empire that speaks English

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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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