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

Photo: Getty
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The Home Office made Theresa May. But it could still destroy her

Even politicians who leave the Home Office a success may find themselves dogged by it. 

Good morning. When Theresa May left the Home Office for the last time, she told civil servants that there would always be a little bit of the Home Office inside her.

She meant in terms of its enduring effect on her, but today is a reminder of its enduring ability to do damage on her reputation in the present day.

The case of Jamal al-Harith, released from Guantanamo Bay under David Blunkett but handed a £1m compensation payout under Theresa May, who last week died in a suicide bomb attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul, where he was fighting on behalf of Isis. 

For all Blunkett left in the wake of a scandal, his handling of the department was seen to be effective and his reputation was enhanced, rather than diminished, by his tenure. May's reputation as a "safe pair of hands" in the country, as "one of us" on immigration as far as the Conservative right is concerned and her credibility as not just another headbanger on stop and search all come from her long tenure at the Home Office. 

The event was the cue for the Mail to engage in its preferred sport of Blair-bashing. It’s all his fault for the payout – which in addition to buying al-Harith a house may also have fattened the pockets of IS – and the release. Not so fast, replied Blair in a punchy statement: didn’t you campaign for him to be released, and wasn’t the payout approved by your old pal Theresa May? (I paraphrase slightly.)

That resulted in a difficult Q&A for Downing Street’s spokesman yesterday, which HuffPo’s Paul Waugh has posted in full here. As it was May’s old department which has the job of keeping tabs on domestic terror threats the row rebounds onto her. 

Blair is right to say that every government has to “balance proper concern for civil liberties with desire to protect our security”. And it would be an act of spectacular revisionism to declare that Blair’s government was overly concerned with civil liberty rather than internal security.

Whether al-Harith should never have been freed or, as his family believe, was picked up by mistake before being radicalised in prison is an open question. Certainly the journey from wrongly-incarcerated fellow traveller to hardened terrorist is one that we’ve seen before in Northern Ireland and may have occurred here.

Regardless, the presumption of innocence is an important one but it means that occasionally, that means that someone goes on to commit crimes again. (The case of Ian Stewart, convicted of murdering the author Helen Bailey yesterday, and who may have murdered his first wife Diane Stewart as well, is another example of this.)

Nonetheless, May won’t have got that right every time. Her tenure at the Home Office, so crucial to her reputation as a “safe pair of hands”, may yet be weaponised by a clever rival, whether from inside or outside the Conservative Party. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.