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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En français, s'il vous plaît! EU lead negotiator wants to talk Brexit in French

C'est très difficile. 

In November 2015, after the Paris attacks, Theresa May said: "Nous sommes solidaires avec vous, nous sommes tous ensemble." ("We are in solidarity with you, we are all together.")

But now the Prime Minister might have to brush up her French and take it to a much higher level.

Reuters reports the EU's lead Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, would like to hold the talks in French, not English (an EU spokeswoman said no official language had been agreed). 

As for the Home office? Aucun commentaire.

But on Twitter, British social media users are finding it all très amusant.

In the UK, foreign language teaching has suffered from years of neglect. The government may regret this now . . .

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.