Poor little rich kids

Pity footie stars, writes Hunter Davies - so much cash and so few chances to spend it

I feel sorry for Steven Gerrard. I'm not talking about him being up in court in the next week or so because of that affray in a Southport bar . . . OK, I am talking about that, but not about his guilt, or innocence, just all the attention. Really, it's not fair. Young lads in their twenties being picked upon, just because they earn £100,000-plus a week. Come on, chaps, give these Premiership stars a break. How would you like it?

You say you would? Just give me half a chance, you say, and I'd be in there, all that money, all those girls, just try me.

Have you seen the girls? The last time I was in a players' lounge, grâce à Dieu, I mean my good friend Wayne, the girls were orange, their hair was platinum, and they were all so small and scrawny, they made Madonna look like Mama Cass.

As for the money, yes, that's real, but what can they do with it? In the old days, players got plastered after most home games, stuffed themselves with burgers and chips, rolled home in the early hours. No chance now. The clubs have diet police, and if they sip half a bitter someone rings the tabloids.

So what can they spend their millions on? A posh house, that's the first and obvious thing. Their lady girly friend gets all the fun, though they hand over major decisions to some fashionable designer, so all their houses end up feeling much the same. And inside, they're trapped, cowering from the fans, vandals, paps and assorted loonies. They miss their old friends, the area they grew up in, the pubs, chippies, their friendly neighbourhood massage parlours.

They can buy two posh houses, ten or twenty, in exotic locations, but what's the point? They don't have enough holidays to enjoy them. If it's not World Cups, Euro Cups, some crap competition in Japan, then it's a pre-season tour for marketing reasons.

I once had lunch with Rio Ferdinand and he'd just bought a couple of them, didn't know where. They were investments, by advisers. Where's the fun in that? No chance of any pleasure out of them for another ten years.

Clothes, yes, they like expensive clothes. Like film stars, they get a great many for nothing. Freebies always seem to come to those who least need them. It's a nice perk, but what with the nature of their job, they are in shorts, sweaty tops and nasty trackie bottoms six days a week. Usually only once a week do they get a chance to wear their best clobber.

It's a terrible irony, one of God's wittier jokes, that he's blessed these lads with all this incredible money - while giving them so little opportunity to indulge and pleasure themselves fully. It's almost as if they've had to take a vow, not quite of chastity, but of abstinence and restraint.

Except for cars. Cars are their Dream Come True, the thing they consider makes it all worthwhile earning those millions in their twenties.

Gerrard, in the photos of when his wife drove away from the police station, seemed to have some sort of Bentley, probably one of several. Even run-of-the-mill Prem players think nothing of spending a hundred grand on a motor. Young Gabby Agbonlahor of Aston Villa (whom you have heard of, being a person in touch, but millions might not yet have) has got parked in his drive a £180,000 white Lamborghini. And no doubt a few minor motors nestling in his garage.

Thank goodness they can and do have flash cars, their one overindulgence. For which we should be grateful. Oh yes. Who else in the current climate would be so stupid? They're keeping the motor industry going. I take my hat off to them.

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 19 January 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Obama: What the world expects...