Gary’s Georgian gem and Wayne’s arty kitchen

Over supper, I asked my wife to complete the following sentence: "A collection of Clarice Cliff ceramics, worth an estimated £40,000, will be sold at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury on March 9, the property of Mr . . ."

Mrs Davies likes Clarice Cliff, likes her art-deco style, and also her story, how she started work in Stoke-on-Trent aged 13 in 1912 painting gold lines on plates, rising to become the most eminent, distinctive pottery designer of the 1920s and 1930s.

My wife has only three Clarice Cliff pieces, the last of which, a bowl, I paid £80 for at a Cockermouth auction a year ago. I do spoil her.

Is it someone I know? She asked. Not quite, pet, I replied. But a household name, I added, at least in our house. Oh do get on with it. OK, the answer is, tarran tarran, Jimmy Greaves.

That is surprising, she said. Which it is, though one must take care not to be patronising when it comes to our football heroes. I remember being really surprised when Mike England, the Welsh centre-half for Spurs in the 1970s, invited me to a party at his house. I assumed it would be a mock-Tudor semi on a new estate, the sort Chivers and Peters and the other stars lived in, but it turned out to be a most unusual, architect-designed house. There was a uniformed butler serving champagne and one of the other guests was Olivia Newton John.

Behind his back in the Spurs dressing room, England was known as "Brains", suggesting he didn't have any and was a bit slow, which shows that even colleagues can have the wrong image. He went on to manage the Wales team and became a successful businessman, running nursing homes, last time I heard.

About 20 years ago, I went to interview Gary Lineker at his home, expecting something modern and flash, and blow me, it was a Georgian gem in St John's Wood, filled with choice antiques and paintings.

Four years ago I went several times to Wayne Rooney's mansion in Cheshire. From the outside, it did look nouveau riche and over the top, but inside it was ever so tasteful, with a nice knight-in-armour statue in the hall and a streamlined, arty kitchen - all in grey. I think grey was the smart colour that year. I'm sure he hadn't chosen a grey kitchen himself, but had chosen a top interior designer who chose it, which is the stage before having good taste.

Why do we expect that footballers will have no taste in anything? Because we are prejudiced, lumping them all together. Secondly, by the nature of their job, we know that from the age of eight they have been thumped over the head and forced to concentrate on only one aspect of their being, discouraged from any outside interests.
Thirdly, their colleagues are even more prejudiced, mocking anything that might appear girly or arty.

Money talks

For the past ten years, all Prem players have been millionaires, living in exclusive estates, able to hire top designers, buy real paintings, stocking their wine cellars with the best wines, only travelling first class, buying villas in the sun, sending their kids to fee-paying schools. Behaving like any other first-generation, made-good, quick-rich gits.

The children of this present generation will doubtless take on middle-class tastes - if not their accents. Hard to believe from his voice that Frank Lampard, being a second-generation footballer, went to a public school.

Can't wait to see how the Beckham boys turn out. Probably huntin' and fishin' types, wearing Barbours, living like young aristos, going on countryside demos, drinking their inheritance away. Oh, I do hope so.

Apparently, Jimmy Greaves became interested in pottery as a young player after he'd been on some football tour of Holland and bought a piece of Delftware for his mum. From my huge knowledge of collecting - with 20 different collections, haunting all the fairs - the vast majority of pottery collectors are female. No wonder Jimmy has kept it quiet all these years. It's one thing to have taste - but not girly taste. l

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 14 February 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The Middle East