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26 February 2015

Hello, Hurray: why we need an old Etonian on every team in the Premier League

Scarcely 2 per cent of our top players are privately educated: yet a whopping 7 per cent of the nation’s children go to private schools. So unfair. Something has to be done.

By Hunter Davies

Oh, I do hope that Derby County get into the Prem. Looks as if they will but it’s a long season, Brian, no easy games, it’s a big ask.

I don’t follow Derby, have no connection to the place and have been there only twice. Once was when my wife was doing a biography of Bonnie Prince Charlie. He got to Derby in his march on London, then turned back. She was doing research at a local library and I went with her, hanging around the shops. Do you remember it, pet? “No,” she replies. She has never been to Derby in her life. God, I must be wandering.

The other time was when I used to interview footballers. In 1997, I went to see Igor Štimac. That definitely did happen, for I have the cutting. He was a Croatian who had played in war zones back in his home country, with bombs dropping, before joining Derby. And they loved him at Derby. When Croatia was in the 1996 Euros, 500 Croatia shirts were sold in Derby’s club shop.

The reason I want the team to go up is Will Hughes, the excellent midfielder, fresh-faced, cheerful, with incredibly blond hair, the sort I always used to describe as public school boy hair – which it is. Hughes was educated at Repton.

If Derby do go up and also Middlesbrough, who have Patrick Bamford (Nottingham High School), we will have at least six privately educated chaps in the Prem. There’s Frank Lampard (Brentwood) at Man City and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (St John’s College, Southsea) at Arsenal. Plus, Victor Moses (Whitgift) at Stoke City and Fraser Forster (Royal Grammar, Newcastle) at Southampton.

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I might have missed one or two posho players, lingering unprofiled on the bench. (Surely Tom Ince’s and Alex Bruce’s dads lashed out some money on their schooling?) Let’s say there could well be ten privately educated persons playing in the Prem, out of a total of 600. Now that really is appalling. I am writing to Prince Charles and David Cameron at once. Scarcely 2 per cent of our top players are privately educated: yet a whopping 7 per cent of the nation’s children go to private schools. So unfair. Something has to be done.

Public schools boy are deservedly over-represented in the law, politics, journalism – otherwise parents would want their money back. But, come on, football is our national game. We have to shape up.

Quotas would help. Every first-team pool has to have an Old Etonian: that would be a start. Coaches would have to check all accents, how many skiing holidays before the age of eight, instal BBC Radio 4 in the dressing room. That should weed out the undesirables.

It’s strange that there are still so few public school players, as the money is brilliant. In what other career, aged 23, can you earn £200,000 a week? Surely all right-thinking middle-class types want that for their offspring? Going into the City, or the Bar – it can take ages for you to get half-decent money.

For almost twenty years now, footballers, who are conservative, if not decidedly right-wing by nature, have been earning big money and able to send their children to private schools. Which many have done. Eventually, our public schools will be filled with the children of Prem players and dodgy – sorry, vanilla – tax exiles. The fees are so huge these days that humble, middle-class professionals can no longer afford them. So, why haven’t more Prem children come through, apart from Lampard and Oxlade-Chamberlain?

I had high hopes for young Harry Lineker, one of Gary’s sons, a first XI star at Charterhouse, who scored a goal when they thumped Eton 2-0 a few years ago. But he seems to have disappeared from the gossip columns recently. Something to do with erratic car-driving.

I hope David Beckham and Wayne Rooney do the sensible thing and send all their lads to Eton or somewhere similar, making them work their bollocks off to crack it as professional footballers. But perhaps this generation of rich kids don’t have as much hunger as their parents.

We might have to wait for the next lot to even up this unfair situation. Let’s hope so. After all, that’s how football began, run and dominated by the public schools for the first 30 years. We were so happy then . . . and nice. 

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