Prosies of fragile flowers

I know a solicitor who gave it all up to work on a fruit stall outside Kentish Town Tube station. She is still there. Another friend, also a solicitor, who used to live next door, jacked it in to retrain as a school teacher. City types are always going off to write that novel, paint that masterpiece. Why don't footballers do the same, I wonder? Stupid question. Voluntarily give up all that money and adulation and all the girls they can eat? Do me a favour.

Carlos Tevez caused a stir recently by telling some Argentinian TV station that he's fed up with football at Man City - too many bad people and money-mad young players - so he's going to pack it in. Er, but not now. Possibly in four years. Hold the front page.

The notion itself is interesting, because top pro players rarely do such a thing. Eric Cantona walked away while still in demand, but he was 30. Peter Knowles, of Wolves and England's Under-23s, retired from football at 24 - but he had found Jesus.

When I was writing about Spurs in the early Seventies, I was astounded when Alan Gilzean said he didn't like football, didn't watch it when he wasn't playing and wouldn't miss it when it was over. It was just a job, something he happened to be good at.

You don't hear players saying such things today - at least not in public. Some players can't watch, don't watch, when they are injured - because they can't bear it. But they still love football, because it's all they've ever known since the age of eight.

All the same, I am surprised more players are not like Tevez, suddenly feeling scunnered by the game, sick and tired of the whole thing. The top ones today have enough money in the bank by the time they are 21 never to have to work again.

Unlike our 1966 World Cup heroes. They were on the salary of a bank manager or a good butcher, so they did what footballers had always done - they went down the divisions and eked out a living at lowlier clubs until they were in their late thirties or early forties. Bobby Moore went to Fulham and then the US. Bobby Charlton fetched up at Preston North End then turned up playing in South Africa.

It's hard to imagine Wayne Rooney, when his Man United days are over, trotting out for Wrexham or Chester to make a few bob, or Frank Lampard fetching up at Bournemouth.

I do sense, though, that more players will start to react like Tevez, feeling they want to pack it in, and not just because they can. A new element has crept into the psyche of professional players - fragility. Fergie has observed it, so it must be true.

They are more highly bred than in the past, when a player worked down the pit until, at l6, he could become an apprentice. Now they are hand-reared as children in fancy hothouses. Hence they are more sensitive, delicate, and don't like being shouted at by nasty managers or horrid fans. And, naturally, they're spoiled rotten, too.

I can see quite a few flouncing off to the country in the future - to discover themselves.

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 December 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Vietnam: the last battle