These last couple of weeks have offered plenty of opportunities to ponder, wonder, question, observe and analyse the lives of professional footballers.
It began with the enigma that is Kieron Dyer, revealing extracts of his soon-to-be released autobiography. The book is interestingly titled: ‘Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late’.
There are heartbreaking stories of his childhood but it was the stories of indulgence and excess that I wanted to discuss.
Dyer, like many of his contempories of that era, was destined for stardom and should have been part of the ‘golden generation’ that would drive England to international glory.
Instead, his career was blighted by injury, scandal and a sense of failure.
While the likes of Ashley Cole, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard became hugely successful at club level, Dyer was busy fighting his own team-mates and wasting his talent at Newcastle.
Dyer has raised the subject of the betting ‘rings’ that enveloped the England squads he was in.
He talked of worrying amounts of money that would obviously weigh heavily on a footballer’s mind, while they should be concentrating on representing their country in a major tournament.
When I first started playing professional football, betting was rife everywhere.
Players, even young ones, were being paid well and were receiving no financial advice.
At 16, I joined Blackburn Rovers and suddenly I had players a year older than me encouraging me to spend afternoons in the bookies.
As soon as I broke into the reserve team, I stepped on the coach for an away trip and I was surrounded by the ‘Racing Post’ and the older players, who were camped at the back of the coach with a deck of cards.
Thankfully, I’ve always been too cautious with money to really gamble, but put yourself in the place of an impressionable youngster who is trying to ‘show off’ and be ‘one of the lads’.
It starts with a few fun games of cards but it can – and has – so often led to addictions for hundreds of footballers.
Nowadays, the card schools are far less frequent on the team coach.
In fact, it’s probably gone too far the other way and the players rarely lift their headphoned heads from their top-of-the-range device.
Also, the mistakes of the players from Dyer’s era are being heeded and clubs and the PFA are far more proactive with advising and helping players with their finances.
The other story emerged from West Bromwich Albion’s warm weather training camp in Barcelona.
From what I have heard of the story, things have been blown way out of proportion.
Yes, the players made an error of judgement in driving the taxi to the hotel and breaking a curfew by going out late, but I can guarantee curfews get broken all the time when clubs go on these breaks.
The issue, just like the gambling, is down to boredom. It won’t be because the players are cocky and believe they are untouchable because they’re in the Premier League.
It will be because they’re away from their families, they have to spend hour after hour locked away in their room with no release.
Some people thrive in these situations and will happily stay in solitude, but for others, they crave company and social situations; just think Paul Gascoigne for example.
It’s easy to say these players are paid millions to do as they’re told, but money plays no part in how your brain works and how you feel emotionally.