Saturday, June 10, 2023

Ireland and Best perpetuate the stereotype of the ‘thick footballer’

Graham Fisher in Editorial, English Premier League 23 Mar 2011


Not the brightest

Sometimes footballers are portrayed as being a bit thick. Often, when that is done I do my best to defend the players. On occasions, however, it is simply not possible.


Let us take the case of two Newcastle United footballers, Leon Best and Stephen Ireland. Both players are currently injured and unable to play.

At twenty-four years of age, Best has already had three full time clubs and played at four others on loan. His big chance came in February last year when Newcastle signed him from Coventry. He failed to make an impact at the club in that promotion campaign in the Championship and failed to find the net in thirteen appearances.


Despite his poor performances, Best found himself with an unexpected chance in the Premier League. This chance became a reality when Andy Carroll was sold too late for the club to get a replacement. Best had his opportunity, and to be fair to him, he has had a decent go at it, scoring six in ten.

Stephen Ireland is a talented player who is desperate to find a home where they love him. He is just twenty-two years old and has never been far from controversy, mainly off the pitch.


He had a couple of fine seasons with Manchester City, but the arrival of Roberto Mancini and some big name players saw him eased out of the picture. Mancini said that Ireland’s problems were ‘in his head’.

He was transferred to Aston Villa in part-exchange for James Milner and added to his controversial image by publicly criticising his former club. He played just ten games for Villa before Gerard Houllier left him out, saying that he ‘needs to work harder at his game’. A short time later, he was told he was free to leave.


Newcastle signed him on loan until the end of the season. He has yet to play for them having had a knee injury when he arrived and suffered a thigh injury in training since then.

So here we have two very privileged young men who have a great deal to lose if they do not behave themselves. Although they are both injured, they wouldn’t be silly enough to get themselves photographed in a nightclub on the night before a game would they?


Both players have denied drinking alcohol and say that they were only in the bar very briefly, but the pair were photographed in the bar, lifting up their shirts to show off their tattoos. This was the night before Newcastle’s 4-0 thrashing at Stoke last Saturday.

Best and Ireland released an apologetic statement on the Newcastle website.


“Going to a bar was inappropriate ahead of the game. We regret doing so. With an important game the next day we should never have put ourselves or the club in that position. We were asked to have our photograph taken and we removed our shirts as a tongue-in-cheek joke between friends, but of course the resulting coverage in the press suggests a far different night out.”

It may well be that it was a quiet, short, alcohol free trip into town with friends, but to do it on a Friday night and to get photographed is rank stupidity. Sometimes you wonder if some players are able to demonstrate any common sense or responsibility.


Graham Fisher



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