Drink and other halves
VETERAN 40-year-old striker Eamonn Searle's return to county league football with Wick was a shock to him. Among several things, he spoke of how easy he found it to score goals, but also criticised many of the younger generation of players, saying they were spoilt by their youth football, trivial trophies, and now lack fighting fibre, commitment and loyalty, and ape FA Premiership behaviour.
Wick player Dave Hall spoke up for the youngsters, annoyed at all being tarred by the same brush.
Now the most penetrating and considered response so far, from Dominic Di Paola, a 24-year-old, former Worthing United player now immersed in the local game as player-manager of two clubs, Clymping and The Clifton on Sundays, and a website master for the latter:
I AM lucky to have got the tail end of what these older players call the good old days '” and also to play now, when, granted, things are slightly different but still just as good.
I came into county league football at 15 and have been fortunate to have played with, or against, most of the local legends of the last 20 years: great players like Graham and Nigel Waller, Terry Withers, Mark Croft, Richard Tiltman, Bruce Aitken, Geoff Raynsford, Stevie Pickles, "Dosser" Bennett, Tony Turton, Chris Punter and so on.
And I remember, there was a lot more socialising revolved around the football club itself. When I first joined The Clifton I remember the all-day drinking sessions, with almost everyone staying behind. I was also blessed as, playing at Worthing United and Clifton, the social life was always brilliant and I know a few mates at different clubs never had it as good as that.
I think a few things have changed now '” things that have made a massive difference:
1. Drink-driving has had a massive effect on this generation and the business that clubs can do now. If you have to travel anywhere to play football, someone has to drive. It's very hard for players to stay at the club for long because their first thought is to get the car home and then go out '”rarely back to a football club but usually out into bars, clubs, etc.
As recently as 10 years ago, drinking and driving was never so much of an issue.
2. A football club bar no longer holds the same appeal to the players. I remember one of the best things was the drinks were cheaper at the club, which meant we would stay there until gone 10pm, then go out. But now, because of brewery prices, etc, most drinks cost the same as in bars and clubs in town, and it is easy to see why the younger lads are keener to get into town (female interaction, music, etc).
3. The biggest thing for me is that society has changed. As manager at Clymping and Clifton, I can see first-hand the way this has affected our standard of football and the problems faced by lads nowadays.
I was talking with a very respected football man of the last 20 years and a comment he made has stuck with me. It only emphasised my very set view on the biggest problem facing our level of football '” women.
Today's young lads are caught with an ongoing and massive conflict of interests with their wives and girlfriends about the time they spend playing football and not with them. This was much less of an issue 20 years ago, as the ladies were a lot more patient and understanding about their men giving up to the game the majority of their weekend and a few nights in the week.
Now this simply is not the case and, from my perspective, the biggest reason why lads often just play the match and shoot off afterwards, or have weekends off, is the constant pressure they are put under by their other half. You only have to look at those who stay behind or who socialise more, and it is nearly always the single ones.
I know how much these lads would like to stay on a bit but they feel they have to go, in order to keep their partner happy and preserve a relationship. This is where the compromise has come in and the lads will play the game (about three hours or so) and then spend the rest of the day with their partners.
I know, first hand, the biggest reasons for my players not to be available for games or to give up the game altogether. Particularly Sundays, where they seem to have been prepared to compromise the most '” "You play Saturdays and we'll have Sundays together." It is because they are going shopping or going away with their partners for the weekend.
This is not a sexist comment or anything like that. Today's generation of wives and girlfriends are more empowered and feel, possibly rightly, that they deserve more of their partner's time.
These I feel are the main reasons the social aspect of football has changed at county league level.