This is what Alan Pardew (Newcastle United Manager) said about Southampton Football Club over the weekend:
“They’ve had Walcott, Bale, Shaw, Lallana and it makes a huge difference. I know we will get players through here, but will we get an exceptional player? Southampton has a different type of catchment area. There is a big working class community, but there are a lot of middle-class kids who have good education. The players who come out of Southampton are quite ¬intelligent and there might be something in that. We have to put more intelligence into our players here. It’s very important to not just look after the football side of it, but to also bring the right personalities through. We want them to be level-headed.”
This quote has created a stir and Pardew has come in for a lot of criticism from some quarters for daring to suggest that football as a career might be another profession heading squarely in the direction of the middle classes and stretching away from the reaches of the disadvantaged. I think he is correct in what he says and correct in airing it. The money and prestige in football has made it a sport that middle class families aspire to for their kids (I have witnessed two of my boys’ friends become professional footballers with premiership clubs and both are from stable, comfortably off families, who have the ability to indulge in the time, with parents who can share the chauffeuring to and fro, and can bear the cost it takes to support your child through the years of travelling, kit and time it takes to become a professional sports person).
Going to a football match itself, a working class rite of passage when I was growing up, is out of the reach of many now. (Average price of a Premiership season ticket £489.11 source BBC) and it looks as if a career in football might be heading that way.
What with the graph above showing how since the 70s the have’s certainly have more than the have not’s nowadays, the “bedroom tax”, lack of employed for the low skilled and difficulties for single parents, life is becoming increasingly difficult. This must impact on a young person’s life chances in whatever career they choose.
Back in the 70s football was certainly not seen as a top career choice by middle class parents and thus it left the door open for working class kids to make their mark. Add to that the demonization of ball games (don’t get me started on how urban design can often discriminate against the poor!) and it’s looking pretty grim.
By Wayne Hemingway