By Morgan Phillips
Back in 1964 I read in the papers that Spurs were ready to sell their prolific striker Bobby Smith for a mere five thousand. It seemed obvious to me that he could link up at the Cottage with his England colleague Johnny Haynes. When I mentioned this to Eddie Perry, the Fulham coach, he was unimpressed:
‘Smith’s got a bad character. He’s in a lot of trouble with the bookies.’
This was not uncommon. One ex-Fulham player had reputedly chosen to live in Dover so that he could hop on a Channel ferry when the debt collectors became impatient. However there was a further issue in Smith's case.
‘And he wants £5,000 for himself apart from the transfer fee.’
‘Even at £10,000 he’s worth considering.’
Eddie shook his head: ‘Fulham haven’t got £10,000.’
Just as well, for it transpired that Bobby’s form and fitness had experienced a catastrophic decline. In retrospect I realise that his private life did not bother me. Fans of that period neither knew nor particularly cared how players behaved when they were not on the pitch.
Nowadays professional footballers are under constant scrutiny and when they go awry they bring discredit on themselves and their clubs, and may well endanger their own careers. Kit Symons, when he was Fulham manager, found a dramatic way of warning his novice professionals about the pitfalls that they faced, the club hired an internet safety expert, who sent each player a Facebook message supposedly from a 16-year-old female supporter.
According to Symons: “Some of the young players fell for it – it was a short, sharp shock. You can tell lads about getting caught out and they'll think, ‘Oh they won't catch me’ and then that happens – they are caught.
“You strive to make the club a reflection on your own values,” Symons declares. “There are 30 lads you are father to. You hope when they are away from the working environment that their decision making is sound. It’s the best job in the world but there's an obligation to be a bit better behaved.”
Kit Symons has the potential to become a first class British manager. I hope that he gets the breaks he deserves.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.