I recently had a relatively
big birthday, and was determined not to let it change me.
Like the numbers
clicking over on your car's dashboard, it was neat but ultimately meaningless. It is only a numerical fluke that makes it
significant, I said. If we operated in base seven, I would be 42, not 30, so
And yet here I am, a few
short weeks later, about to launch into a sustained attack on the feckless, stupid,
disrespectful youth of today. Welcome to middle age.
Obviously, the simply
mind-boggling Ashley Cole air rifle incident lit the blue touchpaper of my
As many people have pointed
out, it is clear what happens if you bring a firearm into your place of work
and discharge it into a colleague - accidentally or otherwise.
Unless you're filming the
next Jackass movie, you're going to get fired.
Most workplace offences are
limited to nicking the occasional biro or reading football articles on the
boss's coin. With the exception of police and soldiers (for whom it is sort of
their job) I can be fairly sure that nobody reading this right now has ever
shot anyone at work. That is pretty much the preserve of lunatics in the
Now, I don't hate Cole as much
as other people seem to. He's a very good footballer, and he doesn't
necessarily seem to be any more despicable a person than the average footballer
(hardly a ringing endorsement, it's true).
But shooting the work
experience kid? The day after your hopeless penalty got your team knocked out
of the FA Cup? Absolutely ridiculous. Incredible.
And what absolutely enrages
is Chelsea's reaction to the incident.
If someone gets shot, might
it not be sensible to report it to the police? In the old days, the Chelsea
boss would have grabbed Cole by the ear and marched him down to the station to
Instead they went into
lockdown, desperate to shield themselves and their asset, er, player. Chelsea would never sack Cole, because he would just stroll off and sign for another big
As a result, players feel
they can misbehave without consequences as their employer will always have
I spoke to Paul Ince
yesterday and he lamented the lack of his contemporaries going into management.
For him, it seemed logical to give something back to the game that bestowed
such riches on him. To give young players the same chance he got.
But maybe modern footballers
just lack the maturity to manage.
Look at Cole, a generation
after Ince. He is 30 years old, he has won 87 England caps, played 400 games
and won 10 major trophies.
He is, by any measure, a
'senior' player. And yet he seems incapable of behaving with even a modicum of
What's more, management is
difficult. It is stressful. It can end in humiliation and failure. Why would
you bother when your playing career sets you up financially for life?
The problem is not so much
that today's young people are inherently workshy, useless or insolent.
We are all lazy if allowed to
be. We will all misbehave if we can get away with it. We all need a kick up the
Unfortunately clubs are so afraid
of upsetting players, they dare not show them the benefits of behaving themselves.
They let them get away with murder. Or at least, a gunshot to the guts of a
sports science student.
There was a marvellous TV shot
of three non-playing Manchester United stars at Wigan on Saturday. Ryan Giggs
was in the middle, sitting up straight and concentrating on the game.
On one side Gabriel Obertan
was staring at his lap while listening to his iPod with those comically inflated headphones beloved of
footballers. On the other side Bebe also had his head down, texting. That, gentlemen,
is why he's Ryan Giggs and you're not.
In front of Giggs was Bobby
Charlton, also watching intently.
I always thought it strange
when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attributed his success as a substitute to the fact that
he watched the game. Well you would, wouldn't you?
Apparently not. Manchester
United are among the biggest disciplinarians in the Premier League. If they
won't even tell Bebe and Obertan - who don't exactly have top teams beating a
path to their door - to put their bloody phones down and pay attention, what
hope is there?