Early Doors

Footballers who don’t like football

Early Doors

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Sometimes, you just feel like jacking it all in, don't you?

You feel like you're going nowhere, your boss is on your back, the thousands of people who watch you work won't stop giving you abuse...

All right, so that last one only really applies to professional sportsmen, who by and large can handle it, but even they sometimes have bad days at the office and consider leaving the game behind for a trip down the Job Centre.

One young footballer who has actually taken the brave step of getting out of the game is Ipswich goalkeeper Shane Supple, who today called time on his five-year career.

The 22-year-old announced that his 47th professional appearance - the 3-3 Carling Cup draw with Shrewsbury, which the Tractor Boys eventually won on penalties - would be his last. Well, how can you top a thriller like that?

Supple said: "It's something I have been thinking about for a long while. It's obviously a big decision but I feel that playing professional football is not something I want to continue doing as a career. Deep down my heart is not in the game anymore. I have fallen out of love with the game and I'd always said if that happened I wouldn't hang around.

"When I was younger all I wanted to do was play in the Premier League but as you grow up you realise there are other things in life and the game is not what I thought it was. People probably think I'm crazy but I'm not going to stay in the game for anyone else."

ED respects what is obviously a hard decision for the young man but, like so many prematurely-paunched men whose dreams of scoring at Wembley died the day The Racoons went off air, can't help but scream at its monitor on reading such words.

If nothing else, Supple's eschewing of Wednesday night's at Faces in Ilford guzzling Jammy Donut shooters proves that the grass is not always... oh, who are we kidding, he's mental. If a tall, softly-spoken Irishman takes that vacant desk next to you in accounts next week, give him a stern talking-to.

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Of course, Supple is by no means the first footballer to play the game without the full emotional investment of their fans; the only difference is they all had the sense to make their fortunes first.

Probably the greatest player to use a punch card to clock in when he turned up for training was Gabriel Batistuta (pictured). Yes, Batigol, one of the greatest finishers the game has known.

According to Alessandro Rialti, the man who co-wrote the former Fiorentina striker's autobiography, the player who had a strike rate of precisely one goal every 1.5 games for Argentina treated his job as though he was a sales executive at Sunshine Desserts.

Rialti said in a Sunday Times interview in 1999: "The important thing about Batistuta is that he is not like other players. He is a very good professional who doesn't really like football. Once he leaves the stadium, he doesn't want football encroaching upon the rest of his life. He is a very sensitive and intelligent man. When we were doing the book, he came to my office and for five full days he spoke about his family and his life in Argentina. But when it came to the football and his career, he switched off. 'The records are there,' he said, 'you can look them up'." Batistuta now plays polo.

Even worse than that is Christian Vieri, who would have swapped banging in goals for pretty much every club in Italy to play cricket for Australia quicker than you could say Ben Hilfenhaus: "To be honest I wasn't very good at football," Vieri once told the Daily Mail. "I loved cricket and when I started making some big scores for my boys' team, I dreamed of becoming the next Allan Border." Pah!

And that's not to mention current pros who don't play for fun but to pay the bills, such as Tottenham defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto or Man City's Stephen Ireland who, in the fall-out of the rather unfortunate 'Grannygate' debacle, posted on Bebo: "Football is s**t! Why did I get stuck doin' it?"

There is a lesson in here somewhere; something about doing the thing you love is its own reward perhaps. However, if you're tall, agile and can handle being screamed at by an unhinged Irishman for a six-figure salary, get yourself up to Portman Road sharpish!

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Given the current financial outlook, it is encouraging clubs are being more circumspect in terms of their payments to agents. In fact, clubs only committed to pay an agent 6 per cent of the 3,700 player transactions that took place during the course of last season. This is the lowest figure recorded in the five seasons since publication of agents' fees began. I would like to think that in pioneering the publication of agents' fees the Football League has helped bring this about." Football League chairman Lord Mawhinney takes 83 words to say when just one - "Gotcha!" - would have done.

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