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The British disease

In the week of the Leicester City story, it seems the booze, not hooliganism, is one of the big problems facing premiership football now.

Tony Cascarino, 11 Mar 2004

You go away on holiday for 10 days and come back to find the whole footballing world’s gone mad!

I’ve done a few things that have shocked people but dogging…forget the morality of the situation, did Stan Collymore honestly think that somebody wouldn’t tell the newspapers that an ex-professional footballer was trawling car-parks looking for casual sex? What was he going to tell them if he’d struck lucky – “Hello, my name’s John Smith”?

This is a guy who played for Leicester, Liverpool, Bradford City, Nottingham Forest and England and had his face splashed across the front-page of every newspaper after that Ulrika business. And my understanding is that he actually drove to one of these places in a car that had a personalised “SC” number plate on it. You’ve been given a chance to rebuild your career as a BBC Radio Five Live summariser and you go and do something daft like that!

I was just getting my head round that when the Leicester story broke. I speak from personal experience when I say that drink and football mixed together can be a disastrous recipe. You don’t necessarily go out thinking you’re going to have a mad night, but something happens and next thing you know you’re helping police with their enquiries.

I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I’ve witnessed situations where a player’s met a girl and for a laugh a couple of the lads have got his room-key and hid behind the sofa in anticipation of the deed being done. The player and the girl have no idea they’re there until they start, well, dogging, and two drunken idiots jump out on them. No one ever attacked or sexually assaulted anybody, but it did blur the line between what was a joke and what was upsetting, especially for the girl who mightn’t appreciate or want to be party to that sort of juvenile, barroom humour.

Leicester City say they’re going to appoint a player to speak directly to the Leicester supporters, but I don’t think anything’s going to appease fans who less than a year ago were throwing money into a bucket to pay their wages. You’re looking at that and thinking, “Are these players conscious of the fact that we’ve gone 15 games without a win and in all probability will be relegated? Are they oblivious because they’ve got two or three-year contracts and will still get their 20 grand a week regardless of what division we’re in next season?”

Football’s moved on from Wimbledon and the likes of Everton under Howard Kendall where drinking was seen as being central to team bonding.

I was envious of my friends being able to go out on Friday night while I was stuck in a hotel. I didn’t take my career seriously until I was 31, but by copping on when I did I got an extra seven years without having to drop down the divisions. The buzz is far better achieving things on the football field than it is being Jack The Lad in front of all your mates.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Leicester players who are in trouble now are all British. All my time in France people would say, “What is it with British players and beer?” If the Marseilles lads had so much as a glass of wine, they’d be there the next day going, “Oh, my head.” They wouldn’t want to train or do anything whereas we’d knock back our six or seven pints and sweat it out in training.

Another thing that took me unawares when I got back from Tahiti – I’ve bought a place there which I’m gradually doing up – is the renewed debate about whether or not Roy Keane will play for Ireland again. I said it then and I’ll say it now – I think it was more personal problems that caused him to pull out of the World Cup rather than genuine grievances with Mick McCarthy who up till then he’d had an okay relationship with. That being the case, it was the best thing for all concerned that he came home when he did. Personally, I think this’ll all peter out and I’d be amazed if he wears a green shirt again.

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