Two years after retiring from professional football – well, three, if we discount QPR, which most people do – Rio Ferdinand has decided to pursue a new career as a professional boxer. The final straw for one of Manchester United’s finest was, apparently, having to sit next to the short straw that is Liverpool’s own Michael Owen in the BT Sports studio.
How we would all like to slap little Michael each time he produces that inane grin as he remembers, on one hand, his football highlights. It seems that Rio will carry the hopes of the nation (as well as Argentina, who never forget perceived injustices) with him in his new competitive quest.
Professional football has existed since 1885 when teams from the north of England threatened to set up a rival house party to the southern amateurs known as the Football Association. Led by the likes of Preston North End and following the antics of Blackburn Olympic who had won the FA Cup two years earlier while ‘looking after their players’ in what became known as ‘shamateurism,’ the hand of commerce became the handball of football – debated endlessly but waved through, like a Celtic defence collectively congratulating Neymar on his new haircut.
The 132-year old concern over what footballers will go on to do when they stop playing is not confined to footballers’ wives, slow news days or independent financial experts seeking contributions to hedge funds. Indeed, the issue has often arisen before players have actually retired if we consider the likes of Eliaquim Mangala, Mamadou Sakho or Dejan Lovren. It’s hard to defend them in the same way as they find it hard to defend.
Always looking for the Phil in philosophy we considered what some current players might do when they ‘hang up their boots’ unless, of course, you’re little Michael and can’t quite reach the peg. ‘Please don’t write about Phil Neville’ we hear you scream! OK.
Wayne Rooney has clearly mapped out a career as a driving instructor, knowing well the community in which he will serve and being honest enough to admit his pupils’ (when not fully dilated) “unforgivable lack of judgment when driving round Goodison three times without stopping was completely wrong. I fully accept that parking and risking the wheels coming off is no excuse and have already said sorry to my agent, my financial adviser and my ear specialist.”
Ex-Southampton, Manchester City and England striker, Mick Channon, considered life as a windmill before taking up racehorse training. Mick was successful in this mainly because he took the time to deliver his views on absolutely everything, every day, one-on-one in the privacy of stables, whose horses, once out in the open, subsequently ran like the wind. It is thought that the similarly opinionated (yet hugely misunderstood) Jonjo Shelvey could be thinking about shovelling s**t as well as talking it.
Andy Carroll has, apparently, already passed his UEFA (Underwhelming English Football Attacker) badges in lighting pace and is well on his way to becoming a lamp post; fellow burst bubble, Joe Hart, may well look at juggling options and run away to join the circus… oh, wait, no he’s already done that.
Rafa Benitez has of course successfully used his knowledge of an inelegant back three and re-purposed it as an elegant front three of woollen jacket, trousers and waistcoat – even on the hottest days of the year – and Arsene Wenger flirted with life as a sweeper before becoming a pointless, professional inverted broom handle.
Others, of course, just bite the hands that feed them – quite literally in Gary Lineker’s case – while offering their expert views on football and, seemingly in little Michael’s case, plastic surgery.
As for the Neville brothers (sorry!) words cannot describe how they describe what has already happened, let alone the knockout punchlines and points decisions that Rio is so keen to get away from.