ENGLAND’S cricket head coach was “intensely relaxed” about his players’ nightlife until Ben Stokes’ 2am adventures. Now he is not so sure.
But what does he do? Curfews and lockdowns might have had a slight chance of being successful last century — although not if your name was Botham or Tufnell.
But today’s top-level sportsmen are rich and always have options elsewhere.
So it is with football. A week ago Sergio Aguero bust a rib when his taxi driver in Amsterdam crashed the car into a metal post.
His Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, commented: “It was his day off, I’m not the police. I don’t want to know what my players do. There are rules and ways to live and that’s all.”
Exactly my kind of Pep talk.
Drinking traditions have changed in football, especially among family men.
That is not to say a few players don’t occasionally get smashed when they should know better. Stand up Wayne Rooney.
Foreigners have helped to change habits. Whereas our pros used to drink a few — or a lot of — pints of beer, the new breed from abroad, managers and players, brought in a fresh discipline, a soft drink or a glass of wine.
Whether greater sobriety has washed over cricket and rugby I’m not at all sure.
After six hours at cricket, I’d want oxygen — as a spectator, too.
I can see why the lads want to refresh themselves and many of them do. Rugby players drink to forget the pain.
More often than not, trouble is started by some remark from a show-off who thinks winding up a sportsman is tough-guy fun.
Sober, unless the insulted spot is extremely tender, the abused player will walk away.
With a lot of drink inside him, all that managerial advice to turn the other cheek is forgotten and, suffering the infamous ‘rush of blood’, he might resort to a physical response.
If he is lucky there will be no witnesses or cameras to record the incident, or perhaps a pal will haul him away in time.
No one should ever respond in the manner of one Aston Villa player, an international, who pulled out a fistful of tenners and set fire to them in front of Birmingham supporters who had been taunting him. The bar erupted.
Plenty of punches were thrown before the bouncers moved in.
I will not hide the fact, either, that football has its share of mad dogs off the field as well as on it, where a red card is as much as they’re likely to get.
But we all know of others for whom prison should be the ultimate answer. They are psychotics, not drinkers. These are a manager’s nightmare.
How can he trust in a player who, for example, deliberately tries to maim a team-mate in training?
He may be, often is, a man who will spill his guts for the team and work handsomely for a favourite charity.
But there comes the time when, usually over-fuelled, he thinks like an animal rather than an adult. At some point, you can cover up for him no longer.
Yes, I agree it is as easy to preach against all violence — women don’t go in for it very much.
We have to understand, though, young players, rich, noisy and out for a good time, will inevitably be picked on and, much more often than not, they retaliate in order to protect themselves.
This is definitely no licence to yobbishness. As a club, we at West Ham take the greatest care to impress on their young staff they must behave responsibly at all times.
Experienced players are on their own. They must take any consequences.
PS: What is the answer to concluding a fair distribution of international broadcast revenue in the Premier League?
On one hand it’s inconceivable Huddersfield receive exactly the same amount as Manchester United for their overseas broadcast rights.
This is despite the fact they will have been shown on TV worldwide the smallest fraction of times Man U will have been.
Equally it is outrageous Huddersfield are being asked to give £10million of their TV money to United who have a turnover of £500m.
Answers on a postcard please!