Football Crazy, Football Mad –  Why Footballers Get Paid So Much And Aren’t Called “Nobby” Anymore


When I was a kid, back in the 1970s, footballers were called things like “Chopper” and “Nobby.” The “Choppers” were solid men. Walls of meat almost entirely immune to injury and pain. The “Nobbies” of the football world were nippy, sinewy types. They were cobbled together out of elastic bands and kneecaps and consequently also immune to injury and pain.

The most famous Nobby –Nobby Stiles – did his victory dance after the 1966 World Cup without his false teeth in. His real teeth had been kicked out in a sliding tackle that went badly wrong. Well actually I just made that up. Nobby’s toothless grin was more likely to do with the parlous state of British dentistry. The point is though that he did his victory dance with his gums on show to the entire world. Appearances were not important.

Still, that was then and this is now. Footballers used to look like fat bouncers who’d kick your head in at the slightest provocation or skinny vagrants who’d slit your throat for a packet of Woodbines.

Some of them probably were part-time bouncers back in day, seeing as footballers didn’t get paid all that much. None of them were actual vagrants, though a few of them did spend quite a bit of time passed out in the gutter, covered in their own vomit.

Nowadays, footballers get paid a fortune and a lot of them look like male models. Except for Wayne Rooney, obviously.

The last dying gasp of old school football happened in 1989 when Terry Butcher played on in this condition in a World Cup qualifier against Sweden:

Bildnummer: 02501217 Datum: 06.09.1989 Copyright: imago/Colorsport Terry Butcher (England, Mitte) mit blutüberströmtem Trikot - PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxHUNxUSAxONLY; Schweden - England 0:0, Vdia, quer, verletzt, Verletzung, Kopfverletzung, Blut, blutig, blutverschmiert, blutüberströmt, bluten, Verband, Kopfverband, verbunden WM Qualifikation 1989, Nationalmannschaft, Nationaltrikot, Historie, Fußballhistorie Stockholm Fußball Länderspiel Herren Mannschaft Gruppenbild Aktion Personen

Pretty impressive, I think you’ll agree. If his surname hadn’t been “Butcher” already, he probably would have earned the nickname “Butcher” after that performance.

Sadly, footballers no longer  run around with gaping head wounds in order to assure their teams’ places in the World Cup. They do a lot of this sort of thing though:

Call me a bluff old traditionalist, but I think that’s a little bit of an over-reaction to a flick on the ear-hole. Not unless your testicles are located on the side of your head.

That said, footballers also do things like this:


Sorry about that. Pretty gruesome, isn’t it? And this is the point. Footballers’ careers are short. Footballers are no longer impervious walls of meat or indestructible mannequins constructed out of elastic bands and kneecaps. They can go from earning more in a week than a heart surgeon earns in a year to earning fuck all. Possibly for the rest of their lives. Not a good situation to be in when you’re in your early thirties. An even worse situation to be in when you’re in your early twenties.

This is why footballers are paid so much. And why they should probably consider not spunking away their money living in mansions, maintaining expensive wives and buying fleets of Lamborghinis and Bentley Continentals.

After all, none of them are called Chopper or Nobby anymore. And there’s not enough jobs as football pundits or opportunities to advertise crisps to go around when the boots have to be hung up in the dressing room for the final time.

© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015



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About thedailygrime

At that awkward age - too young to be a grumpy old man, but just acerbic and downtrodden enough to have an opinion. Read it here.

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