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I learned my lesson from ‘Blackpool affair’

Hearing that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has taken his midfielder Jack Wilshere to task for being seen in the papers outside a London nightclub with a cigarette following the team's Champions League win over Napoli on Tuesday makes me wonder how little some things have changed in professional football over the years.

It happened in my day, too, when players would go out drinking at a club and be spotted by a photographer and the picture would be in the papers the next day.

I know all too well what it is like as a young player as some of my West Ham team-mates — Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Frank Lampard and Brian Dear and our physio — were in such a situation in Blackpool back in 1971, the night before an FA Cup third round tie.

If you do a Google search on Bobby Moore you will find mention of that incident more than 40 years ago.

It was the famous ‘Blackpool affair' when we thought the game was going to be called off the next night and we all went out to the club owned by a famous boxer in England at that time, Brian London, who was a friend of Bobby's.

We were told the game was going to be off because of the weather and thought we would get up in the morning and catch a train back down to London. But when we got up in the morning we were told the game was on. I wasn't drinking, all I was doing in those days was ginger beer and lime, and that's why I was able to play because the guys spoke up for me and said I wasn't drinking.

The senior players were slapped with fines and not allowed to play the next couple of games.

Blackpool, who were bottom of the division at the time, won the match 4-0. I'll never forget it, we played on ice and they had a player, Tony Green, who was like a ballerina on ice and he destroyed us.

Players, in general, know when they have done wrong and they took their punishment like grown men and in the next couple of weeks they were out performing again, but it was a lesson that we learned. We never did anything like that again.

They had us in the papers, cartoon characters with cigarettes in our mouths coming out of a club. There was a funny side to it but still something that you felt embarrassed about.

Players today are just as vulnerable. They are making so much money, it can interfere with what they are doing sometimes. Money does not make the person, God has given you a wonderful talent and you have a wonderful job and you have to look after that because it doesn't last long. I'm not saying not to go to clubs but get in at a reasonable hour and be careful not to embarrass yourself and your club.

Some athletes will tell you they are not role models but I've got news for them, they are role models and they should behave and carry themselves a certain way. That's what I preach to a lot of the boys around Bermuda who want to go overseas to play, or even in playing a sport in Bermuda, that you have to carry yourself a certain way.

And if you can't be respectful and disciplined, don't play, because people play money to watch you play and expect to see you at your best.

You are an entertainer and the best way to perform to your full potential is to live right and be humble.

Photographers hanging around clubs is nothing new, they just call them the paparazzi now.

Footballers are in a glorified position and people look for you to do things wrong so that they can slam you.

Players have to understand that people put out good money to go and watch a football game, sometimes not knowing if they are going to have enough money to get to work the next week.

They still do it because of loyalty to the club and their team.

Players must respect the game, people in the game and carry yourself a certain way. When children are looking at you it doesn't set a good example to them.

Professional sports is the shortest of all professions so you have to make the most of it by making sure you are in tip-top shape, living up to expectations and delivering the goods on a weekly basis.

At Somerset our coaches were very strict and if you were out late at night before a game then you were going to sit on the bench if they found out. Most of the players back in the day understood that.

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Published October 05, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 04, 2013 at 6:53 pm)

I learned my lesson from ‘Blackpool affair’

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