‘We drink beer, we drink wine. we‘re the Scotland forward-line.’ runs the witty line filched frotn the colourful repertoire of Scottish football chants. This brief but perceptive ditty captures perfectly the inexorable link between alcohol and football in our national culture.
Though an anonymous football fan‘s blinding Wembley bender tnay not even tnake the footnotes of the local paper. the football player‘s debauched exploits are regularly logged with relish by the national press on the front pages. The case histories are there in four-inch high headlines for all to see. From Jimmy ‘Jinky' Johnson‘s infamous exploits while drunk and in charge of a rowing boat adrift in the Firth of Clyde to Maurice ‘MoJo‘ Johnson's early exit from the l990 World Cup after a mysterious full facial collision between the player and his bed-springs!
Given the relationship then between football players and alcohol it is not surprising that many find themselves on the other side of the bar in the twilight years of their sporting careers. A few went in for coaching or became budding Chick Youngs with jobs in the media. but a worryingly large number opted fora pub. At least that was the case up until ten years ago. You couldn‘t kick a ball down Easter Road for fear of putting it through the window of one of several ex—l-libee establishments owned by the likes of Alex Cropley. Peter Marinello. Pat Stanton and Jimmy O'Rourke.
Nowadays it appears that the footballer‘s pub is an anachronism with only a handful ofeither old-school or current players deciding to opt for the booze business. The List spoke to two Celtic players from very different eras and with very different establishments to find what‘s happened to this great Scottish institution.
Billy McNeil is one of the most respected men in Scottish football. A fortner Celtic captain and manager in the glory days of the 60s and early 70s. his eloquent views on the game are still sought by the media. Three years ago he opened McNeils Bar in Victoria Road. Glasgow where he pulls the pints in a bar where ‘left-ﬁtters‘ can watch a match in peace surrounded by a few mementoes of the glory days.
Though McNeil realises to a certain extent his pub relies on ‘a face and reputation‘ for its success he is equally aware of the commitment required. ‘The hours are bloody rnurder.‘ he says matter-of-factly. ‘1 think that‘s definitely one thing that football doesn't prepare you for. it comes as a
FOOTBALL PUBLIGANS Licence to swill
In football’s glory days, any self—respecting player would sink the proceeds from his tearful testimonial game into a pub or club. Now the ex—footballer’s pub is a dying breed, though a couple of former Celts are still pulling pints, Ann Donald.
bit of a shock to discover what other people have to put up with.’ As well as the taxing hours required to run a bar. McNeil also suggests that the dearth of footballers‘ pubs is down to the wider options available for players in the 90s. ‘The modern player is much better prepared for the future than we ever were.‘ he says. ‘Not only do they earn more than enough but most of them are wise enough to put the money into a pension that will mature when they‘re 35. in my day those thingsjust didn‘t exist so the natural step was to open a pub.‘
The tanned 33-year old father of two digging into his lunch opposite me appears to be a far cry from the Champagne Charlie of yesteryear. During the 80s Nicholas was touted as Scotland‘s white leather-suited John Travolta. a footballer famed not only for prowess with the ball but with birds,
‘For years football players were perceived as working- class and thick. But in the last five years that’s changed. They are more educated now, most have advisers, accountants, and agents cutting down that gambling percentage.’ Charlie Nicholas
booze and bad publicity. Today, sitting in his upmarket European styled cafe/ bar Cafe Cini in Renﬁeld Street, the only memento of those often troubled days is the diamond stud earring in his left ear and dark shades which do not leave his face throughout the interview.
When Nicholas transferred to Arsenal at the age of 2 l. the press honed in on his salubrious adventures out on the randan at traditional footballers’ haunts like Stringfellows. However. a very shrewd Nicholas managed to squeeze in an eighteen-month business management course between the footie and the beauties. which was to stand him in good stead for the future. ‘I didn‘t want to wait until the ripe old age of 35 when players start to think “What am i going to do now?” he explains. ‘But now I don‘t have that concern, l‘m more at ease coming to the end of my term.‘
indeed, Nicholas believes that his peer group learned from the very bad business experiences of former football players. ‘For years football players were perceived as working-class and
David Hay polishes his 0" the field
thick,‘ he says. ‘But in the last live years especially that‘s changed. They are more educated now. most have advisers. accountants. and agents cutting down that gambling percentage making sure that they don‘t lose fortunes.‘
Nicholas started his ﬁrst business venture at the age of 25 when he opened Nobody‘s lnn. though it was relatively shortlived, as he explains. ‘It was a bit of a man‘s football pub and to be honest i realised after a while that i wanted away from that and into something a bit more relaxed. upmarket, something for the older office clientele in the city centre,‘ he says. As well as Cafe Cini. Nicholas
Slim Jim demonstrates his pint pulling prowess
also owns an older man‘s pub called Thompson‘s Bar in Springbum and has plans to open a sports-themed pool bar in the area next year.
However, like many of his peer group, pub life pulling pints holds precious little attraction for Nicholas when he retires in a few years. ‘Coming from what I‘ve had in the last seventeen years of football working two or three hours a day. I don‘t think I could dedicate myself to the life of long hours.‘ he admits.
With the modem player shying away from honest graft, it looks as ifthat bastion of Scottish culture. the footballer‘s pub is well on the way to exdnchon.
90 The List 28 Jul-l0 Aug 1905