Off the park

No accounting for sundry tastes

By Darren Tackle

The Guardian, London, Friday April 2, 1999

The end of the financial year approaches, a tricky time for many a professional, with all sorts of difficult fiscal decisions to be made about what to offset, what to hedge and what - not to put too fine a point on it - to bury.

Oh aye, I know what you lot out there is thinking, what does your average footballer know about accounts? Bet you think most of us can't add up to five. Which is obvious bollocks, since we had to count up to nine after the Man U game. Anyhow, you'd be surprised. There's many a canny wheeler and indeed dealer in our dressing room. And I'm not talking cards. I'm talking summat else. I'm talking money, a close working knowledge of which is very much part and parcel of the game these days.

So I'm round at Rodders's flat and we're going through the year's spond situation. And it doesn't make particularly appetising reading.

Aside from me basic, things is looking decidedly Third World. Thanks to my team-mates' total inability to score goals and win matches, this year's bonuses are pants. And me off-the-park earnings, that little bit of jam that your modern-day professional relies on to make all them sacrifices worthwhile, have been about as extensive as the President Milosevic fan club.

Talking of which reminds me, last I heard of the Milosevic geezer, he was falling over his own feet and gobbing at the punters over at the Villa. Now he's President of Transylvania and getting half a ton of hardware dropped on his bonce every night. Which, when you think about it, he must have got well used to playing in front of the Holte End every other week.

Anyhow, Rodders lays out the full extent of the misery on his coffee table. It reads:

1. Endorsements 37.50.

'You what?' I says. '37.50? What about the boot deal? I thought the Ultima Tackle was a spond-printing machine?'

'It was, boy,' says Rodders. 'But if you remember, you lost the deal when you chucked your boots at the referee after you was sent off at The Dell.'

'Good publicity that, Rodds, surely,' I says. 'That picture was in all the papers.'

'Trouble was,' he says. 'They was Adidas Predators you was using at the time.'

'That's as maybe,' I says. 'But what about the golf equipment deal?'

'Cancelled, after that incident at the charity pro-celebrity challenge at Sunningdale, when you threatened to wrap your three iron round Dale Winton's head after he out-drove you on the 13th.'

'I should've got an increase for doing a public service,' I says. 'So who's got the golf deal now?'

'Mickey Scanlan.'

'Grandad?' I yells. 'Have they ever seen him on a golf course? Last time we played the geezer lost 17 balls on the practice putting green.'

It got worse.

2. Broadcasting fees 82.75.

Now this I find very hard to believe. First off, there was the regular slot on BBC Hereford and Worcester's late night phone-in. Surely that should've kept me bank manager busy counting.

'Look upon it as a learning experience rather than a money-making venture,' says Rodds.

'Oh aye and what did I learn? Apart from the fact in the future I shouldn't get out of bed for less than a century.'

'That's not fair,' says Rodds. 'You learned lots. For instance, you learned that your skills perhaps may not really be tailored to a future broadcasting career. A lesson money could not have bought.'

That is as maybe. But what I required off of Rodney was an explanation as to why my legendary appearance on the Feel-the-Sportsman round of They Think It's All Over did not net a long 'un at the very least.

'If you recall, boy, after a post-show party lasting into the early hours at the Atlantic Bar and Grill you promised to donate your fee to a good cause after Rory McGrath accused all footballers of being tight-wads who never give a penny to help those less well-off than themselves.'

'Did I?' I says, not, in the strictest sense of the word, remembering a bleedin' thing. 'What good cause?'

'The very best of causes,' says Rodds. 'You picked up the tab.'

3. Sundries 4,795

Now that's more like it.

'Not the most reliable of income, though boy,' says Rodds, clocking the grin spreading across my features. 'That was the tip-off fee from the People you received for giving them the story about Mr Chairman, the School of Excellence and the close interest he takes in the development of the under-10s.'

Not very reliable? Dunno what he's talking about. Plenty more where that come from, what with Carmine, the waitress from the Allied Dunbar suite and the unusual use of Old Demo's training ground cones. Then there's Wattsy and Marco the G-Man's regular little pre-match drop to the dressing room. Not to mention the 15,000 debt the Bosnians ran up at the milkshake counter of their local McDonald's. Oh yes, yours truly is very much in the money for '99.

'It's a dangerous game, shopping your team-mates,' says Rodds, sensing my mounting excitement. 'What I'd rather recommend is a bit of trimming back on your expenses, cut back a little on your outgoings. I mean, surely boy, you can restrict yourself to just one new watch a week?'

One new watch a week? Sod that. What's the People's number again?

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