Last week pictures emerged of the Aston Villa youngster Jack Grealish asleep on a road in Tenerife.
If he wasn’t a professional footballer this would be a non-story. After all, a 19-year old testing his alcohol tolerance to the limit while on holiday, is not exactly an uncommon occurrence.
Yet this hasn’t stopped a lot of pious ex-pros wading in to criticise Grealish and pretend that this is a serious issue. If the player was still doing this when he was 29 then there might be a problem, but right now he’s a teenager who’s made a mistake. He needs nothing more than a clip round the ear from his manager Tim Sherwood and to be told not to do it again.
It seems likely that such escapades would not have been foreign to Sherwood himself during his younger days, so hopefully some slack will be cut. Indeed, there are few adults who haven’t woken up at some point in a mystery location, with no recollection of the night before.
There are not many areas of football journalism where I can truly offer an educated opinion based on years of research and experience, but falling asleep in public while drunk is certainly one of them.
Once when living in Croydon my drunken eyelids were firmly shut before my train home had even departed Victoria. Needless to say I slept through my stop and had to be awoken by a porter having reached the end of the line.
Though it was immediately obvious that I wasn’t at East Croydon station I naively assumed that I was still in the Greater London vicinity and nonchalantly got into a cab and ordered him to take me back to CR0.
It was only when he responded with a surprised “How much money have you got mate?” that I started to doubt my chances of getting home, though the sound of seagulls probably should have given it away. I was in Chichester some 50 miles from home and with the last train back having long departed. With hardly any money on me, there was no choice but to kip at the station until morning.
At one point a tramp - a proper one, rather than a temporary one like myself - asked me what had happened. I told him my story as he swayed around clutching a can of Carlsberg Export, before he summed up how hard I’d fallen with his response, “Yeah, I thought you looked a bit p***ed.”
On another occasion as a student in Leeds I fell asleep on a bus and was thrown off somewhere on the outskirts of the city, with no idea where I was or how to get home.
I walked for what much have easily been an hour through a seemingly never-ending residential area before finally coming across a kebab shop. I went in, explained what had happened and told the man behind the counter that I needed to get home.
“This isn’t a taxi office mate.” he said. It was a fair point but in my desperate state I was able to respond with a true moment of inspiration. “Hang on, don’t you do deliveries?” The bloke nodded. I went through my pocked and slapped about £15 of loose change on the counter. “Well deliver me home then.”
The man thought about it for a second before turning to his colleague who was standing behind him. “Jamal, get the car.” he said. I’d never been prouder of myself.
Such incidents were a regular occurrence for years. When living in Wimbledon I became intimately acquainted with the Surrey countryside, while a move to South East London only served to increase my knowledge of rural Kent. Eventually I settled on the Thanet coast and as I’m practically at the end of the line, there’s very little that can go wrong unless I accidentally manage to get myself on the Eurostar or a ferry.
Last week James Brown - the head honcho here at Sabotage Times - asked listeners to his excellent radio show where the worst place they’d fallen asleep when drunk was. He was deluged with replies.
It just goes to show that Grealish’s ‘crime’ is not that serious. Yes, he’s a professional footballer and with that privilege comes responsibility, but it doesn’t mean he can’t make a mistake like everyone else does. He’ll no doubt make more - as long as he learns along the way and improves as a player it doesn’t matter.
Here’s the best responses to James’ request.