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The Diary of a Pro Footballer: The Truth About Footballers and Money

by Rohan Ricketts
5 February 2013 31 Comments

Beckham's bit for charity may be a tax dodge while Liverpool could be investigated for match fixing - here a professional reveals the real relationship between footballers and money...

diamond encrusted footballs

Former Arsenal, Spurs and Wolves midfielder reveals how his life was transformed when he went from a council estate in Brixton to Premier Leage stardom.

When I was growing up in Brixton it seemed there were three options in life: be unemployed, go to prison or die young. A lot of people I grew up with aren’t around anymore: some of them were in shootings or stabbings but most of them seemed to have a fetish for going to jail.

When I dreamt of becoming a footballer the money was never the prime objective but as you get closer to it you realise the finances could change your family’s fortunes forever. We weren’t well off at all. My dad was an electrical engineer and my mum worked as a secretary. We lived in a block of flats between Stockwell and Brixton – an area fuelled with drugs.

I remember I would get calls from people who were slightly outside of the family, who hadn’t spoke to me in ages, who wanted to know how I was doing and stuff like that. My dad always reckoned that they had ulterior motives.

All people would say to me is “Oh, you’re gonna get the money” and wouldn’t even show an interest in the football. The one’s who did were the ones who really cared, but some of the others would just be waiting around until I got the finances.

I had a good friend who started taking cocaine and the next thing I know he’s asking me for money. I refused because I thought he was just going to spend it all on drugs. Then I found out he was trying to set up somebody in my family to get kidnapped. I only found out because he told too many people.

One time we were in a West End club and dancing to that song ‘Make It Rain’ by Fat Joe when some players started throwing money in the air.

I remember my first pay cheque clearly. I had just played six games in a row and was mucking around in the gym with Jamie Redknapp when he said “Little man, you’re going to get some money! It comes in tomorrow”. I was so shocked when I got my pay slip because I got more that month then my dad gets in a year. That night I was lying in bed awake stunned. At four in the morning I had to go down to the cash machine to check my balance to see if it was real. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

For the first time I could do all the things I wanted to do, help out my mum and dad, my sister, my friends. But, at the same time, it was dangerous because there’s no manual out there for people who get it all so suddenly. I wasn’t even living at home, so when I got so much money I was allowed to do what I wanted to do, rather than what was right.

I bought a car, a black C-Class Mercedes and a Cartier watch. Then I went away to Turkey with the England under 21s and Jermain Defoe showed me some jewellery he’d just bought – so I got the number of his jeweller and straight away ordered  two diamond encrusted rings and two earrings. I’d spent almost half of my wages in two weeks on different fickle ‘toys’ as I call them.

It was very difficult, especially when you find yourself surrounded by a lot of yes men. One or two of my friends thought I was spending a bit recklessly but they wouldn’t say anything because they didn’t want to upset me or go against me. But maybe looking back at it, they should have said something to me because when you get so much money and you’re a young boy, who’s in a young frame of mind it can be dangerous because nothing’s off limits to you. You can do anything.

I felt pretty decadent after that spree but that was nothing compared to what I saw others get up to. One time we were in a West End club and dancing to that song ‘Make It Rain’ by Fat Joe when some players started throwing money in the air. There must have been a grand scattered all over the dance floor. My mates from home joined in until reality kicked in and they tried to scoop up as much money as they could.

I know for a fact it’s happened to a few Premier League players – they’ll go back to a girl’s house but she’ll have planned for some other guys to pay a little visit too.

There are players out there who are more motivated by money than pride or glory. Especially nowadays, you see a lot of young players who are just very happy with the lifestyle and the money they’re getting.

I once saw a player actually burn money. This Welsh player was really drunk in a club and some other guy was giving it large so the player says “Look, I don’t give a fuck mate, money doesn’t mean anything to me, I’m a footballer” and then he set light to a £50 in the guy’s face.

When you’re a young, single guy with a lot of money and you’re living away from home and your family, you get bored. At Spurs some of the guys I was around would take up their time by going to the casino and strip clubs. When I was at Wolves I saw a player lose a month’s wages in a day. £15,000 gone. Just like that.

With all the money and privilege in a footballer’s life it’s easy to lose sight of your roots but equally it’s dangerous to go back there too.

A few years ago, I drove down to Brixton. It was late at night and I was on the phone in my car when two guys I knew came over to talk to me. It was all cool and then all of a sudden, one of them reaches in and grabs the keys. I jumped out and his mate put a gun in my back and said “don’t move or I’ll bun you”, which in Jamaica means shoot. They forced me back into the car, held me there for an hour and took £300, my jewellery and my phone. They wanted to go to my parent’s house and clean that out too but I told them not to though because there was babies there.

I couldn’t go to the police because if I did they said they’d target my family. I’ve seen them since but there’s nothing I can do – I’ve got to live my life. I’m a professional athlete but these guys have nothing to lose, they’re just young stupid guys. Unfortunately I was born there so they can walk around there and it’s cool but I walk round there and I’m worse off.

It’s not just blokes that want to get you though, some women do too. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, you can meet a girl and she looks nice but she’s got an ulterior motive. I know for a fact it’s happened to a few Premier League players – they’ll go back to a girl’s house but she will have planned for some other guys to pay a little visit too.

The thing is I don’t want to lose that normalcy. I want to be able to go home, buy food, see friends and chill out but once you become a player you become a target. It’s funny, if I don’t go back home, they say “he thinks he’s too good”, but if you do go back, they say “let’s get him”.

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Martin Searle 12:21 pm, 25-Nov-2010

Superb article, Rohan.

biff bifferson 12:38 pm, 25-Nov-2010

top stuff! there's a similar story to the £50 one attributed to a young ryan giggs. some lad saying 'i can do what you do', he burns a £50 saying, 'can you do this?'

Matt 12:56 pm, 25-Nov-2010

Nice article, man. Funny, I heard a very similar £50-burning story from a football-playing friend of mine, about Kieron Dyer. Sounds like there's a note-burning epidemic going on.

Pinju 1:15 pm, 25-Nov-2010

The burning bullseye story I've heard too...a certain semi-well known footballer who got into a bit of trouble flaunting the cash in a Bristol nightclub. Always was a bit of a knob, by all acocunts.

Andy 1:43 pm, 25-Nov-2010

Not and ideal situation for you mate but another highly enjoyable read nonetheless. Nice style too. Last sentence a killer.

Shneakyoleary 2:52 pm, 25-Nov-2010

I think it's a disgrace and you all get far to much. The sooner caps and laws come in the better. Enjoyed the read though fair play

Bob 3:04 pm, 25-Nov-2010

Great article showing the dark side of fame and wealth and the vunerability of footballers. The statement in the article that stuck out for me was, "But, at the same time, it was dangerous because there’s no manual out there for people who get it all so suddenly." Actually there is a manual out there. An ex police officer called Andy Redhead at a company called Sec-Tech wrote it! Great article. Thanks.

Leazes Terrace 3:04 pm, 25-Nov-2010

Great article Rohan. We have had the £50 note one from Kieron Dyer in his Newcastle United days. You're welcome up Newcastle any time, we promise not to rob you (probably).

Peacock 4:02 pm, 25-Nov-2010

I like this article, very honest. I support & love Manchester United but the wealth/hard work ratio of players nowadays makes no sense. Non-League football seems to offer less wealth & more effort. More passion & excitement too. Rohan's article shows the pitfalls that lie around for players, is refreshingly honest & fair play to him.

Dan 4:31 pm, 25-Nov-2010

Top class article,you seem to be down to earth and that is the main reason why footballers lose themself, or respect

Jeff Maysh 4:54 pm, 25-Nov-2010

Mr Ricketts is really finding his feet as a writer now, I see. Really, really good.

Nick 5:40 pm, 25-Nov-2010

I doubt Leighton Baines or Tony Hibbert have ever burnt money or blown crazy amounts on bling. I also reckon they can go back to their hometown of Huyton (every bit as rough as Brixton) and not get carjacked. It's big of Ricketts to admit to being an utter fool when he was a bit younger, but if he was still earning big bucks in the Premiership could he honestly say he wouldn't still be the same? Oh, and the Welsh footballer just has to be Bellamy.

Dan 6:25 pm, 25-Nov-2010

Great stuff. The £50 note player in question (i'm told by a reliable source) was Craig Bellamy when at Newcastle. A released youth team player was giving him some verbals and he just took out a 50 and set it alight in the guys face. I'm sure it's been done by a few 'players' though.

Jamie Tosh 7:45 pm, 25-Nov-2010

Don't want to be too critical of the article because it's great to read the honesty in your writing. I did find it a bit difficult to read. Didn't flow and lacked any lessons for youngsters so they don't fall into the trap you did. Think community not portraying life as a footballer. Come it coming. Goo

MD 10:48 pm, 25-Nov-2010

Shame the Dons never signed you!

Sal 10:48 am, 26-Nov-2010

I couldn't give a monkey's about football and recognised few of the "famous" names mentioned but the first sentence caught my eye and the article was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end. It confirmed my opinion that footballers are over-paid but gave me some insight to their perspective. Thanks, whoever you are!

Chelsea Gourmet 12:04 pm, 26-Nov-2010

I've seen Rohan Ricketts before in a pub in Clapham, he's a great lad who doesn't feel too Big to have a convo with the average fan. As for the burning of the notes its def Craig Bellamy but I remember Jonathon Woodgate doing it, and he frequently used to flush money down the toilet

biff bifferson 12:44 pm, 26-Nov-2010

to be fair, why would ricketts be 'too big' for a chat? i've never seen him before this column. when jonathon woodgate was 'stepping out' with that girl off big brother (they may still be) they used to go for some post-ale nantucket fried chicken in new cross (the one on lewisham way, next to the goldsmiths cafe, venue fans). the fella who ran the place told me woodgate used to ask for a discount.

Yankster 3:43 pm, 26-Nov-2010

Come play in the States. That will solve your "too much money" problems, unless you take up basketball, baseball or that other football.

Jonesy 5:15 pm, 26-Nov-2010

Class mate. Anyone can act the cunt with a few bob. Hope you get involved with younger players. We've got Marcus Gayle down at AFC Wimbledon running our reserves and he is all about the game. In countless conversations with him he has never once mentioned what he's earned (or not) once. He just talks about dedication, pride and honour.

Blammo 12:05 pm, 27-Nov-2010

Would you have spoken so freely about your experiences had your footballing career not gone so downhill? Post-Wolves it has not been particularly stellar and, to be cynical, is this not just the lament of a man whose athletic ability burnt out?

Jamesy 4:02 pm, 29-Nov-2010

I definitely heard it was a young Ryan Giggs who burnt the £50.

Craig Bellamy 9:46 am, 1-Dec-2010

It wasn't me boyo! ;)

Jasethesoundman 10:15 am, 1-Dec-2010

Top article Ro. Honest and articulate. Shame there aren't many other footballers in touch with the man on the street. peace.

Brooklyn 1:20 pm, 2-Dec-2010

Great article! Should be required reading for all young pro athletes (and probably some performers/musicians/actors, too). It's nice to hear you helped your mum and dad out, too, and that you still visited the old neighborhood.

Singwolf 2:45 pm, 2-Jan-2011

Great article. Good that you kept your head! Best wishes to you.

Paul McMullen 5:27 pm, 8-Mar-2011

Very well written article. Hope you have a great year Rohan

Sahir 1:38 pm, 27-Apr-2011

Amazing article Rohan I've heard Brad Friedel talk about this stuff,he told an uncle of mine and i have know since

Bobbi 1:30 pm, 30-Oct-2011

Rohan has also done a lot of charity work and yangstr I think you'll find rohan spent a few seasons in the mls get your facts right mate

NatureGuy 1:02 pm, 5-Feb-2013

Good first-person accounting...I enjoyed the read. The expression "fame & fortune have their price" is certainly true for many professional athletes---not just for footballers. (I'm thinking NBA, among others.)

Ransom ankoh 11:48 pm, 20-Feb-2013

I want 2 be a footballer i need help, i dream everyday of becomin a pro star, pls jst help me God bless amen

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