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Nicole Carroll: A one woman mission to make a name in football

Can fans accept jail bird players?

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Today is a big day for a player who is currently a free agent looking for his next club. Ex-Wigan striker Marlon King will today be released following his stint inside for sexual assault and actual body harm on a teenager.

King certainly isn’t the first player to go inside during his playing career and most definitely won’t be the last. In 2004, Lee Hughes who at the time played for Albion, was convicted with causing death by dangerous driving and was sentenced to six years imprisonment. After his release in 2007, he signed for Oldham Athletic and currently plays for Notts County. Newcastle’s Joey Barton also spent time in jail in 2008 for common assault and ex-Birmingham City player Jermaine Pennant spent 30 days in jail for drink driving related offences in 2005.

Following King’s jailing, his former employer, Dave Whelan, stated that he didn’t want convicts at his club although he recognised that other clubs would take a chance on players who had committed crimes.

Perhaps Whelan felt he’d been stung by a player in quite a serious way. Although King got sent down for this crime, he arrived at Wigan with other crimes to his name, including a previous time spent at her majesties pleasure in 2002 whilst playing for Gillingham, who paid his wages during the time he was inside. Steve Bruce signed the player at Wigan, and perhaps Whelan felt that Bruce could change King’s ways, following Bruce‘s successful gamble with Jermaine Pennant at Birmingham.

I suppose it’s the same as any person who has committed a crime, has a criminal record, yet wants to find a job. Any employer needs to assess whether the crime and record of that person can be accepted back into their establishment.

Some fans however will find it hard to morally stomach watching and supporting those who have possibly committed serious crimes, for example Lee Hughes who was charged and convicted of causing death by dangerous driving. The problem with fans rejecting having those on the pitch with criminal records is, where does the buck stop? Do we refuse to support all of those with a criminal record, or do we differentiate between the different crimes?

At the time of King’s sentencing, Gordon Taylor of the PFA gave an interview to BBC 5 live stating, “If he serves his time, is contrite and shows a willingness to get his life back on track then that (football) is his skill and that’s the right of every individual.

“There are many managers who have taken on players who’ve had chequered careers both on and off the field. Sometimes they have been able to change them and other times not.

“It’s not going to be an easy situation to accept but I would hope with the passage of time, with the right approach from Marlon and the willingness to get his life back on track then that’s a situation that hopefully may resolve itself and he’s still young enough to be able to do that.”

What is interesting however is that at the time that Gordon Taylor gave the interview, the PFA had received no approach from King or his management to ask for support. I can see the argument behind giving people second chances and allowing them to continue in the profession they have trained in. However, when someone continually flouts the law giving no regards to their employers or fans who contribute to the wages, when do clubs finally decide enough is enough and stop taking a gamble on a player?

With around a week before the league kick off, and two weeks before the Premier League begins again, I’m almost certain that King will be signing for a club somewhere in this country. There is no doubting that he has talent, which is why people have gambled on him in the past despite of his wrong doings. Sadly, however, it would appear that without a real willing to change, history will repeat itself for Marlon King.

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Written by Nicole Carroll

July 29, 2010 at 2:06 pm

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