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Countdown king relishing PFA role

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Paul Fletcher | 14:55 UK time, Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Burnley defender Clarke Carlisle hit the headlines earlier this year when he twice triumphed on Channel Four quiz show Countdown before succumbing to an agonising 89-86 defeat third time around.

The 31-year-old still has the teapot he won but has decided it will never see active service. Instead, it remains stashed away in a cupboard, destined to remain a pristine souvenir of the time when Carlisle fulfilled a lifetime ambition.

"I love puzzles and word problems so I really enjoyed Countdown but once you do something like that it is really hard to shake it off," Carlisle told me. "It does forever stick."

That would be a shame because there is much more to Carlisle than taxing conundrums (he led in his third Countdown appearance until the final conundrum of the show) and family-friendly banter with host Jeff Stelling.

He left home at 16 the day after he finished school and moved into digs close to Bloomfield Road at his first club Blackpool. Carlisle became a father for the first time at 18 and, as a QPR player in his early 20s, battled alcoholism. Hungover on the team coach heading to a fixture at Colchester, he was ordered off by manager Ian Holloway and later had a spell in the Sporting Chance clinic as he overcame his demons.

Clarke Carlisle in action for former club QPR.

Carlisle suffered from alcholism during his time at QPR. Photo: Getty Image

Carlisle has played in the top three divisions, represented the England Under-21 side, suffered two serious injuries, one of which kept him out of the game for two years, and experienced both promotion and relegation during a career that has so far taken him to Blackpool, QPR, Leeds, Watford, Luton and now the Clarets.

He also won a television quiz in 2002 that saw him named Britain's brainiest footballer and is in the first year of a degree in professional sports writing and broadcasting at Staffordshire University run by the Professional Footballers' Association. Until recently he wrote an insightful and engaging blog that took the reader beyond the anodyne thoughts of many ghost-written columns.

"My mum tells me that I have crammed the life of a 50-year-old into my 31 years," said Carlisle. "I have been through these things and lived to tell the tale and I think I am a better man for it."

They are experiences that give Carlisle the confidence that he will be successful in his new role as chairman of the PFA.

"For a lot of professionals I will be able to have empathy as opposed to sympathy with the experiences that they are going through," he said.

Carlisle had been on the PFA's management committee since 2004. It is made up of professionals from all four divisions and includes Phil Neville, Jason Roberts, Brede Hangeland, Zesh Rehman and Darren Moore. When previous chairman Chris Powell retired, Carlisle put his name forward and in mid-November it was announced that he had been successful.

"It was a fully democratic process," added Carlisle, who defeated one unnamed player in the ballot. "The only other time I had been that nervous was on my wedding day."

When I caught up with Carlisle he was still working out exactly what his new role will involve. He is in regular contact with Powell and chief executive Gordon Taylor to flesh out the details, but reckons a lot of it will involve him acting as a figurehead, providing the union's opinion and perspective on any issues that arise. It will be more time intensive than the quarterly meetings held by the management committee but Carlisle is confident that it will not distract his focus away from Burnley's push for an instant return to the Premier League.

After spending nearly an hour listening to Carlisle talk about the role of unions in the modern world, I have no doubt that he will represent the PFA with dignity, intelligence and assurance.

I asked Carlisle whether he thought that in our current climate of austerity he thought unions would become more active and important.

He answered: "With mass tension and pressure on the economy and the finances of the nation, and cuts here, there and everywhere, there will be rumblings in workforces the nation over - and worldwide.

"Unions are being called upon to make sure that the people they represent get what is just and fair. That is very understandable. I sincerely hope other unions are as well prepared and trustworthy as ours."

Rightly or wrongly, I always tend to think of unions as representing the blue collar worker, battling for the rights of the working man. It might seem as though the idea of a union to represent players with the potential to earn vast sums is no longer necessary. Carlisle, who reckons players are often a vulnerable and easy target for financial exploitation, is very robust in his defence of the PFA, pointing out that everyone should be entitled to a defence of their rights as employees.

"The average career is only eight years and only a very, very few earn enough to not have to work again," he said.

Clarke Carlisle in action for Burnley.

Carlisle is a mainstay in the centre of the Burnley defence. Photo: Getty Images

"The union has a duty of care for the individual whether earning £1m or £20,000 a year and problems can strike across the board whether illness, injury, family related or other off-field issues - the union is there to make sure everyone is protected and covered."

There is no fixed tenure for Carlisle's period as chairman and Powell filled the role for five years before he retired from playing. Carlisle is keen to use his time in the role to continue to move the game closer to the ideal of what he described to me as 'total inclusion'.

"I'm really proud of my involvement in the discrimination campaigns of 'Kick It Out' and 'Show Racism The Red Card'," said Carlisle. "Anything that helps to break down the barriers of Racism, Sexism, Islamaphobia, Homophobia, anti-Semitism and any prejudice in between, is a worthy cause. Any help I can give along the way is the least I can do."

Another area of importance to Carlisle is ensuring young players have the life skills to handle the pressures of being a professional footballer. There was very little training for Carlisle, who was thrown into the first team at 17 and expected to behave accordingly, to constructively deal with having both money and spare time. The PFA now places a strong emphasis on education and Carlisle has taken advantage of the opportunity to study for a degree.

He attended a residential week of face-to-face learning in June and returns to Stafford once a month in addition to studying online. He has so far interviewed referee Howard Webb, cricketer Graeme Swann and sports agent Casey Wasserman, who was part of the US's failed bid to host the 2022 World Cup, as well as writing several match previews and reports.

I suspect that Carlisle might make an excellent journalist when he retires; his easy manner and sharp mind a dangerous combination as he tries to tease information out of his interviewees (perhaps appropriately, one of the Countdown conundrums he solved was VINEWRITE, which he recognised as INTERVIEW). He interviewed Wasserman with a definite angle in mind. He wanted to write a piece that would align the US alongside England in their opposition to Fifa's World Cup voting process.

"I was asking him some very leading questions but afterwards when I looked at his answers he had given me a fresh angle that I had not thought of," said Carlisle. "I wanted to be quite sensationalist about it but he provided a very constructive argument about the whole bidding process."

Carlisle often spends the same amount of time it has taken him to write the bulk of his piece staring at his computer trying to conjure up a profound and insightful way to finish his article.

If he shows the same thought and care in his new role at the PFA then I am sure the organisation will benefit from the wisdom of football's Countdown king.

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Wow! Never heard of the bloke till now, but am very impressed. An inspiration to alcoholics, young dads, aspiring football players and now me! As you say PF, this guy has a good future ahead of him. Maybe greater things that journalism (if there is such a thing). All the best to him.

  • Comment number 3.

    Never heard of Clarke Carlisle? Really?!

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Good read Paul.

    I subscribe to ClaretsPlayer, which has a lot of behind the scenes interviews and Clarke Carlisle is a regular contributor, even being co-commentator for Burnley's games when he was suspended earlier this season. He comes across as an intelligent, witty and quite laid-back character.

    I'm sure he'll be a big success as PFA Chairman.

  • Comment number 6.

    Nice to see an ex Leeds player doing well. With regard to inclusivity, maybe Clarke can start his new role by getting the BBC to provide women's match results on Final Score. We get told the results of the Scottish 3rd division, which is pub football, but not the Women's Premier League.

  • Comment number 7.

    I really liked Clarke Carlisle whenever I saw him on the telly. Plus he was good at Countdown. Shame he had a shocker for Burnley the game after. Good luck to him!

    http://www.inofftheghost.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 8.

    I doubt he was an alcoholic. Being hungover on a bus doesn't make you an alcoholic...clearly he just had a couple of lambrinis the night before. When people in the media have a drink it gets blown out of all proportion. Alcoholic....don't be ridiculous. Bloody good bloke though, he'll make a superb Chairman.

  • Comment number 9.

    Awful footballer though.

  • Comment number 10.

    Olly, I very much doubt that Clark would consent to have himself described as an alcoholic unless he actually was. Given that he successfully battled his way through it, it seems he's happy to acknowledge that it was a bad period of his life, but he made it through. If you also check the link: In the end, the Sporting Chance clinic saw him through. "It's a period of deep reflection and you're digging all the dirt inside," Carlisle says of his journey out of the darkness. "When you're at that point, there's a lot of dirt." Numpty.

  • Comment number 11.

    Whilst I knew who Clarke Carlisle was for several years, it was not until I met the man in a London hotel a couple of months ago, I was struck by his presence.

    In an age of of the modern footballer, the glitz, the glamour, the "I can do no wrong" Clarke was warm, considered, self analysing, a realist and well read.

    I think he would make a wonderful PFA Chairman, providing an inspiration to the journeymen of football, demonstrating how you can rise from a fall and then articulating the way forward in a thought-provoking, well-rounded manner.

    Congrats to Clarke

  • Comment number 12.

    Now then - many thanks for the comments so far.

    Olly - as VillasTommyJohnson pointed out, it was a lot more than the media spinning a heavy night or two on the ales. Clarke Carlisle had a drink problem and fully admits it. He told me it lasted two-to-three years but the fact he has come through it is the most important thing and it is now something from which he can draw strength.

    Whether or not he is any good as a central defender is a more subjective issue!

    ashley - you make a very good point. It is perhaps something I should have outlined more clearly in the article. Yes, he is very intelligent but also came across as being extremely well-mannered and polite in addition to generous with his time.

  • Comment number 13.

    While I have no doubt that Carlisle is probably a nice fella, and very intelligent, the sycophantic way he is dealt with by interviewers continues to grate.

    At QPR, a club that took a punt on him at a time when Blackpool were descending through the leagues and turned him into an England Under 21 international, he missed 18 months of action with a knee injury during which time the club rightly paid his wages and for his treatment. Then after returning to action he missed another chunk of football, again under full pay, while he dried out after turning to drink. QPR stood by him and paid him in full throughout this period, at a time when the club was absolutely skint.

    Our reward for this was Carlisle refusing to sign a new contract and signing for Leeds on a free transfer, ostensibly to be near his family in the north. Nothing wrong with that, perfectly entitled to leave at the end of the deal although perhaps QPR could have expected some loyalty from a player to whom they had paid a Championship wage while in League One and in administration for three years, two of which he couldn't play because he was too injured or too drunk.

    Anyway he went on his way, and actually got a reasonable reception from QPR fans when he returned with Leeds that season. Nine months later, remember having said that the only reason he was leaving QPR was to be near his family in the north, he pitched up at that well known northern outpost - WATFORD!

    Quite apart from this flagrant mickey taking of QPR's good will, never once mentioned in interviews which always focus on the fact he went on Countdown, this is also a footballer who consistently undermines his ability to perform to the best of his ability by maintaining a heavy smoking habit. What a terrific example to set to young fans at the QPR Player of the Year dinner during his time with us to sit at his table puffing away all night.

    Two sides to every story I suppose.

  • Comment number 14.

    He played for us for a couple of seasons at Watford and, had injury not gotten in the way, could have been a very useful asset towards us surviving that league.

    There could be worse role models in the leagues and the combination of his background and his new, deserved position should give him a lot of success.

    Congrats and good luck!

  • Comment number 15.

    I hope he was still drunk when he had that superman-esque t-shirt on..

    Seems a bit of a breath of fresh air in modern football.. honest being the main reason for that.. I don't agree with his take on the short career bit and very few earn enough never to work again.. I never understand why this subject should even be brought up.. Having a football career then going into some kind of work after is always deemed to be some kind of hardship in this country

  • Comment number 16.

    Spot on JackQPR was just going to post something similar.
    Maybe the person who wrote this article should interview Ian Holloway and ask him how he felt after looking after Clarke through 2 long layoff's and helping him by getting him into the clinic to help him out, off his own back.....and then to see him in north London not long after leaving to go up north to be near his family. Then again Ian is a very decent man so my guess is he wouldn't bad mouth him.
    All QPR fans wished him well when he left.....now it is fair to say they don't really think that much of him.
    To me the big shame about this story is that when any footballer shows any sort of intelligence and the ability to think and speak for himself he stands out like a sore thumb.... how sad!
    So, good luck Clarke but don't expect a good reception at Loftus road. Which also stands out because they normally always welcome back ex players….

  • Comment number 17.

    JackQPR & Shane - first up, I didn't know that Carlisle used to smoke, or, indeed, whether he still does. As a role model, he should not be doing that at presentation evenings with young supporters there. I do not know whether this came during his period as an alcoholic and what the situation is now.

    As for leaving QPR to head north and then pitching up at Watford - if I was a Hoops supporter I would not be happy about it. No doubt. Especially after the club had stood by him. The next time I see him I will definitely ask him about that, try to find out whether there is anything more than someone trying to pull a fast one.

  • Comment number 18.

    As Shane says, there are so very few well-educated, well-read footballers that those who are are considered exceptional. While I admit that Carlisle may be the prime choice among professional footballers, I very much doubt he would be the first port of call for any other chairman's position. Saying that the PFA now places a focus on education for players is something, though. I'd be interested to know more about that. How do they go about it? What do they offer? Extrapolating from the one example we have here, do they offer any courses that are not sport-related? Education for education's sake, something on which our country seems to place little or no value these days, which is a terrible shame.

    It is strange in a way to think that there are professional footballers out there earning as little as £20'000 p.a.; we're so used to the millionaire Spice Boys of the Premiership we all forget about the hard-working lads in the lower leagues. Makes you think twice about that childhood ambition. Nobody wants to be toiling away in obscurity their whole career, whatever the field.

  • Comment number 19.

    Quite a few bitter QPR fans on here knocking the man. You're not the first to have a player do that to you. At Preston we had Ricardo Fuller; we sent him to the same specialist Alan Shearer used in Florida, to solve a knee problem. He said he wanted to repay North End the following season. He did this by signing for Stoke a few weeks later. Cheers, Ricardo. So get over it, Hoops fans...that's just football. Most players just don't have the bottle to be honest about going, thus incurring the wrath of us fans who appreciate no-nonsense honesty.

    As for Clarke...comes across as a decent bloke. Pains me to say that as he's an ex-Lasher and currently a Dingle...despite being a Preston fan.

  • Comment number 20.

    Good luck to Clarke Carlisle in his role as PFA Chairman. He comes across as intelligent and likable, so I'm sure he'll do well.

    There's mention of his interviewing Casey Wasserman, who was part of the failed U.S. World Cup bid:

    "I was asking him some very leading questions but afterward, when I looked at his answers, he had given me a fresh angle that I had not thought of"

    Anyone got a link to that interview? I'd be interested in the fresh angle....

  • Comment number 21.

    I've got to say that Carlisle is extrememly boring, and spends half a sentence thinking about what synonym he can use for a straight forward word.

    Natural intelligence shines through any way of speaking, it doesn't for me with this chap.

    Also, intelligence is one pre-requisite for a PFA Chairman, Integrity is another. Looking at some of the points made by JackQPR, I wonder if this is prevalent with Mr Carlisle. Is he going to advise players to run out their contracts for the chance of a better wage? Is that all the PFA represents, players milking their careers.

  • Comment number 22.

    Re:# 6. stracepipe
    Not sure this is the correct forum for your suggestion. Do you have any evidence to suggest the Womens Premier League is of a higher standard than the Scottish 3rd Division?

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    @6

    I will try again as the moderators are been typically frisky! The reason why Woman's football scores are not shown is because there is little or no interest in the very poor product that they produce. This is despite repeated attempts by certain media outlets to 'force feed' it to us.

  • Comment number 25.

    3 words...good for him.

  • Comment number 26.

    Agreed JamTay. I think it was your 'domestic' comments that caused offence. Its not about sexism just standard of football. If I'm not starting to sound like Mike Newell...
    Back to Carlisle, I saw him when he was at Blackpool at the start of his career. A classy centre half who looked like he was heading for the top, but never fulfilled his potential for all the reasons mentioned above. He should be an ideal candidate to help highlight the pitfalls facing talented young players.

  • Comment number 27.

    Fair point Grain of Sand, the comment was meant to be tongue in cheek but that doesn't transfer well on the Internet!

    It's a shame that players like Carlisle who are blessed with a certain amount of talent often fall into Alcoholism etc. It must leave a horrible feeling of 'what if' when they retire.

  • Comment number 28.

    Not quite sure how women's football worked its way into this thread.

    tomefccam - very harsh, probably unfair, criticism. I thought he across as very natural. What kind of footballer do you prefer to listen to?

    glowkeeper - I am not sure the interview will be published. It was part of his coursework.

  • Comment number 29.

    @6 The standard of men's pub football is higher than women's football.

    The crowds a probably higher as well.

  • Comment number 30.

    Been quite impressed by Carlisle when I've seen him interviewed. However I wasn't aware of how his time at QPR turned out.

    As for Countdown he was comfortably ahead in the match he eventually lost, but somehow managed to throw it away. Was he perhaps under orders from his club not to spend too much time on the programme?

    http://footballfutbolfitba.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 31.

    An intelligent footballer is a scarce beast and should be preserved. However, if the measure of a Man’s intellect is based on appearances on awful TV shows, successfully completing word puzzles and being able to articulate a sentence without recourse to a cliché, the bar is quite low.

    That said, Carlisle (CC) is a beacon in a green mist of money, low intelligence, overpaid egotistical footballers and I would suggest he put this intellect and new position as Chairman of the PFA to good use. Why not put forward a motion that players put some of that wealth to better use, endorse a new PFA motion that footballers earning above a certain threshold put 10% of earnings towards grassroots football, or children with health problems who cannot play the game, or a good cause in general. Would certainly help not only the benefactors but may actually result in people warming to footballers once again. Just a thought CC!

    Now in responce to OLLY's Point above:

    CC being hung-over on the team bus prior to a league game is indeed demonstrative of alcoholism.

    He was supposed to be a professional, therefore, to drink and be drunk the night (in order to be hung-over) before a game is at best indicative of someone who is unable to discipline himself and refrain from booze (at the expense of his career) and at worst an alcoholic who cannot refrain. Neither traits are commendable.

    Personally, I think Best, Gascoigne and other flawed 'geniuses' should not be role-models or even bestowed with the level of praise they receive, it sends out the wrong signals to aspiring youngsters (I appreciate I am in the minority here mind).

    If one has a booze-filled life you should not be a sportsperson, try being a rock star or a writer or an artist.

    I prefer Alan Smith's Zero-Tolerance approach to booze. That's how I want my footballers straight-edged and I want my rock stars smashed, so smashed they forget to turn up for the gig. Simple.

    Thanks for reading.

    WM

  • Comment number 32.

    #28 Paul Fletcher.

    I'm judging him by his TV appearances, and what he puts out there as his media image. Obviously this can vary greatly to what he is like on a personal, 1-1 level. For more info, please see the suprisingly eloquent Joey Barton.

    The kind of footballer I like to listen to? Someone with a bit of intellegence, who doesn't use footballing cliches and doesnt need a thesaurus to put a sentence together a la Clarke.

    Some names? Gary Speed, Kevin Phillips, Steve McManaman is one who gets overlooked, David Ginola struggles to get a look in. Southgate talks a lot of sense.

  • Comment number 33.

    not a good choice

  • Comment number 34.

    32. At 1:25pm on 16 Dec 2010, tomefccam wrote:
    #28 Paul Fletcher.

    I'm judging him by his TV appearances, and what he puts out there as his media image. Obviously this can vary greatly to what he is like on a personal, 1-1 level. For more info, please see the suprisingly eloquent Joey Barton.

    ------------------------------

    The reason why Joey Barton might appear 'surprisingly eloquent' is that he has had plenty of practice recycling his agents/lawyers dribble about how he is a changed man, and needs another chance etc etc. When in reality he is nothing more than a limited footballer with thuggish tendencies.

  • Comment number 35.

    I had the pleasure of working at Watford FC during Clarke's time there and found him to be truly unique in the world of professional football.

    It was no coincidence that he won Community Ambassador every year he was there as a result of the number of hours he would commit to helping disadvantaged young people. It would not be uncommon for him to be seen on a deprived estate on a Thursday night helping run a free football session, or turning up at a local school to talk about the dangers of alcohol by calling on personal experience.

    He was and continues to be nothing short of inspirational in a world where so many role models only seem to disappoint in their behaviour and attitude - Rooney, Terry, Cole. I have no doubt Clarke will continue to build on the excellent foundations set by Chris Powell and forge a successful media career when he hangs up his boots. I know for a fact I would rather listen to him than some of the pundits currently on TV who offer nothing more than stating the obvious!

  • Comment number 36.

    Despite being a Burnley fan, I would have much rather seen Phil Neville take this post. Neville is a fantastic role model for any youngster and he is a true professional in every sense of the word.

    Clarke has done really well with sorting his life and career out but it was only a few seasons ago that he fell off the wagon. Clearly he believes he has his habit in order but this could well leave the PFA with egg on their face if there are any future incidents.

  • Comment number 37.

    36. At 4:33pm on 16 Dec 2010, Matt wrote:
    Despite being a Burnley fan, I would have much rather seen Phil Neville take this post. Neville is a fantastic role model for any youngster and he is a true professional in every sense of the word.

    Clarke has done really well with sorting his life and career out but it was only a few seasons ago that he fell off the wagon. Clearly he believes he has his habit in order but this could well leave the PFA with egg on their face if there are any future incidents.
    ------------------------------
    Yes Phil Neville that excellent role model, who on more than one occasion stated that he will always give a winger a kick (Reyes). Phil Neville is the type of neanderthal that English football could do with getting rid of. Still at least Allardyce is out of a job!

  • Comment number 38.

    32. At 1:25pm on 16 Dec 2010, tomefccam wrote:
    #28 Paul Fletcher.

    I'm judging him by his TV appearances, and what he puts out there as his media image. Obviously this can vary greatly to what he is like on a personal, 1-1 level. For more info, please see the suprisingly eloquent Joey Barton.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Joey Barton is not an intelligent man. Surely his behaviour on and off the field is a clear indication of that to anybody? He is a simple-minded thug who then does the classic reaction of feeling sorry for himself and attempting to elicit sympathy from others for his own destructive actions. Intelligent people do not put out cigars in people's eyes or casually assault team mates, opponents and members of the public.

  • Comment number 39.

    37. At 4:40pm on 16 Dec 2010, JamTay1 wrote:
    ------------------------------
    Yes Phil Neville that excellent role model, who on more than one occasion stated that he will always give a winger a kick (Reyes). Phil Neville is the type of neanderthal that English football could do with getting rid of. Still at least Allardyce is out of a job!
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    Do you have exact quotes from Phil Neville where he says that he deliberately tries to foul or injure other players? Or are you just recalling the aftermath of Man Utd v Arsenal games and what happened with Reyes, and providing your own interpretation of it?

    I agree with Matt the Burnley fan, whenever I have heard Philip Neville interviewed he comes across as an excellent professional and a fine ambassador for the game.

  • Comment number 40.

    Top bloke - good luck to him.

  • Comment number 41.

    #32 and #38

    You haven't grasped my argument. I was stating that the use of long words and trying to be eloquent (which barton does quite well) does not make you intelligent. If you didn't know Barton but heard him speak on TV, you may think hey this guy seems quite sensible and the fact he can string together a well constructed sentence is a positive thing too.

    Then you learn what an abhorrent character he is.

    Carlisle is trying too hard for me, and I don't like it. It seems false, and his true self is probably looking down the empty bottle of vodka 5 years ago. But we all deserve a second chance, just do it without insisting upon yourself

  • Comment number 42.

    39. At 5:02pm on 16 Dec 2010, Someone Less Imaginative Stole My Username wrote:
    37. At 4:40pm on 16 Dec 2010, JamTay1 wrote:
    ------------------------------
    Yes Phil Neville that excellent role model, who on more than one occasion stated that he will always give a winger a kick (Reyes). Phil Neville is the type of neanderthal that English football could do with getting rid of. Still at least Allardyce is out of a job!
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    Do you have exact quotes from Phil Neville where he says that he deliberately tries to foul or injure other players? Or are you just recalling the aftermath of Man Utd v Arsenal games and what happened with Reyes, and providing your own interpretation of it?

    I agree with Matt the Burnley fan, whenever I have heard Philip Neville interviewed he comes across as an excellent professional and a fine ambassador for the game.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    No I am not providing my own interpretation of it. Phil Neville was on 5 Live a few weeks ago talking about it! Every time I have heard him interviewed he comes across as a thug with limited intelligence, which is in keeping with his on the field play.

  • Comment number 43.

    clarke carlisle is this generation's graeme le saux - a footballer who is perceived as intelligent for merely being able to solve a few word puzzles (in le saux's case it was the guardian crossword). to be honest, i think this says a lot more about the state of the english game than it does about those particular individuals. i can't help thinking that english footballers tend to come across as a lot thicker than their european counterparts. i think this is partly because players on the continent nearly all learn one or more foreign languages in anticipation of playing abroad. english players on the other hand are content to remain in their comfort zone for their entire career. i'm not saying that speaking foreign languages necessarily equates to intelligence, but there is no doubt that it is beneficial for cognitive development. similarly, the experience of living abroad and adapting to different situations seems to have a positive effect of broadening horizons and creating more well-rounded individuals. the first youtube video i found of clarke carlisle was of him laughing uncontrollably at a puerile phallic joke; compare that to someone like dimitar berbatov who is effortlessly well-spoken in both english and german (and presumably in bulgarian as well). if you look at the german national team, even the players who are considered thick within germany (podolski, schweinsteiger) can speak at least some rudimentary english, and the majority of the players have passed the abitur (ballack, müller, mertesacker etc). i can't think of a single high-profile english player since steve mcmanaman who has demonstrated the ability to learn a foreign language, and it would be interesting to see as a comparison how many of the current england team passed their a-levels. whilst i do not want to overstress the importance of academic education in football, i do not think it is far-fetched to draw a correlation between the brainless performances of certain english players both on and off the field and their general level of education.

  • Comment number 44.

    @43 You do make a very good point about language skills of English footballers. It always makes me chuckle when I hear criticism of Capello's English when the majority of the Indigenous population can't (Or haven't even tried) to speak a foreign language.

  • Comment number 45.

    Hi Paul - a really interesting blog about a really interesting character. I was brought up in the same town near Preston as Clarke and, although I went to a different school to him, know of him through mutual friends. The idea that he's 'only bright compared to other footballers' is patronising and inaccurate. Clarke did very well at school and I was told (from someone in his school year) that he was Head Boy at Balshaw's. He's certainly not a 'bad boy' to be compared with the likes of Joey Barton.

    Clarke's story to me really hits home abouthow hard it can be for young footballers to deal with the trappings of fame, handling money etc. This is a positive story as Clarke has, unlike many others, come out at the other side and is now making a positive contribution. I hope he continues playing for Burnley this season (especially if he defends like he did last Saturday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

  • Comment number 46.

    Clarke Carlise commentated on Albions game against Blackpool - and he was an absolute muppet - I have never heard such bias before in my life.
    You are probably a better drinker than commentator Clarke - stick to what you are better at.

  • Comment number 47.

    I went to high school with Clarke. He was always up there with the most intelligent pupils in terms of achievement and was well grounded as a person. He was held in high regard with the school appointing him head boy.

    Clearly when he was younger his demons had the better of him. Rather than condemning him for his past actions and choices (which he no doubt regrets) people should wish him well for picking himself up and looking to further himself.

    I am delighted he is setting good foundations for keeping himself busy after his on pitch career comes to an end, whether in the FA, coaching or media. That is something a lot of professional sportsmen appear to struggle to come to terms with.

    I have to admit though, he does sound like he has swallowed a thesaurus!

 

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