Rees, love and understanding

Cod Almighty | Article

by Chris Fisher

19 October 2017

Professional footballers must expect to be abused simply for doing their jobs? We should think about the mental toll that exacts.

I'm reflecting on the win at Cheltenham and Harry Pell. And Luke Summerfield. And Paul Dixon. And the fact that it's Hate Crime Awareness Week.

There can't be many vocations where you're expected to receive uncensored abuse for trying to do your job, and your only compensation is a wage. I'm in one of those jobs and there are many occasions where the system lets me and my colleagues down.

How would the self-entitled paying member of the public respond to similar abuse in their own workplace? I know from experience that challenging an individual's morality, ethic or opinion from a position of being a paid public servant garners an incredibly stunned response: How dare you say that? I have rights. I'm entitled to my opinion.

Abuse is a consistent theme in a world polarised due to the external influences of people we have no real association with on a day-to-day basis. Has there ever been a moment in the abuser's thought process that considers that the person they direct their vitriol at finishes their day questioning their existence and peace of mind? The easy retort would be they are getting paid and if they don't like it, lump it.

Passion aside, who benefits? It may be an outlet of frustration, so that surely calls into question the abuser's own circumstances. Or their privilege.

The inspiration for this article is the picture posted on Twitter by Ben Davies of Luke Summerfield and James Berrett sat on the coach at the start of a four-hour journey back to Cleethorpes looking content following an excellent day at the office.

Since they came to the club – both signed by Paul Hurst last season – neither has been well received by a large contingent of fans. But the tide has perhaps turned for Luke, who I, and those I attend the games with, picked out quickly as a player willing to try the brave pass and who has some flair. Berrett has moved into the middle and goes about his business. At the level we are at, we can only ask for honest endeavour and attempting to be the best player you can be.

I always had a soft spot for Tony Rees, Bobby Mitchell, Phil Bonnyman and Tommy Widdrington. Rees remains my favourite player and I once told him so – in the toilets of the Victoria on the high street on a day session, a moment I'm sure he recalls with warmth. All four of these players had their detractors. Maybe I like the underdog. I'm a Grimsby Town fan.

Men going about their craft, knowing full well the arbitrary nature of pro football, but who nonetheless got on with it and no doubt left the game with fond memories of a sporting life among their team mates. Imagine the last shower and the turning-off of the floodlights knowing an ordinary life beckons.

I pray your mental health is in good stead; it is a killer for many men at an age when they leave the game and especially those who leave the sport without the rewards of the elite player. Think about that the next time you get out your seat or tweet hatred to a fellow human being who's trying to live their dream.

And I include Harry Pell in that too.

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