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Marlon King is twenty-eight years old. His contract with Wigan Athletic was worth £35,000 per week. He has scored twelve Premier League goals in his entire career. Never has in the field of human endeavour has such mediocrity been so handsomely rewarded. For this reason – and this doesn’t obviously doesn’t even take into account what he has been sent to prison for – and if nothing else comes from this grimly predictable story, at least Dave Whelan may be breathing a sigh of relief at getting such an expensive burden upon Wigan Athletic’s wage bill.
Should we be surprised by King’s behaviour and conviction? Probably not and possibly are the answer to those twin questions. We probably shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that a footballer has found himself in prison for such behaviour. The drinking, pack mentality has been a feature of professional football, and it is difficult to escape the belief that a sense of entitlement has come from the extraordinary wealth that such young men acquire also informs such behaviour. That it should be King that was involved is little more of a shock. Going back to his younger days, he was imprisoned for five months for handling a stolen car in 2002. When he went to Hull, things took a turn for the worse for him. He fought with Dean Windass at a Scarborough casino in November 2008 and was banned from driving for speeding less than a month later.
There is nothing about the story of the events of the evening concerned that don’t cause one’s shoulders to sink with the gaudy grimness of it all. Five days after the end of his ban King was out to celebrate the twin achievements of a rare Premier League goal and his wife’s third pregnancyat the (now closed) Revue Bar in Soho. He appoached the twenty year old student with the killer line, “Don’t you know who I am? I’m a millionaire” and, when she spurned his lurid advances, groped her and then punched her to the floor, breaking her nose. He claimed that this was a case of mistaken identity, but the jury didn’t buy this and he was sentenced to spend eighteen months at her majesty’s pleasure.
That three such incidents should occur in the space of a few weeks hints at another story, perhaps one that isn’t in the public domain. His playing career will probably resume once he is released from prison, because morals are in short supply in football. Somebody, somewhere will reckon that his past doesn’t matter if he can score them twenty goals per season. After all, a spell in prison didn;t do Lee “Death By Dangerous Driving” Hughes any harm. Such an offer will probably come at a lower level than the Premier League (King has seldom looked much like scoring twenty goals per season in Premier League for the whole of his career so far), but another five years in the game after any release from prison would probably make him a millionaire, even if he isn’t one by the time he gets free.
It’s easy, meanwhile, to be cynical about Wigan’s motives for sacking him, but we should probably be grateful for the fact that they have at least taken a stand. The financial aspect of their decision is one thing, but the very public condemnation of his behaviour by Dave Whelan makes a change from the usual veil of silence that is drawn over anything unsavoury that happens in the peculiarly insular world of football. To an extent, he was only saying what most of the rest of us were thinking, but it’s a start. The face of Marlon King, gurning and out of control as he punches a young woman to the ground is one that the whole game of football would be better off without.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
How many times do professional footballers claim to have seen the light after some court case or incident?. Then they have to follow up with a “thoughful” interview with the observer:
” He was at Brixton Prison first, then Standford Hill, where his jobs included canteen work, cleaning and being a gym orderly. “I got my head down in there and worked hard. I didn’t go in with an attitude. People spoke to me on the level and I just knuckled down. If I’d gone in there with the attitude, ‘Look at me, I’m Jack-the-lad’ it would have been very different.”
I’m guessing King turns to religion in prison, looks for a last chance with some club and does something stupid again….
Have to take issue with some of these comments, not that I am defending Marlon’s attrocious actions.
1. I’m sure the mediocrity comment is a throw away one but I think there are far greater cases of players return or ROI in the Premiership. Alfonso Alves is just one that springs to mind.
2. Wigan are well within their rights to sack him. Whilst we don’t know the terms of his contract its not uncommon to have one around “bringing the business into disrepute”. Furthermore, if an employee can no longer commit to their job because they are in jail I think an employer has every right to sack them.
3. My third point has been bandied around a lot on the radio and forums so I won’t labour it too much, but a convicted felon has every democratic right to (re)enter a profession that had nothing to do with their conviction. At no point, during the assualt was Marlon King playing football so I fail to understand why, once his time is served, he cannot seek employment in the football industry. Whether someone ones to take a gamble on him (he might fail the “good fit” test) is another matter but to say “Somebody, somewhere will reckon that his past doesn’t matter if he can score them twenty goals per season” is unfair. Is it better that he or other ex felons remain unemployed and a further burden on society?
Punching anyone is a vicious enough crime, but to punch a defenceless woman without any provocation is sick. IMHO 18 months is not long enough considering his previous.
I agree with Jamie’s third point, he shouldn’t be stopped from re-entering the profession because of this crime. Now if he’d been jailed for football hooliganism it’d be different, but his crime happened in his own time and away from football.