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.