Sunday, 7 December 2014
Football and University: Some More Examples
In our previous article we mentioned former Wigan player Michael Hazeldine who reportedly achieved a university degree after leaving the sport. Picking up the thread, we decided to write a new blog post about soccer and the world of education. Enjoy!
In the Victorian era, the development of a universal set of rules for association football was closely related to the world of education. Evolving from a popular folk game into a public school pastime, the rules of 'soccer' and the establishment of the English Football Association were greatly influenced by 'old boys' of thee English public school system. Many leading teams were amateur and populated by upper class gentlemen, and indeed some of the most successful and prestigious teams were based in English public schools and universities from the south of England. Of course that is not the full picture, and it is now acknowledged that the game was also popular amongst the north of the country and in Scotland, and across all social classes, with teams such as Sheffield also being highly influential in the establishment of the sport and its rules (Sanders, 2010). However, the role of schools and education establishments must be acknowledged.
As the sport evolved and professionalised it became something of a rarity to find a university graduate on the pitch or indeed anywhere else in a club's setup other than in the boardroom, medical room, or some other 'back office' function (unless of course one includes the referee and linesmen who until relatively recently were amateurs and relied on their careers outside of the game in order to pay the bills). Kuper and Syzmanski's (2009) for example analysis of the backgrounds of players in the English national team for a more detailed discussion of the links between class, educational background etc and 'on the pitch' footballing success.
Things seem to be changing in some ways though as the game becomes more sophisticated and data driven - it is now possible to find university graduates employed amongst the coaching staff of professional clubs, for example York City FCs recent appointment of a Performance Analyst with a bachelors degree from Sheffield Hallam university)
It may be a long time though before we see another Old Etonion such as Arthur Kinnaird representing England, or a Doctor appearing in the FIFA World Cup as Socrates did in 1982, but dig around the internet and it is though possible to find a few interesting articles which report on interesting and unorthodox stories linking education and football. Here are a couple that we discovered:
It was recently reported that ex-Hull City and Blackpool striker Ben Burgess went a step further than the average footballer when it comes to developing the 'education' aspects of their CV. Choosing to retire at the age of 30 shortly after signing a new two year contract, Burgess has retrained for a life in the education sector. Unlike players of yesteryear who opted to open a newsagents, pub, or sports shop, Burgess has instead opted to study a postgraduate certificate in education and become a teacher. Read the full article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/29972022
Even more atypical is the story of Neil 'Nello' Baldwin, the Stoke City kit manager whose life was recently portrayed in the film 'Marvellous': Click here to find more info about the film on the BBC iplayer.
Although never a full-time professional footballer - Nello is a former clown - his story is perhaps even more unorthodox. Nello was asked in 1993 to become kit-man by then Stoke City Manager Lou Macari, who spotted that he would bring humour and contribute to the team spirit within the club. The BBC film of Nello's remarkable life also shows how he became involved with Keele University, greeting new students and getting involved with campus life via the clubs and societies network, establishing his own team: The Neil baldwin Football Club (patron, Gary Linekar!)
To get an idea of Nello's antics, here is a real clip from the 1990s which was broadcast on national television (note: Nello is the one in the kilt!):
In 2013 Neil Baldwin was awarded by Keele the honorary degree of Master of the University. In the words of the university's own press release:
"Neil Baldwin, who has been adopted by the student body over the last 50 years as something of a mascot for Keele, will be awarded the honorary degree of Master of the University. He has watched, supported and kept in touch with successive cohorts of Keele students building an impressive network of alumni contacts both national and internationally. He serves the students offering advice and support to students, remaining steadfastly proud and loyal to Keele. In doing so, he has openly defended Keele and voiced his concerns about any issue that has or would affect Keele to his numerous contacts within parliament, the various leaders of Christian denomination churches, volunteer organisations and business leaders across the country, of whom he regularly visits."
If you want to find more examples of names from the world of football who have achieved success in the classroom as well as on the pitch then the following website lists even more footballers, coaches, and managers with university degrees. Although we are unable to verify the accuracy of the content it is an interesting read!