Jimmy Hill: You Ask The Questions

Was Ron Atkinson right to resign over racist comments he made about a Chelsea footballer? And can you beat Des Lynam at golf?

Jimmy Hill was born in Balham, south London in 1928. He signed for Brentford FC in 1949, and later for Fulham. By the early Sixties, he was the leader of the players' union, campaigning successfully for the abolition of the maximum wage. He then became the manager - and later chairman - of Coventry City. In 1968, he started his career as a pundit, heading sports at London Weekend Television and then hosting
Match of the Day on the BBC. He now presents a weekly programme on Sky Sports. He lives in Sussex with his third wife, Bryony. He has five children, three from his first marriage and two from his second.

Jimmy Hill was born in Balham, south London in 1928. He signed for Brentford FC in 1949, and later for Fulham. By the early Sixties, he was the leader of the players' union, campaigning successfully for the abolition of the maximum wage. He then became the manager - and later chairman - of Coventry City. In 1968, he started his career as a pundit, heading sports at London Weekend Television and then hosting Match of the Day on the BBC. He now presents a weekly programme on Sky Sports. He lives in Sussex with his third wife, Bryony. He has five children, three from his first marriage and two from his second.

Do you have any wise words for David Beckham?
Charlotte Barker, Aylesbury

Don't push your luck. He's been a lucky boy, born with talent at a time when ridiculous money has come into his hands. He's obviously made a domestic mistake, and it would be a pity if it ruined his reputation. I'm not sure how I would have coped if I had been so well paid when I was a player. I imagine I would have been in danger of falling into the same traps as footballers today. It's so easy to criticise.

How did you react when the adult comic Viz created a caricature of you?
Craig Furber, by e-mail

Flattered. Who wants to be forgotten?

When will England again win the World Cup?
Bob Sanderson, London

It all comes down to the preparation of our young players, which has been so inferior to that of our rivals. The Dutch had seven-year-olds in their professional clubs 40 years ago. During the last few years that has been put right [here], and boys can now go to professional clubs at nine, but we're going to have to wait until they grow up before we have a chance of winning the World Cup. Those are the facts: it's not going to happen for at least 15 years.

Was Ron Atkinson right to resign from ITV over his racist comments about a Chelsea footballer?
John Gates, by e-mail

I don't think Ron Atkinson is a racist. I've know him a long time. He has an awful lot of charm, and he doesn't mean to do any damage. I'm afraid, like most professional footballers, when they're in the company of other footballers, it's the language of the football field - they do swear. In that context, you wouldn't think that words like "nigger" were particularly insulting: it would be funny. Without meaning to insult any black men, it's us having fun. What about people who make jokes about my long chin? I mean, nigger is black - so we have jokes where we call them niggers because they're black. Why should that be any more of an offence than someone calling me chinny? If everyone was kicked out of their job for saying the wrong sentence at the wrong time, not meaning it to be heard publicly, there would be very few of us left at work.

What part of your life did you find it most difficult to write about in your autobiography?
Claire Small, Loughborough

The breakdown of my marriages. I kept re-writing those sections to try to make them look as good as possible, so that I wouldn't offend any relatives. But I didn't show it to anyone before publication - it wasn't necessary, really, as I have a good relationship with my first wife and my second wife has sadly died. The book was about my life, so it would have been incorrect or cowardly not to have dealt with that aspect of it.

Do you regret your part in breaking the maximum wage for footballers back in the Sixties?
James Simpson, by e-mail

No, not in the slightest. It was an injustice: there was no reason for there to be a maximum wage for football players. Of course, now it has gone too far the other way, with players in 90 per cent of clubs being paid far more than their clubs can afford. That's just as ridiculous as having a maximum wage. If it's to change, it has to start with those who pay to watch. If they continue to pay and watch while their team is losing, it will take the pressure off clubs. They won't have to try to buy the most expensive players they can find.

My boyfriend is addicted to watching football. I just can't get excited about the game. Can you save our relationship?
Sally Marchant, by e-mail

Get another boyfriend or a season ticket for Fulham - it's a club that might even entice a lady to enjoy the game.

My present partner, Bryony, would not walk five yards to see a football match, but it doesn't make any difference to our relationship. She has her enthusiasms - gardening and painting - and I have mine. It works very well.

I understand that you and Des Lynam sometimes play golf together. Who's top of the league between you?
Sam Tyson, Birmingham

Our ladies are, because they go out and spend time and money shopping while we play a round. As for which of us is better at golf - on a day that golf is being kind to me, I'm better, and on a day when golf is being kind to Des, he's better. Our handicaps are about the same: about the range expected by elderly gentlemen. Mine was 16, but I'm having it adjusted for injury's sake, so it might move to 18.

If you could turn the clock back to 1949, what advice would you give to the young Jimmy Hill, who had just signed for Brentford?
May Bishop, London

Don't do anything different - I've had a wonderful life. I got rid of the players' maximum wage, and I invented three points for a win. The whole world plays three points for a win now. I mean, isn't that wonderful to think about? At least I haven't wasted my life.

The turning point was my national service. If I hadn't done that, I probably would have worked on the stock exchange for the rest of my life: that's what I was doing at the time. But I went into the army and found myself with nine professional footballers. They taught me to play during my two years in the service. So, I would never have gone into the world of football if it hadn't been for conscription. It's weird, isn't it?

Is age a barrier to good punditry?
Dom Turner, Fife

You can be too young and too inexperienced in all aspects of football. I don't want to be rude to other guys who also do the punditry jobs, but basically you learn an awful lot more when you become a football coach or a manager. Nowadays, footballers are offered opportunities as pundits as soon as they finish playing - not mentioning any names.

The BBC is not the most grateful bunch of people in the world. When I left the corporation in 1998, I didn't have a letter of thanks, although I was the first professional footballer to front Match of the Day. I've been so lucky and the BBC is a magnificent organisation, but it doesn't have a lot of humanity.

How does it feel to have made such a huge impact on the structure of the game and still be more famous for a part of your anatomy?
Nadeem Raja, Riyadh

That's life. Who do you think that state of affairs says more about: me or those making that judgement?

The Jimmy Hill Classic, a golf event in aid of the children's health charity Sparks, is being played today at the Royal Eastbourne Golf Course, East Sussex ( www.sparks.org.uk)

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