Mark Hateley, Clive Allen and Frank Lampard among others all suffered it and came through to make their own name. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is well on the way.
For Nigel Clough and Jamie Redknapp, however, their fathers having gone on to long, high-profile careers in management, shrugging off the tag “son of” will always be more difficult. Now Tom Ince of Blackpool and England’s Under-21s looks forward to the time when he is spoken of without reference to his parentage.
If anything, it might be argued, he has made life harder by having his father as club manager, not once but twice, inviting the same charges of nepotism that the younger Redknapp and, especially Lampard, had to face. Yet while he can see disadvantages, it was an impressively mature young man who faced the media in Israel, without a hint of the over-confidence sometimes attached to his dad.
Paul’s are big boots to fill, belonging to one of the few players to have been at both Manchester United and Liverpool as well as a major club abroad (Internazionale), picking up more than 50 full caps along the way. It made for an interesting childhood for Thomas Christopher, who took a while to realise quite how famous his father was: “A few years ago I went back to the San Siro with my dad, and the Brazilian Ronaldo was there sitting behind us. I kept saying to my dad ‘get his autograph, get his autograph’. Then all of a sudden on the big screen was my dad’s face instead of Ronaldo’s.
“I was surprised, because I didn’t really know much about football then.”
He learnt quickly and sometimes the education could be harsh. “As a kid he used to make me cry. If I had a bad game he would be spitting in my face and worse than that! But that is only going to make me stronger. He will sit down and analyse every part of my game. I would not want it any other way. I look at what he’s done and if I can get half the career he had then great.”
Being a different type of player, out wide and running at defenders, has helped avoid the more obvious comparisons. “I say that I’m a more creative player but he says he has scored more goals. He shows me all his goals on YouTube, like for West Ham when he got two against Liverpool. He goes on about that all the time.”
The positives must outweigh any negatives, since he not only signed up with his father on loan at Notts County but is now happy to be with him at Blackpool. “On the training pitch he’s the manager but that’s as far as it goes. When we’re back home the manager’s hat comes off and it’s father and son. We always talk about football and watch every match that’s on TV.” Any arguments? “To a certain point. But then he just winds me up so much I end up just agreeing with him for the sake of it.”
Having joined Liverpool as a 16-year-old, Tom had a first-team squad number and featured in cup ties but not league games, so it was a big decision to move on – and inevitably down. “You have to take your own route in life and at 18-19 I made a big decision with my dad and said, ‘You know what, it’s time for me to go and play some football.’ I have no regrets. It’s easy to get a silver spoon in your mouth at an academy.
“You play on a Tuesday night, win 3-0 and just get a pat on the back and ‘report for training tomorrow’. You don’t feel anything. I look at the player I am now, still a long way to go, but I have played in some fantastic games. I have played 50-odd games this season which I didn’t really expect.”
The one he probably wanted to take part in most, he was suspended for. Like Danny Rose, Ince was banned for his reaction in the fracas following the England Under-21s’ play-off victory amid torrid racist abuse in Serbia and so missed the defeat by Italy on Wednesday. “It killed me watching the first game. When you see the pitch and the stadium and there is me in the stand, it is not nice. It has been a long couple of weeks.”
Today he should be given the chance to make up for that double disappointment, with his dad no doubt looking on proudly – if critically. Another chance too, to make a name, as Tom. “Sometimes it’s hard, because no matter what you do you’re always going to be ‘son of former...’ People said I was only a footballer because of my dad. With time I am sure that will change.”
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