'It's obscene, but I'd jump at the money'

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The Independent Football

Neil Aspin went to the same secondary school as Paul Gascoigne, made his debut in what is now the Premiership at 16 and has been a professional footballer for more than half his 35 years. He now finds himself at the opposite end of the wage spectrum from Gateshead's most famous son.

Neil Aspin went to the same secondary school as Paul Gascoigne, made his debut in what is now the Premiership at 16 and has been a professional footballer for more than half his 35 years. He now finds himself at the opposite end of the wage spectrum from Gateshead's most famous son.

Gascoigne, two years his junior, recently signed for Everton in a "last chance" deal on a salary reported to be over £20,000 per week. Aspin, a defender with nearly 600 League appearances behind him, is in the last season of a two-year contract with Third Division Darlington, where the top players earn no more than £600 a week. "Players at our level can't take [Premier League wages] in." said Aspin.

"It's difficult to see how it can be justified and it seems obscene. I'm all for footballers earning good money because it can be a short career but the sums involved at the highest level have gone so far over the top that that argument is no longer valid.

"I've got a very close friend who is a Leeds fanatic and follows them everywhere. But you begin to wonder why he does it any more because the players are getting more in a week than a lot of the fans make in a year, and there's less loyalty than there used to be because of the Bosman ruling.

"My pal has a genuine love for the club but at some clubs the players are here today, gone tomorrow and what they earn seems ridiculous. Our wage structure at Darlington means that the biggest earners are only on something like £500 or £600 a week.

"The divide between the rich and the poor is going to keep getting wider. Nowadays the clubs in the lower divisions have to hope they can find a wealthy benefactor who is prepared to pump some of a personal fortune in. Otherwise they won't survive."

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