Sam Wallace: Footballers may be crass with cash but they are no match for City's big players

After Sir Fred Goodwin presided over a collapse in the fortunes of RBS his face was in as many papers as Rooney's new haircut

In his 1968 book The Football Man, Arthur Hopcraft got to the root of why ordinary folk – people like you and me – love football so much. He said it was the one great public art by which people "cannot be fooled", as they might be with a book or a play or a piece of music.

It was not meant to be patronising, he just meant that we find ourselves on more certain ground with football. Boiled down for the current day, Hopcraft's theory says if you struggle with Don DeLillo's novels or you don't "get" jazz – don't worry, because when it comes to football we all know instinctively the truth of what is taking place before our eyes. There is, as Hopcraft wrote, no deceiving a football crowd.

It means that footballers – especially those who play at the highest level – are among the most accountable people in the country, held responsible by the crowds that watch them and the millions more on television. As they earn enormous salaries, those too are thrown back in their faces as if, like Ashley Cole at Wembley last Saturday, someone who is paid in millions is not entitled to make a mistake. Except now the crisis gripping British banks has demonstrated a curious truth: footballers are not the only millionaires capable of making a hash of things.

It has long been a personal view that there is an anger from certain quarters directed at wealthy young footballers because of an unspoken prejudice that they are not from the right sort of social backgrounds to have such wealth. Or so crass in their choice of home or car that, by extension, they have no right to earn the wages they do – as if there should be rules on what you can spend your money on. And, yes, those salaries are impossible to justify to a nurse or a state school teacher but they are the market rate. Yet until recently, no one seemed to say the same about the men who earned comparable amounts for running our financial institutions and ticked all the right boxes in terms of school, university and golf club. This latter category also had one major advantage when it came to their own accountability: no one outside their world had a clue who they were. No one, until two months ago when the banks' share prices plummeted quicker than Tottenham's league form.

Now we all know that, for example, a man called Sir Fred Goodwin has presided over a collapse in the fortunes of the Royal Bank of Scotland despite his Paisley Grammar School roots, his exquisite taste in Ferrari cars and his golf weekends with Jack Nicklaus. What's the equivalent in football? Perhaps it would be taking Rangers down to the Irn-Bru Third Division or worse. The man on the street would have something to say about that wouldn't he?

It means that for two days of his life, Sir Fred's startled-looking face was in as many newspapers as Wayne Rooney's new haircut. Sir Fred has never been booed at Wembley but this so-called titan of business will at least be able to say that for a few days he was subject to the same exacting public scrutiny as the most famous footballers in England. The difference is that the likes of Rooney and Cole have had it every week of a career that began when they were teenagers.

In America, where their failed banking chiefs have faced Congressional hearings there has been, as on a football pitch, nowhere to hide. Witness Richard Fuld, the chairman of the failed bank Lehman Brothers, who admitted earning £172.6m over eight years in return for overseeing the collapse of his company. That works out annually as four times Rooney's salary. "I feel horrible about what has happened," he said. Even Steve McClaren came up with better excuses than that.

Now we know that our footballers are not the only ones capable of having a bad day at the office despite their enormous salaries, it is time to acknowledge one obvious truth. Paying someone a lot of money reflects how highly you value them but it does not give you a guarantee of success – especially not in sport. It is easy to spot a footballer screwing up on the pitch, easier too to convince yourself that he is undeserving of his money. Those men in suits you do not recognise have just miscalculated to the extent that no one can get a mortgage. I know which ones I feel more horrible about.

Ringmaster too quick to turn on the circus

I really want to believe Rio Ferdinand when he says that the England team have grown up and ditched the "circus". Then I recall David Beckham jumping out of a moving car in Moss Side a few months before the 2006 World Cup finals because he thought he was being kidnapped. It was actually one of Rio's television wind-ups. If you think Rio is the innocent party in that infamous circus then, as the man himself would no doubt say, "you've been merked".

Happier with Kay than KGB

Spotted in the Dinamo Minsk club museum: a shrine to "Iron" Felix Dzerzhinsky, the Belarusian who set up the Cheka for Lenin. He was responsible for the Red Terror and tens of thousands of deaths. As celebrity football fans go, most clubs would probably rather have, say, Vernon Kay.

Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday


Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities