There is no hiding place behind bars for the footballers relegated to serving time

The team you play for may be a bigger problem in prison than outside. Paul Newman hears some survivors' tales

If Jermaine Pennant had little idea what life in prison would be like before yesterday, he should have a much clearer picture this morning. Other footballers who have served custodial sentences agree: there is no hiding place for a celebrity sportsman behind prison bars.

If Jermaine Pennant had little idea what life in prison would be like before yesterday, he should have a much clearer picture this morning. Other footballers who have served custodial sentences agree: there is no hiding place for a celebrity sportsman behind prison bars.

Mick Quinn, who was sentenced to 21 days in jail during his Portsmouth days in 1987 after pleading guilty to driving while disqualified for the second time in three weeks, arrived at Winchester Prison in a designer Ralph Lauren suit and hand-made Italian shoes. After being issued with his regulation prison wear, he was kept awake on his first night by prisoners banging their cell doors and screaming "Saints!" or "Millwall!"

The next morning, as he queued with his bucket at slop-out time, Quinn was tripped from behind to a shout of "Penalty, ref!" and got splattered as he was sent flying. At breakfast a shaven-headed inmate dropped a large insect into his food, saying: "You're a Scouser, you must like beetles."

Arsenal's Tony Adams, sentenced to nine months in prison in 1990 for drink-driving and reckless driving offences, found himself handcuffed to a Tottenham Hotspur fan on the way to Chelmsford Prison.

Lee Hughes, who in August was jailed for six years for causing death by dangerous driving, was recently transferred to Featherstone jail, which is said to house many supporters of Wolverhampton Wanderers, local rivals of the striker's former club, West Bromwich Albion.

Simon Garner, the former Blackburn Rovers striker, served four weeks in jail in 1996. He was released after successfully appealing against a nine-month sentence for contempt of court during divorce proceedings. The original conviction was a complete shock, Garner having arrived at court expecting only to discuss maintenance payments. Being deprived of his freedom was a chilling experience and Garner was relieved to emerge largely unscathed. His first cell-mate was a Liverpool fan, a huge man with a scar from his chin to his forehead. Garner was grateful that he did not bear a grudge over the goals he had scored against Liverpool.

Serving his sentence at Kirkham open prison in Lancashire also proved helpful. "It wasn't far from Blackburn and there was a split in the prison between Burnley and Blackburn fans," Garner said. "Luckily, I had Blackburn fans to look after me. I never really had a problem with Burnley fans. For one thing I was looked after by people who the Burnley fans knew were not to be messed about with.

"When you go into an open prison you're allocated jobs and, luckily for me, the fellow from the laundry asked for me to work there because he was a Blackburn fan. I still had to do the work and I didn't get any privileges because I was working in the laundry, but at least I was in the warm all day."

Garner added: "The majority of the warders were fine. There were a couple who wanted to stamp their authority and they weren't bothered whether I was an ex-footballer or an ex-drug addict. Out of, say, 50 prison officers, there were only one or two who had it in for you if you were a bit of a celebrity. The rest were pretty decent to all the prisoners."

A number of footballers, including Jan Molby and Terry Fenwick, have served short prison sentences, mostly for driving offences. George Best, guilty of drunken driving, added an assault on a policeman and failing to surrender to bail to his crimesheet and was sentenced to 12 weeks in 1984. Two England internationals, Tony Kay and Peter Swan, were sent to prison in 1965 for their part in a match-fixing scandal.

The six-year sentence Hughes is serving is believed to be the longest imposed on any modern-day player in Britain. The 28-year-old had driven into an oncoming car after a whisky-drinking session, killing a father of four and leaving another man permanently disabled. He was sacked by West Bromwich Albion after his conviction.

Hughes, who was once sold for £5m and was earning a reported £16,000 a week, was switched recently from Ashwell Prison, near Leicester, to Featherstone, an establishment for low-risk inmates which encourages them to develop new skills in its educational and industrial complexes. Hughes has also been brushing up his old skills, scoring five goals for the prison team in his first two games. Featherstone compete - with the obvious but understandable advantage of playing all their games at home - in the First Division of the Staffordshire County League.

Prison football proved to be the making of Jamie Lawrence, the former Leicester City and Bradford City midfielder. Sentenced to four years for robbery and violence at the age of 21, Lawrence made a name for himself in his prison team on the Isle of Wight. He particularly impressed against a semi-professional side, Cowes Sports, whose manager asked the prison governor if they could sign him. Three months after his release, Lawrence signed for Sunderland and embarked on a career during which he has also played for Jamaica.

Arsenal instructed Adams not to play football during his sentence for fear of injury, but he did give the prison side some tips before a big match against Essex Police and was also grateful to David Webb, the manager of Southend United, for bringing his squad to the jail for a training session. Best chose not to play for his prison team, knowing the media attention it would bring, while Garner made one appearance for Kirkham, scoring six goals and winning an ounce of tobacco as man of the match.

"We had two warders in the team," Garner said. "One of the opposition's centre-halves kicked our centre-forward up in the air and one of our lads turned round and had a go at him. It all got a bit messy. One of the prison warders in our team steamed in and joined in with us. He hit the opposition defender who'd started it all."

BALLS AND CHAINS FOOTBALLING OFFENDERS

GEORGE BEST

Spent Christmas 1984 behind bars fordrink-driving, assaulting a police officer and failing to answer bail.

DUNCAN FERGUSON

Served 44 days in 1995, punished for head-butting an opponent.

RENE HIGUITA

The Colombian goalkeeper served several months in 1993 for his part in a kidnapping and extortion racket.

JAN MOLBY

Three months for reckless driving during the 1988-89 season.

RICKY OTTO

Birmingham City's record signing in 1994, but had a four-year term for armed robbery as a teenager.

PETER STOREY

Double-winner with Arsenal in 1971, given three years in 1980 for financing a plot to forge gold coins, and 28 days for trying to import 20 pornographic videos 10 years later.

MICKEY THOMAS

The former Manchester United and Wales player received 18 months in 1993 for passing forged currency.

NIZAR TRABELSI

The Tunisian ex-Fortuna Düsseldorf player was sentenced to 10 years in 2003 for links to al-Qa'ida.

PETER SWAN

Match-rigging Sheffield Wednesday player served three months in 1965.

STIG TOFTING

Then at Bolton, the Danewas given four months in 2002 for assaulting a restaurant owner in Copenhagen.

IAN WRIGHT

Five days inside, aged 17, for non-payment of motoring fines.

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