It’s a fact that most people like to think the worst of footballers’ wives. The media stereotype is not good; spoilt brats balancing on sky-high Louboutins, caked in Dior and spending hours getting fake hair, nails and tans.
From 10 years’ experience of getting to know some of these ladies, the reality is so much more than lip gloss and handbags. It takes a strong woman to support her partner – my husband is Bolton striker Kevin Davies - and family through the huge highs and lows of a very short career. One of the worst times of the year being transfer deadline day.
It’s the part of football that people rarely consider how upsetting and stressful it can be for the families. Being bought and sold like a commodity with your life hanging in the balance waiting for others to decide on your future. Friends outside of football say to me ‘why doesn’t he go and play for such and such a team?’ If only it was that simple.
It’s not just about players moving for money but the upheaval for the family. I am so lucky that since we met my husband has been very successful at one club, Bolton, so although I have my stories including a move from London which entailed leaving job, house, family and friends - and then moving house alone with a 17-month-old baby while eight months pregnant from Sheffield to Bolton, I have limited experience in this matter.
He hasn’t had to spend long periods of time away from us, or had to travel miles a day to train. He has been able to spend quality time with his children, watching them play football, and do gymnastics after school. This is most definitely one of the plus sides of the job.
For many of my friends this is not the case. They have been left alone and in a single day their whole lives have been sent into a spin. Husband gone off in his new club tracksuit to prove himself at a new club. The ladies are left holding the baby whilst looking for accommodation, school and new friends.
My friend and hero has to be Emma Healy, wife of David, who I met when we both lived in Manchester in 2005. Since then she has moved to Fulham, Sunderland and then in a deadline-day drama, to Glasgow. The original move was for a loan period of six months. Emma was left in Newcastle with two kids with no family around her to help. She felt it was unfair to move her children again as they had already moved twice in a three-year period. During the previous year David had also been on loan to Ipswich for three months and Doncaster for two months so she had already spent most of that year away from her husband. Her son was so upset and unsettled at school that he cried every day, worried that his mum would leave him too. Emma felt she could not move her kids to Scotland for a six-month loan so she drove to Scotland every weekend so David could spend time with his children and they could be a family. Having no family in Newcastle Emma had also trusted someone to help her in David’s absence. That person betrayed her by stealing from her. Emma is not alone with this kind of story.
Obviously age makes a huge difference, and also having children at school age. At this point being settled and the happiness of your family far outweighs the money. Can you put a price on being able to do day-to-day things with your kids, being able to see them grow up on a daily basis, first steps, first day at school, homework.... these are all precious moments in time that you can't get back.
There is always a decision to make though. One that I had dreaded for years; do you up sticks and move your family lock, stock and barrel or do you pack your man off and make him travel? This can put a huge strain on a marriage and I have seen many marriages over the years not survive the imposed separation. Some players move because they have to. Maybe a new manager that doesn’t like their style, some want to feel loved again after being dropped by their current team. Who knows how long the new favour will last? You can never take anything for granted in football.
Sometimes the speculation is much worse than the eventual outcome. Stories are banded about by agents, the press and even the clubs that are not always 100 per cent true. Social networking and constant updates on-line also play a massive part in whipping the news into a frenzy. I remember last deadline day we were amused to read that Kevin was seen at Arsenal going for a medical.
Being there as a wife through good times and challenging ones, through injuries, scoring droughts, the threat of new talent coming in, the abyss of the bench, and the politics of any team-coach-manager-players combination. That's a lot of emotions to stomach and support, and idle talk can be damaging.
For us this deadline day 2012 has been traumatic. I have lived abroad and travelled extensively so have always said I would encourage my kids to live abroad too. The experience enriches you and changes your outlook on most things. The MLS option was there earlier in the month but after discussion we felt the time was not right for us and our very young family.
Then reading in the local Bolton paper last Thursday that it was the end for Kevin after almost nine years really upset me and our children. They came home from school having been questioned by staff and pupils alike about the fate of their Dad, and ultimately themselves. Many whispered conversations from the training-ground toilets then meant this was serious.
For me it was always about Kevin and his desire to play football. I knew that I would support him totally in what he wanted to do so he continued to feel vibrant, rewarded and fulfilled, professionally, physically and personally. You rarely hear the word ‘testimonial’ these days as there are very few players that stick around for long enough at one club to enjoy this honour and tradition. I wouldn’t say loyalty is a high priority amongst the players of today.
For me personally, I can honestly say I have everything I could possible want. A healthy family and lovely friends in Bolton, our adopted home. We have also attached ourselves to the Bolton community with the KiDs of Bolton charity we launched in October 2010 and now run ourselves.
As an older ‘player’s wife’ I have much life experience and have met many people from different walks of life to realise that it really doesn’t matter how much money you have. Lots of very rich people are very unhappy people. Being settled and being able to spend time with the people that you love is paramount. With regard to us staying or leaving Bolton the burning question was always... who would look after our donkeys?
Follow Emma Davies on Twitter at @emmadavies1968