How Victor became a lost cause

Stephen Brenkley catches up with a flying winger who fell by the wayside
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The Independent Online
Victor Kasule's football career was probably drowned in a sea of lager accompanied by waves of brandy chasers. If he was not an alcoholic he had the sort of habit which in another time and place would have guaranteed him several heavy duty sessions with a counsellor. At 31 he might have been approaching the end of an elegant prime, instead of which he has been retired for two years.

"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think to myself `damn, damn, damn'," he said. "I miss football desperately. It would be a different story now but it's much too late. I know where I went wrong but a lot of things were down to lack of guidance."

Kasule drifted out of the game simply because he ran out of clubs prepared to sign him. Compromise was not an activity which came to him naturally so he usually avoided it and went for another pint. He drinks less now but then, as he said, working in telephone banking, he also earns less.

"I would honestly claim that I never drank much more than the next footballer," he said and then proceeded to outline a schedule which might test the most devoted pub-crawlers. "I wouldn't drink on a Thursday or a Friday but yes I'd probably get blind drunk on a Saturday and Sunday. Then I'd go to the pub on Monday and then to a club and have a few drinks on a Tuesday. And if I did go out on Friday one pint would last me all evening. The trouble was that I couldn't walk past a pub without somebody saying I'd been in it and had a skinful."

While regretful, he seems neither embittered nor aggrieved but he has obviously noticed the way some wayward stars have been treated. "The bigger the club I think the more you can get away with. There's no doubt Paul Merson and the rest are all fantastic players but their clubs have a big vested interest in them."

Kasule was born in Glasgow, started in the lower reaches of Scottish football and remains Livingston's record signing at pounds 28,000, though they were still Meadowbank Thistle then. His reputation for being a character who was partial to a drink or seven was forged at Shrewsbury Town where he went for pounds 32,000. He became a folk hero to the fans. They remember him still.

"Victor, oh yes, what a rum lad," said the club switchboard operator, perhaps choosing her words a tad unwisely. His immense talent should not be doubted. Alan Irvine, the sometime Liverpool forward who was with him at Shrewsbury in the late Eighties and was a drinking partner at times, believes he could and should have gone all the way.

"I turn on the television now and I see Faustino Asprilla and I immediately think of Victor Kasule," Irvine said. "He had that slightly awkward way of moving but was tremendously fast with a great touch and then he'd do something no defender could have expected. Some of us would tell him to get a grip of himself sometimes but he had a heart of gold, would do anything for you and even if he liked a drink he never missed a training session because of it."

But he would also do daft things. The story of his driving John McGinlay's car without consent and turning it over is still recounted as is his 21- day suspended jail sentence for non- payment of fines. It is said that instead of going to the toilet while in a pub he would interrupt a game of darts by relieving himself in the corner by the board. Shrewsbury were eventually anxious to part company but a brief loan spell at Darlington did not work out.

Kasule insisted that it had nothing to do with any misdemeanour large or small, but then went into the story of how during his brief spell there he got an apprentice to take him round five or six of the town's pubs. Still, his two games for Darlington were sufficient for him to warrant a mention in discussions about the club's greatest players.

He returned to Scotland but could not settle at Hamilton Academicals and then went to Finland and Malta. In Malta, he admitted, an Achilles tendon injury persuaded him to turn to drink for 18 months. Eventually, he went to Ireland. One move to Waterford, however, ended disastrously. It was arranged by the agent David Hodgson who said Kasule besieged him with requests to find a club. "I did and the next I heard he'd arrived drunk and they sent him home."

Kasule, whose father, a doctor of zoology, died when he was 15, puts his waywardness down to the lack of a paternal influence. He claims to be settled now, to have worked the demons out of his system. He has accounting qualifications from Glasgow University and is determined to make progress in his new career although he admits to a deep hatred of nine to five desk work.

"I'd like to be remembered just as a footballer but if I'm remembered as a footballer and a pisshead then that's better than not being remembered at all."