IT was one those moments when reality sinks in and gives you a shock. I had just read that the average household weekly income was £500.
This, I thought, might be a bit optimistic. Average figures are always distorted by the few at the top who earn vast amounts of money and leave Mr Average thinking he’s getting less than everybody else. Even so, £500 was a figure I could get my head round.
Then I tuned in the car radio and listened to a discussion about the football transfer market. It was suggested that Arsene Wenger was leaving any signings as late as possible because of the club’s wage bill.
If he signed a player on wages of £100,000 a week now, the club would have to pay out £600,000 before he even kicked a ball in anger.
Some clubs would be paying even more, with new players being paid up to £150,000 a week.
Now hang on. I know these figures have been bandied around before, but this time they suddenly hit home.
A bloke being paid £150,000 a week – whether he works or not?
A bloke being paid £150,000 a week – for sunbathing in the Bahamas?
A bloke being paid enough in one week to buy a semi detached house big enough for a family of four?
A bloke being paid in one week what it would take the average family six years to earn by actually working, doing proper jobs.
Football is my sport. Always has been, even though I was never good enough to play for Manchester United or anybody else that paid wages.
In my youth, I often turned out three times on a weekend on the playing fields of Manchester, in Saturday league, Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon leagues and loved it.
I only packed in – to the relief of the Examiner team – when I passed 50. One of my greatest regrets is that I am now too old to turn out on a wet and muddy morning at Leeds Road with the cold paralysing my brain and a hairy centre half attempting to paralyse the rest of me.
To me, there is no greater sport and no greater way of appreciating it than by playing, at whatever level.
But then, in moments of reality like the other day, I am astounded at the money footballers are paid, which is out of all proportion to what they actually do. The agents who negotiate the wages say it is market forces. The clubs say they have to pay to compete.
When Bill Shankly, arguably one of the finest football managers ever, signed Denis Law, arguably one of the finest footballers ever, as a teenager for Town, the lad was paid a modest wage and sent to Huddersfield Technical college to learn a trade as a painter and decorator for when his football career ended.
That was reality.
Will it ever return?