WHEN Wayne Rooney was disciplined by his club over Christmas it did highlight one of the traditional problems of the British game.
The fact that Manchester United had to take action just shows that even the biggest of clubs do not realise the power that they really should be wielding.
As a top athlete you really should not be drinking, even if it is only because you should be looking to gain even a one percent advantage over your opponent.
But really the clubs are missing a trick in that this issue could become a pay-related one.
If when a player signed he was offered one contract that gave him £5,000 a week and he could carry on as he wished in terms of diet and drink, or he could have another one that was £10,000 a week – but in that one he had to agree not to have a drink from the start of pre-season training until after the final game of the season – it would be interesting to see which contract most would sign.
It was a little different when I was playing as we got about £200 a week and were not too bothered about what we would drink, but if you are being paid a five-figure sum to play at the top level then really you owe it to everyone at the club – and to yourself – to ensure you look after your health and fitness.
Foreign players still seem to be shocked when they come into the English game and find that our players drink so much, and they do not understand the tradition of it in our game.
When I left Town in 1986 it was to join Belgian club Lokeren, and even then they were far more professional in their approach than in England.
There was no drinking culture and there were no days off after matches.
Instead you would have to be back in at the club the next day and, even all those years ago, the coaching team would analyse every last touch every player had in the game and adjust the tactics so that the team’s performance would improve.
In fact, they went into players taking responsibility to such an extent that when you were signed, you were given a football to bring to training and it was up to you to bring that ball – blown up to the right pressure – into each training session.
Even though the players in our leagues are incredible athletes there would still appear to be some scope for them to take even more care about their approach to their job.
And the clubs have all the power to make that related to wages – and pay more to a player who is willing to be teetotal.
After all it is only like giving up smoking, and a lot of people have managed to do that successfully.