Richie Sadlier: As long as Defoe is scoring goals, we shouldn't care who restocks his fridge
I used to always wonder what my career would have been like if I had worked with a sports psychologist.
Last week, I spent a lot of time thinking how things could have been if I had hired a personal assistant. For example, a PA could have helped me out when my car was stolen in 2004.
It turned out it was taken by a former team-mate of mine who thought I was involved in the theft of his car because I was able to arrange for its return (I couldn't tell the police because I didn't fancy further retaliation - it's a long story). In any case, I had forgotten to post the completed insurance documents at the time I bought it that would ensure I'd get a full refund if it was taken within two years. That oversight set me back over 15k, but it wasn't my costliest error. Four months before I first got my hip injury, my agent suggested I increase my career-ending insurance to £1m. Admin wasn't my strong point back then, so it never happened.
Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe is looking to hire an executive PA. I'm sure the publicity this has received in the past week guarantees a shed-load of applications. It can't possibly have gone under the radar of anyone interested in this kind of job, but Defoe is being hammered for even wanting such a role to be filled. It seems there's a lot of fun to be had with this too. You read through the details of what the successful applicant would be required to do, snigger at Defoe's inability to do them himself, obviously paying particular attention to the really small stuff like ensuring his fridge is stocked upon his return from holiday, and then worry for the terminal decline of professional football, or even life itself. One article I read said it showed the moral hollowness at the heart of sport. Those were the actual words used.
I wasn't completely without hired help throughout my career. A friend suggested I get someone in to clean the house each week, so I did. It didn't go too well initially. When I thought money was going missing, I left cash behind a photo as bait and it was taken. I decided to take care of things myself for a while after that. Team-mates of mine could certainly have done with some help too. Like the one who used to ring around asking the rest of us to place his bets because the bookies would no longer deal with him. Or the one who regularly needed a room for the night at short notice because his partner would often kick him out. Or the one who made a brief foray into the world of pimping. I can only imagine how handy a PA could have been in a scenario like that.
Defoe isn't the first player to have assistance like this in his life. Wayne Rooney's agent, Paul Stretford, invited me to his offices in Manchester to convince me to sign with his firm in 2002. Almost everything in Defoe's advertisement was covered that day by the six or seven people who used a PowerPoint presentation to outline how much of my life they could manage for me if I wanted. Playing football was virtually the only thing I would be left to do myself.
Most people probably have the sense to realise it's no big deal that a multi-millionaire would employ someone to lighten their load, and that in most cases it's actually the wise thing to do. After all, if you can afford to pay someone for work you want done, then go ahead.
In all probability, it wasn't Defoe who put the job description together. It was more than likely organised by his agent, who I'm sure would be only too keen to offload some of these tasks onto someone else. As for the salary of £50-60k, it's less than a week's wage for Defoe, so it's hardly an extravagance over the course of a year. If it affords him more time to focus on his playing career, then all the better. Even if it doesn't, so what?
Who knows, maybe Defoe is indeed a bit of a plonker. Maybe he's the type of fella who sits about all day after training without lifting a leg. So absent-minded he needs help remembering family birthdays. So pampered that he wants others to decide what he wears. If he's any of these, he's absolutely doing the right thing to get a PA, and it's impressive he has lasted this long and done so well without one. He has, after all, managed to land one of the most sought-after jobs in the world. He has become one of the top strikers England have produced in the last 20 years and he is on the back of scoring four goals in the past week. It's beyond me why anyone should care who collects his dry-cleaning.
Sunday Indo Sport