Making his TFN debut, Will Lawrence reflects on a prank gone wrong at Stoke City…
Back in spring 2013, The Beast was simply the childish nightmare of some stranded boys in the classic novel Lord of the Flies. Premier league footballers, too caught up in the making of daisy chains and the arranging of cones into flower patterns, were blissfully unaware of the sinister secret that lay within their sport.
But one day in May, The Beast was summoned to what became one of the darkest and most desperate places on earth: the Stoke City dressing room. The culprit was reportedly Glen Whelan, known previously as an average midfield player, but since exposed as the ruler of a savage, otherworldly kingdom which exists somewhere near the M6.
Having not been satisfied with the egging of Michael Owen’s Mercedes, The Beast demanded the sacrifice of Kenwyne Jones’ dignity. “We are going to have fun on this island. Understand?”. Whelan and friends duly delivered. The Trinidad born striker found a bloody, severed pig’s head hidden in his locker. Jones is a Rastafarian and so does not eat pork. He was understandably furious, going on to hit the target with a well-aimed brick smashed through Whelan’s windscreen.
Stoke City FC launched an investigation into the incident. An official statement read: “The club takes seriously reports of an incident at our training ground this afternoon. A full internal investigation will be carried out and those responsible for any unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with in accordance with the club’s disciplinary procedures.”
The reaction of club officials was similar to that of the naval officer who rescues the disheveled boys at the end of Lord of the Flies. The officer matter-of-factly assumes the boys are up to, as he puts it, “fun and games”. He turns his back so that the boys may regain their composure.
Why was the issue of respect in modern football not faced? Just as William Golding’s novel set out to debunk the myths of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Stoke City FC should have led the way in exposing the unrestrained behaviour that occurs on the treasure island that is the Premier League. In 2013, the Premier League was the world’s most-watched league, receiving a record £5.5bn windfall in broadcasting income. Stars were able to demand more and increasingly find less authority in their way. Players climbed to the top of the game, and like the boys on the island,could see from the peak no signs of civilization.
West Brom forward, Peter Odemwingie, despite seriously disrespecting his club on transfer deadline day, kept his career largely intact. QPR’s Jose Bosingwa refused to take his place on the bench against Fulham, yet remained a first team fixture. Carlos Tevez returned from a selfimposed exile from Manchester City with his pay cheque largely untouched. Boys behaved as boys: nasty and brutal and rich.
Stoke City handed out nominal fines. But The Beast is not something you can fine. Without a radical redistribution of player power, all that fans can do is weep for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall of a true, wise fan-favourite called Kenwyne Jones.
Follow Will on @140will